Hacker Culture in the 1800s

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Imagine a geeky type of young person, living in the 1800s, having not that many distractions at hand and no passion for drinking. What would this individual do with the free time? Probably reading, studying, and documenting the insects in his local district, a place where Nature set the rules.

That person is exploring and documenting the rules, which will probably set the pillars for future scientific discoveries and exploits such as the progress of medicine.

And what is a person having the same level of peculiar, weird hobby doing now?

The Modern-Day Hacker

Our weirdo most likely spends hundreds of hours obsessing over breaking the speed-running record on Supermario. Hacking and exploiting the game in such a way becomes a technical challenge, a puzzle a young person can solve. The same level of passion and — why not — obsession is there. That person is exploring the digital world in a way that’s comparable with the 1800s guy’s obsession with bugs. A regular person from the 1800s would probably consider the bug researcher a weirdo. Same for the passionate gamer.

Now, every field needs folk on the spectrum. People who are capable of thinking from First Principles, able and willing of dismembering and studying the unstudied. > Human history has provided us with a long list of things never thought possible. And progress often happened through the push of these oftentimes disagreeable loner individual mutant geniuses.

I view hacking as a not-only-about-computers concept. Hacking is a sport against someone in a position of authority. Either a human, a machine, and, ultimately — Nature. You are most likely able to order food through an app right now simply because one of these individuals was too lazy to go out for groceries, so they hacked the societal defaults and found a way to make the food come to them. Hacking represents the best and the worst in humanity. The artistic and scientific curiosity. Being willing to push the boundaries of human progress and do the impossible.

Following this framework, let’s throw the way we live our lives into 2 separate buckets:

  1. What you can do according to how the general population thinks is possible
  2. And what is actually possible, but hasn’t been tried yet

The questions I want to ask myself are:

Hackers and video games

An interesting example I sometimes like giving is in regards to video games. One can swiftly go on Twitch and see the number of people playing various kinds of games. What I found cool is trying to analyze the minds of people involved in the speed-running communities.

Speedrunning is a popular form of entertainment in the gaming community: Instead of puttering around, and exploring game worlds, players try to break records by finishing games in as little time as possible, often using glitches in a game’s code and advanced techniques to skip ahead.

These people are almost obsessed with exploiting a game in such a way that will allow them to open an entire web of possibilities and complete the game faster. But, see — you are not only hacking the game, but also the frameworks on which the developers built the game. Frameworks that ultimately came out of disposable sets of human minds.

You can also find these people in obscure communities all around the web, researchers who are debunking mainstream concepts and books. People want to add clarity to our societal defaults using hard work, research, and data.

Why don’t we try hacking something that most people and society as a whole think is impossible?

There’s one key reason why people are not indie writers, YouTubers, underground musicians, and programmers. People mistake the work that’s necessary to become really good at that specific craft versus the work required to get started.

Do you want to be a YouTuber and create video essays? Take your phone out and start recording your first video.

Want to learn how to play music? Make something useful out of your free YouTube or Soundcloud and start posting your music there.

Want to start a blog or a newsletter? I have created a video where I do this in 2 minutes.

I believe that sometimes people do not realize that Googling is a skill one can improve. Pulling together different strings of information, word variations, and pieces of code is something they don’t teach you in school. You generally have to learn how to do it yourself. And it all probably starts in middle school.

The first time you realize the power of Wikipedia copy and paste but are too young to understand why you should remove the links.

Why you should develop a hacker mindset?

Speed is an important component in this day of age. One’s ability to think quickly, react quickly and be agile can set him apart from the crowd. Precision is important as well, but one can develop precision by throwing lots and lots of things against the wall and seeing what sticks. You’ll get precision through repetition. There’s also context and random events that can influence one’s evolution like this. There is no streamlined recipe.

I found that the importance of developing a mindset like this and always thinking if there’s a better way to do anything — is a decent tool you can have in your arsenal. > You code quicker, you shoot, you write, you hit more walls, you debug, you type, you fix, and you ship quicker. You are forcing yourself to think ahead. You are getting through the cycles faster and generating more feedback loops from which you can find lessons and experiences a lot quicker.

Hacking is about finding shortcuts, but also about fast exploiting what you think might be a shortcut but can end up as a dead end.


How to develop a hacker mindset

  • Start testing things out.
  • Put your imperfect thoughts and projects out there.
  • Share your work.
  • Work with your garage door open. Allow people to see inside.
  • Try both thinking from First Principles and also building on the shoulders of giants. People who already solved what you are trying to solve.
  • You sometimes realize that the rules people believe about the world are not accurate. Common misconceptions are passed on from generation to generation.

I believe that one crucial part of the future of education is about speed-learning how to use the internet to extract, connect, and build on bits of information coming from extremely large data sets. Learning how to pull out trustworthy resources and knowledge repositories and ultimately connect the dots faster than anyone else. It is about selecting and filtering your interests, keeping what’s useful, and removing what is not.

We should be building by staying on each other’s shoulders.

And an individual who will be able to navigate through its intricate webs will be the valedictorian of the future.