Engineering and Hacking your Mind

Written by Ziz

Here are two strategies for building things:


It’s about building things so that you can change one part without thinking about the whole thing. This allows you to build big things. Every part must reflect a global order which says how they should interact, what aspects of total correctness depend on correctness of what parts, so that if every part works, it works. In engineering, it’s common to “waste” effort to meet this specification in a way that you will probably never rely upon. This is so when you design other parts, you only have to keep the order in mind as what they have to interact with, not the order plus guesses about whatever your past self (or other people) thought was reasonable.

Perfection in this approach is when you don’t even have to remember the exact interface behavior of the other modules. As you find yourself needing it, you just ask, “What would the ideal behavior be?” and assume it’s that, then build your new module with ideal behavior on top of that. In practice I do this quite a lot with code I’ve written and with pieces of my mind. In engineering, bugs cancelling out bugs are still bugs. Because anything that deviates from the order is liable to cause more problems when you assume the order holds later on.


If engineering is like deontology, hacking is like consequentialism. What something is “really for” is part of the map, not the territory, and you aren’t attached to a particular use of something. Whatever works. Something being “broken” can make it more useful. Don’t waste time on abstractions and formal processes. They are not flexible enough to accommodate something you haven’t built yet. Think about the concrete things you have and need and can change.

Which should you use?

Engineering can be cumbersome to get off the ground, and can seem like it’s predictably always wasting more motion. The things that engineering creates are able to be more robust and it can accommodate more complexity. It scales to large projects. Hacking stretches your cleverness, working memory, and creativity-in-using-things-unintuitively. Engineering stretches your foresight, wisdom, and creativity-in-fitting-to-a-format.

Straw-pragmatists pick hacking for large and long projects. If you are sufficiently ambitious, you need engineering. Implementing any kind of rationality in the human brain is a large and long project. Implementing rationality so you can gain the power to save the world, a common goal among my circles, is definitely ambitious enough to require engineering for the best chance of success.

The human brain is so many hacks already. Engineering will never work. The only option is to pile on more hacks.

Hardcore Buddhists are totally engineers, not hackers. You’ve seen things that’d be impossible for a hacker from them. Like sitting still during self-immolation. Oh yeah. Engineering yourself is DANGEROUS. I do not recommend building yourself according to an order that is not yourself. If you want to save the world, your art of rationality had better be at least that powerful AND automatically point itself in a better direction.

Hopefully my more concrete blog posts will help you understand an order that you can see delivers.

Little Free Anarchive


Bad People
Setting The Universe On Fire
Your Freedom is My Freedom
The Distinct Radicalism of Anarchism
You Are Not The Target Audience
Organizations Versus Getting Shit Done
Socialist Programs
Two Definitions Of Power


Comments on the Glossary
Cached Answers
Trash Can
Airlock Games

Engineering and Hacking your Mind
False Faces
Treaties vs Fusion
Narrative Breadcrumbs vs Grizzly Bear
Optimizing Styles
Judgement Extrapolations
DRM’d Ontology
Social Reality
The Slider Fallacy
Single Responsibility Principle for the Human Mind
Ancient Wisdom Fixed
Subagents Are Not a Metaphor
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Being Real or Fake
My Journey to the Dark Side
Cache Loyalty
Schelling Reach
Schelling Orders
Neutral and Evil
Spectral Sight and Good
The O’Brien Technique
Choices Made Long Ago
Lies About Honesty
Hero Capture
Vampires And More Undeath
Good Erasure
Punching Evil
Net Negative
Rationalist Fleet
Good Group and Pasek’s Doom
Intersex Brains And Conceptual Warfare
Comments on Intersex Brains and Conceptual Warfare
The Matrix is a System
Troll Line in the First Post
Fangs and the Sunlight Problem
The Multiverse
Healing Without Safety


Lemurs and the True Human Body Map
Case Study CFAR



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Cartesian Convexity
Genesis Troll Line
Evil: A Hole?
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Living Reference
Cancer Terms




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Notes On Feral
Precontact Consciousness