Life life

Why We Hack Life

As I fight the urge to buy yet another bluetooth keyboard, to start yet another exercise routine, to learn yet another language (“Wouldn’t it be cool,” I asked Natasha the other day, “if my grandsons were bilingual in English and Klingon?“) I wonder at my own dilettante nature. Jack-of-all-trades has always been my mantra, and I am, to some extent. Certainly in my work. I blame Heinlein, to be honest:

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”— Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love

Buying a Better Saw

You’ve seen this quote, right?

abrahamlincoln109275It’s all well and good, but I think that it’s a bit out-dated. For example, I might change it up a bit:

click for iPad-size desktop version.
click for iPad-size desktop version.

See, that’s what all this life-hacking business is about. It’s not about “the new shiny” all the time – sometimes it’s about trying to find the life that fits, in the same way that you try to find clothes that fit.

And yes, it’s certainly a luxury. When I was a struggling data-entry slave trying to hold down the job for the insurance so my wife could safely deliver twins I wasn’t really concerned with whether or not I should learn Klingon. Yet even then I was sneaking into the bathroom as often as I could to put in a little t’ai chi in the stall, just to keep it in my head. As any school with a uniform code can show you, humans will almost always put their own style on whatever they are given.

We Are Customizers


This is possibly more than social. In the book The Happiness of Pursuit, (by Shimon Edelman, not Chris Guillebeau’s by the same name) the philosopher talks about how our brains are not made up of solitary functional parts:

…becasue even minimally complex minds simultaneously track multiple aspects of the environment while at the same time controlling multiple means of acting back, their innards must be distributed. This means that minds are composed of at least several – and possibly very many – interacting but distinct functional parts.

He emphasizes the difference between “functional” parts and “physical” parts – illustrating it with a vehicle analogy, where the functional part “support” can come in many physical forms: wheels, treads, sled runners.

The functional parts, their relationships…and the interconnections and interactions among themselves and with the outside world together determine the kind of mind that arises from all this bustle.

A lifehacker is nothing but a gearhead who is tinkering with her mind instead of her ’65 Mustang! We swap out parts – Daily Routines, meditation practices, nutritional methods – because we’re trying to either improve the efficiency or the enjoyment of how our mind experiences the world.

Which makes this blog, I guess, the equivalent of Car & Driver for your brain. I can live with that.

So don’t feel guilty the next time you feel the urge to add some metaphorical fuzzy dice to your life. It’s not only ok – it’s what your brain evolved to do.

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1 thought on “Why We Hack Life”

  1. Stupid scoop creep. It’s everywhere!

    The bane of every programmer’s existence: the dreaded, never ending thoughts of “wouldn’t it be cool if…”

    (NB, the scoop creep and project definition on my current project is so bad, I will have made two new humans by the time it gets released. Two whole people who did not exist before this project started, people! When will it end!?!)

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