CLOSING KEYNOTE – Hacking as Practice for Transplanetary Life in the 21st Century: How Hackers Frame the Pictures in Which Others Live

Due to changes in Richard’s schedule, this closing keynote will be delivered via video link.


“In my end is my beginning,” said T. S. Eliot in The Four Quartets, and he might have been talking about hacking. Because radical hacking is a state of mind, an approach to life, the universe, everything, a practice that must be understood with humility, explored with persistence, and mastered with grace and a flair for style.

It begins in the beginning. In Zen we hear of “beginners’ eyes,” which look with no preconceptions and see clearly what is there. That also means – Zen again – that we can distinguish what’s in our own minds, our perceptual apparatus itself, and what’s “out there.” The boundary where those meet, where we half create and half perceive the reality in which we live, is the fertile gray area where radical hacking takes place.

This is why the future of hacking is in a way already there, a mold for possibility that draws us into itself. Those who allow the future to reach back to them and show them the way look like pioneers, creative geniuses, but really, they’re just hackers.

The future does not exist, from another point of view, or it exists, but not in the ways we think it does. It’s not “there” in an objective way, it’s there as a possibility, actualized or made real only when we instantiate it. If that sounds like quantum physics, maybe it is: studies testing ESP have detected hits at a rate greater than chance for the next perception, the next event, suggesting the future is already held in suspension and available to us here and now.

But there’s another point of view – at least one – that sees the future as how we hold ourselves here and now in the present as possibilities for action. What we call the future is a range of possibilities and when we choose one, it happens in the eternal now, in the always present now. And all is always now.

I will suggest possibilities for hacking aligned with these insights that are based on my own experience. That means they constitute reality. And what is reality? Reality, as Philip K. Dick said, is that which, when we no longer believe in it, refuses to go away.That zone of radical hacking that echoes the past but anticipates the future lies on the edges, the edges of social constructions of reality that we share. If we live inside those constructions as if they are “real,” we become sheep among prowling wolves. But if we refuse to believe in our beliefs and hold them lightly and remain open to possibilities, we are on the road to mastery.

The necessity for mastering radical hacking is a non-trivial imperative of our time. It is mandated by the untimely stories hackers must invent by making and doing and creating which are contrary to the constructed realities of our time, the consensus realities which people believe uncritically. They are untimely because they cause cognitive dissonance and intolerable pain for those who inhabit the consensus, the “userspace” of our digitally reinvented world, which is why the act of hacking requires courage, discipline, the management of one’s ego, and a willingness to go as insane as a shaman, remembering how to return to the village of the present, the village of the damned.

There’s a practical level to all this. Do you want to spend your life in a room at the Ecuadorian embassy? Or live in Moscow as you are slowly owned by keepers who never feed their pets for free?   I thought not.

So pay attention. Don’t ignore the words of a ghost of the past as Hamlet did until it was too late. For the ghosts of the past are the torchlights that illuminate the future, and hackers worthy of the name live by that light, the torchlight of doubt and chaos.

Location: Track 1 Date: October 16, 2014 Time: 5:00 pm - 5:45 pm Richard Thieme