Wednesday, July 1, 2015

How Generation X Hacked Society

This past week has been an extraordinary moment of progression and change. The recent conversations on race (and relegating the racist confederate flag to history and museums) and the historic Supreme Court ruling which granted nationwide marriage rights to gay couples represent progress toward true societal change with a revision and improvement on traditional structures. And, that idea, of breaking with tradition to see what new can be created, is integral to the "hacker ethos." Obviously, most people associate the word "hacker" with a computer specialist who breaks into and breaks down computer systems. That is, no doubt, the origin of the word. However, it has grown to become synomous with "breaking down traditional walls" in order to improve outcomes. That is what is known as "life hacks," or tricks to improve overall quality through greater access. And, the idea of "hacking life" or "hacking society" or just "hacking" is truly a Generation X characteristic. In my view, the incredible progress on gay rights with the achievement of legal status for gay marriage is the ultimate societal hack. While the "tolerance" among the Milennial generation has long been noted in media and sociology, it is the "whatever" attitude that was foundational to Generation X which ultimately paved the way for a world where such tolerance could grow. And, that's a good thing.

There are so many ways in which the "slackers" of Generation X have hacked society, as they've simply chosen to live life on their terms, and they have never much cared for what anyone thinks about that. Some of the most prominent Gen X hackers who have changed the rules by just going about doing what they want regardless of others saying they can't are people like Elon Musk and Peter Theil and Jimmy Wales. Musk is the ultimate societal hacker for basically changing the rules on automobile manufuacturing and sales at the same time he literally "hacked" the concept of space travel by moving it from the public to private sector. Peter Theil made similar hacks to the economic and finance systems with PayPal (of which Elon Musk was a contributing partner/creator). And, Jimmy Wales hacked the world of knowledge and information access with the creation of Wikipedia. All these areas and industries are better for the hacks of these men. And, it was by "breaking the rules," so to speak, that they hacked society as a way of improving it.

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