This piece was written for the consciousness hacking community, a community of engineers and designers interested in building software and hardware products to directly contribute to human wellbeing. Visit the site to find out about upcoming meetups.
Consciousness hacking is a recent, hardware and software engineering heavy iteration of our innate and and primordial desire to make life better. Because the sciences of human wellbeing and computer-human interface are improving, we’ve got new tools at our disposal. But let’s not get infatuated with just the tools! Here are three principles that will help us stay focused so we can have an ever-improving positive impact.
1. Stay Clear about The Goal.
2. Check the Results Often (but have a long term view)
3. Consciousness Hacking is an Infinite Game
The first principle, “Stay Clear about the Goal,” is the foundation. The success of the consciousness hacking movement lies in its ability to make our own and other people’s lives better than they currently are. Everything else is just a proxy measure or a step along the way. Clarity about our goal will help us stay focused on the signals we really care about, rather than on irrelevant noise.
The second principle, “Check Often,” points to measuring whether we are achieving our goal: whether are we helping people, in general, thrive more than before. the fast feedback loops that checking often creates will help us improve our efforts quickly, so that we can make as much progress as fast as possible. Speed and efficiency though, are not of ultimate importance, helping people live better lives is. This is a long term project though. Improving well being will probably not be a linear process. But if, at some point, we’re relatively clear that we’re not actually making progress we’ve got to have the courage to stop or switch directions. Otherwise, what’s the point? A sub principle here are that, just as we’re creating new tools for influencing well-being, we should be working to improve the concept of “well-being” and how to measure it. We’ll be able to build better products by continually refining the answers to the definition and measurement problems. One of the ways we can do this is to follow the lead of participatory researchers and lean startup entrepreneurs and get super curious about what the users of our consciousness hacking products actual experience by asking them directly and frequently and involving them in our design processes. Our users will give us significant data about what they want and what will actually be helpful for them.
The final principle comes from James Carse’s recent and profound book, Finite and Infinite Games. One of his insights is that while finite games are played to bring the game to an end, infinite games are played in order to keep playing. “Consciousness Hacking is an infinite game.” We play in order to empower people to keep improving their lives. There is no magic carrot at the end of the consciousness hacking game, because the game doesn’t end. And, since this game doesn’t end, the idea of “perfecting our craft” doesn’t make any sense. As Carol Dweck’s work on “growth” vs. “fixed” mindsets suggests, we’ll make better products if we continually focus on improvement rather than on making things perfect.
These three principles, Stay Clear about the Goal, Check the Results Often (but have a long term view), and Consciousness Hacking is an Infinite Game, will help us have a bigger and bigger and more and more positive impact as we develop the field.