only those inside technoculture—truly inside, not as writers or observers or mere “enthusiasts,” but as self-conscious emblems of the body-as-machine, the computer-as-clockwork-universe metaphor—can understand the term “hacker” or its true root concept, “the hack.”
So many have written about it, appropriated and misappropriated the term, attempted to describe the “hacker’s motive” in terms of social prestige, economic gain, creativity, the production of information—and so many really seem to get it wrong.
The hack is a metaphorical, metaphysical moment. The hack is a kind of nirvana; it is a moment of reduction, a metonymic emblem of the universe itself. To hack is to love not prestige or creativity, but rather the system—all systems. To hack is to fall in love with functional complexity, to meet God. The hack is in that sense a religious moment, a transcendental moment.
It is a glimpse into truth of a kind that is rarely seen elsewhere. It is to see the system; shared or not, whether anyone else sees it or not, whether it brings economic gain or not, whether it is useful or not. It is to experience the same kind of joy that Newton must have experienced; the sheer joy of being. It is, to quote Chris from Northern Exposure, “a pure moment.”
To understand hacker culture, you must have a visceral understanding of the hack. They are a culture precisely because they see this love in each other—the love of complexity, of systems, of their functionality and therefore of truth, of absolutes. To hack is (paradoxically, for most observers) to love the structure and to see it’s tremendous strength, to assert in praxis, visible or invisible, that there is a reality, that things are, that Truth can be found.
This moment of understanding—this reinforcement of the belief in Truth—is the heart and soul of the hack, and the genesis of the actions of most self-described “hackers” and certainly of those that exchange with glee one useless “hack” after another.