What's A Reality Hacker And Why Would I Want My Kids To Be One?

How To Raise Reality Hackers: Introduction

Mammas don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys

What's a Reality Hacker? Aren't Hackers bad?

Most people think of a Hacker as "someone who breaks into computer systems". The more precise term for such a person is "Cracker" or "Black Hat Hacker". The original usage was from MIT's Model Railroad Club in the 1950s: The essence of a "hack" is that it is done quickly, and is usually inelegant. It accomplishes the desired goal without changing the design of the system it is embedded in. Despite often being at odds with the design of the larger system, a hack is generally quite clever and effective. The term "hack" arose from MIT lingo, as the word had long been used to describe college pranks that MIT students would regularly devise. It later spread throughout the computer community to refer to surprising ways of getting machines to behave in ways that hadn't been planned or designed for: since computers were still fairly new and non-standardized, much of this was about adding valuable functionality (getting a new computer to work with an old printer from a different company, etc.). A Hacker Ethic arose which is constructive and creative.

I discovered the term "Reality Hacker" during its short life as the title of the magazine that became Mondo2000 (Mondo2K). This crowd was interested in following Tim Leary's SMIILE formula, with probably greatest focus on Intelligence Increase (though they had a fair amount of Life Extension and Space Migration as well). Some of the key technologies they looked at were Mind Machine-s, Smart Drug-s, and pre-Web Personal Computer and Virtual Community and Virtual Reality systems. There was also a strain of interest in Making A Living from these technologies, to avoid a straight DayJob: people were opening Brain Gym-s and Float Center-s, selling Mind Machine-s and Smart Drug-s.

Some new capabilities that would have been jumped on had they been available:

Further reading

What does this have to do with my kids?

Some people think that our economic/UnEmployment issues are just a result of financial misbehavior, and once we clean up that mess everything will return to "normal". Some others think it's the sign of complete Collapse.

I take a middle road. I think we're finally hitting a big bump of Economic Transition.


  • We usually think of the Great Depression as being caused by Monetary and Tariff policy. But... Workers classified as laborers, other than farm or mine, peaked at 11.4 percent of the labor force in 1920 but were barely 6 percent by 1950 and less than 4 percent by 2000. Farmers and farm laborers fell from 33 percent of the labor force in 1910 to less than 15 percent by 1950 and only 1.2 percent in 2000. So the old jobs never "came back".
  • But those new Mass Production jobs peaked in 1950.
  • Likewise, the proportion of clerical workers peaked in 1980 as their work was automated.
  • The largest companies, traditionally the most elite/stable, have been shedding jobs for decades.
  • The biggest occupation group as of 2000 was "professional and technical", made up of mostly teachers and HealthCare workers. Both groups work in heavily regulated or near-monopoly industries, so their level of Agency is likely to continue to decline until/unless those industry structures changes significantly. In addition, Venture Capitalist Vinod Khosla believes that automation ("algorithms") will replace many people in both those fields.
  • Carlota Perez theorizes in Technological Revolutions And Financial Capital that this happens in every Technological Revolution: after the initial technology-driven Irruption phase, there's a finance-driven Frenzy phase, followed by a Turning Point that usually involves a Collapse and response to it, before moving on to a Synergy phase where the new technology really bears fruit for mass humanity (before a final Maturity phase).

Therefore it seems unlikely that the strategies/attitudes for success that we were raised on (Get Good Grades so you can go to a Good College and then get a Good Job at a Good Company and you're set for life!) will be useful for the future.

The traditional answer has been "more school!", but this may now qualify as a Cargo Cult. Our entire system of Educating Kids seems designed for the Ozzie & Harriet days. The one-size-fits-all (Standardized Test) process and structure seems specifically designed to reduce the Creativity (see Ken Robinson) and other Thinking Tools that are needed now and will be even more crucial in the future. Many (see John Taylor Gatto) specifically believe schools really are designed that way, to make useful cogs in a Mass Production/Consumer society. Meanwhile, College Tuition has been increasing faster than inflation for decades, while the "college premium" in income seems to be falling (esp. outside of STEM degrees and pre-professionals, which I've addressed above).

Further reading

So what does a Parent do?

No, I'm not suggesting you have them drop out of school and take drugs (though it worked for Steve Jobs). But I'm hoping to provide both thinking-shifts and specific tactics (some "extreme", some pragmatic) that you can use. Some start before you conceive, others are applicable until you throw them out of the house. Ultimately, this is about helping them (and maybe you too) become a Reality Hacker.

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