Turns out, you can’t really hack anything of importance
Over the last few years the word hack has become the go-to cliché of the under-35s. Apparently we should be able to hack pretty much anything and turn it to our (temporary) advantage.
Thus we have body hacking, bio-hacking, brain hacking, sleep hacking, health hacking, life hacking, food hacking, problem hacking, relationship hacking, and of course code hacking.
The only thing we seem to be lacking is fracking hacking, which disappoints me greatly because then if someone who was supposed to be fired (in British English, sacked) from a fracking company in fact wasn’t fired, we could have fracking hacking lacking sacking, which would make an amusing headline and something to attempt after far too many glasses of box wine.
The problem with all of the silly hacking nonsense is of course that the analogy between a few lines of trivial code and a complex biological organism or any part thereof is utterly risible.
Hacking originally meant a quick work-around, a sloppy and inelegant temporary solution, a short-term fix. Perhaps because the young generation of hoodie-clad coders never learned the virtues of elegant and properly modularized code, hacking came to mean any attempt at generating an executable that doesn’t instantly crash and furthermore sort-of does what was intended.
So the very same mindset that makes the mistake of thinking that biological systems are conceptually equivalent to computer code also made the mistake of thinking that hacking is equivalent to writing good code.
It’s not difficult to see why the results are always so unintentionally hilarious.
If one is a twenty-something who thinks rap or deaf metal rock is music, it’s equally easy to believe that some disgusting and nutrient-deficient soy drink can deliver a food hack.
After all, we feel invulnerable when we’re young and we know nothing about the complex interplay between nutrition and physiological functioning. What little we think we know comes from hype artists and boosters who also know practically nothing but feel qualified to write books on life extension and, inevitably, dress these empty claims up as life hacking.
Tired every morning? Let’s have a body hack with a hot mixture of way too much caffeine and sugar! Sure, cocaine is more effective but sadly still illegal in most places so we have to make do. Who cares what it does to our endocrine system? It’s a hack! Celebrate!
Tired of failing with the opposite sex? We can try a relationship hack by downloading some new app that will turn our phone into a date-bot by sending thoughtful and sensitive messages, auto-ordering flowers and other gifts, auto-reserving a table at a good restaurant, and auto-ordering a Lyft so we can actually show up on time. Nothing screams true interest in another like having our app do everything for us.
Why should we wake up at 05.00 when we can wake up at 04.00 and benefit from a whole extra hour of productivity? Let’s use an app for our sleep hack so we can drop off rapidly at midnight and then use a life hack app to wake us up with a screeching alarm at 04.00 so we can rush to our mind hack of enormously caffeinated beverage. Once we’ve stopped shaking we can chug down a vile soy drink as our food hack for the day. Now it’s just us and the keyboard and a new day of code hacking awaits!
And of course we need another essential life hack: an over-priced device on our wrist that tells us how many steps we’ve taken so we can feel we’re getting adequate physical exercise or at least see how far it thinks we traveled while masturbating briefly in the corporate restroom.
Personally I will be extremely glad when this absurd reliance on hacking passes, as all silly empty things eventually must do. Unfortunately it’s almost certain that an even more vacuous and mindless concept will take its place.
If only there was a way to do concept hacking…