In a recent interview with Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin brought to my attention the definition of the noun “Hack” (not like in Hacker, but “to be a hack”).
The word “Hack” came from Hackney – a borough of London, where they bred horses. The horses were utterly commoditized – decent, dependable, and nothing special – so the carriage drivers using them were called “Hacks”. Seth Godin concludes:
“Where your nickname came as being a hack in that you didn’t have a special horse, you simply had a horse. There’s nothing wrong with raising a hack. There’s nothing wrong with buying a hack. Being a hack is about giving the customer exactly what they want at a decent price.”
He later of course states the value of original work:
However, it is important to distinguish it from the magic / fraught topic of our art of that thing that lights us up. The work that we actually want to do. And so my book, the Practices about that gap between being a hack, selling as if you’re a hack and the other thing, which is the generous act of doing something magic of leading.
For some time now I lacked the label for a homogenized millennial culture I myself am part of. My apartment is full of IKEA furniture, I own an iPhone, and pre-covid I loved to frequent those hipster restaurants that serve you fries in a clay planting pot and it somehow all makes sense. Oh, and I have a beard. There is no escaping it now.
For a while, I thought the word “hipster” encapsulates this trend. As derogative as it is, I embraced it for a while until I stumbled upon Venkatesh Rao’s “Premium Mediocre”. I highly recommend giving “The Premium Mediocre Life of Maya Millennial” a good read, but for the brevity of argument – Premium Mediocre is the commoditized aspiration of a higher-class life:
Premium mediocrity is a pattern of consumption that publicly signals upward mobile aspirations, with consciously insincere pretensions to refined taste, while navigating the realities of inexorable downward mobility with sincere anxiety. There are more important things to think about than actually learning to appreciate wine and cheese, such as making rent. But at least pretending to appreciate wine and cheese is necessary to not fall through the cracks in the API.
Hacks and Premium Mediocre
Now, after hearing Seth Godin’s explanations of the word Hack, I know that IKEA is a Hack. It’s dependable and decently priced. “McDonald’s Signature Burgers” are utterly Premium Mediocre, as Venkatesh describes (“Anything branded as “signature” is premium mediocre of course.”), and the iPhone is somehow both luxury and premium mediocre.
“Hack” is the ultimate “great deal” for the consumer – it’ fair and dependable. It’s also nothing special – that’s why – as Seth notes – it’s a crappy deal for the creator.
Ending this monologue on a somewhat positive note, I hope that technology will automate producing “Hacks” so that we can all “do the other thing”.
How’s that for a surprising consequence: apparently, despite the economic strife and missing their friends, the pandemic removed a mental health risk factor making teens miserable: school.
teens have been sleeping more during the pandemic, and teens who are sleep deprived are significantly more likely to suffer from depression. In 2018, only 55 percent of teens said they usually slept seven or more hours a night. During the pandemic, this jumped to 84 percent among those for whom school was still in session.The Atlantic
Fifty-six percent of teens said they were spending more time talking with their parents than they had before the pandemic, and 54 percent said their families now ate dinner together more often. Forty-six percent reported spending more time with their siblings. Perhaps most striking, 68 percent of teens said their families had become closer during the pandemic
4-Question MBTI test
MBTI questionnaire (dubbed “16 personalities”) is quite popular in business settings and total pseudoscience (read Anne-Laure’s essay on the topic). I challenge you to compare results from the below “questionnaire” and the popular 16 personalities test used to help people choose careers.
Copenhagen interpretation of ethics.
“The Copenhagen Interpretation of Ethics says that when you observe or interact with a problem in any way, you can be blamed for it. At the very least, you are to blame for not doing more.”
Because every joke is better when you explain it – read on about the Copenhagen interpretation of physics and Woke culture. Explaining jokes makes me twice as awesome, because I can tell a joke AND sound smart explaining it!
Jeśli umiesz po Polsku i myślisz o zakupie kampera – napisałem ostatnio giga-posta na ten temat. Wyjaśniam od czego zacząć, jak się zabrać za kupno kampera i jak go sprawdzić i zarejestrować
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I write about the psychological and technical aspects of the Internet, focusing on remote work, online economy, and cognitive load. Every monday.