Introducing Psychohacking

Not long ago, Johannes introduced me to a website called Medium, which aims to raise the level of the debate by promoting the kinds of thoughtful posts that don’t get easily shared elsewhere. I thought it was a great idea and checked it out immediately: I was impressed. It is beautifully designed and easy to read. Even though, for the moment, the wealth of content is relatively poor (not many people know about it yet) it looks like the kind of platform many of us have been dreaming of.

I therefore decided to publish my latest article, Introducing Psychohacking, there. I did it to experiment, partly, and because there is a feature that I find extremely interesting: it is possible to add comments to single paragraphs. This makes the debate much more fluid and contextualized and allows people to leave their thoughts as they read. I just wish WordPress had something like that.

Anyway, there it is: feel free to check out the article or, at least, the website. It is truly amazing in design and concept.

Oh, I also created another website (yes, I’m a little hyperactive!) at www.psychohacking.com. However, I have no intention of ever updating it: the idea is to create a community and let it take care of everything. Probably it will never bear fruit, but domain names are cheap and I already have decent hosting. So I gave it a try.

On an unrelated note, I hope I can post more regularly, though I promise nothing. Some days I am so exhausted I can barely read, let alone write something coherent. I hope this exhaustion wears off eventually.

All the best,

David

5 thoughts on “Introducing Psychohacking

  1. bloggingisaresponsibility

    Couldn’t find a way to leave a comment on the other site, so here goes.

    I’m interested in how you define morality. I understand morality to be categorical — that is, it’s not a rule of the form: If you want X then do Y. In fact, what makes it a moral obligation is precisely the removal of the “If you want X”.

    In fact, one can use the If you want X then do Y to justify things people would consider immoral. For instance: “If you want money, then lie to close this business deal”.

    I’m also interested in the difference between psychology and engineering, as psychology is used to get results as well. Maybe I’m just confusing psychology with therapy.

    Reply
    1. David Yerle Post author

      Hi BR!
      Well, the thing is I don’t define morality at all! What I’m saying is I find the premise of morality unsatisfactory: “You should be nice to people.” Why? If you answer the question (so that…) then it’s not “you should be nice to people” but “you should be nice to people so that…” which is not morality any more, but something else, since it stops being normative and becomes utilitarian (in the sense that behavior is a means for something else). If you refuse to answer the question (“that’s just what you should do”) then it still seems unsatisfactory, since you’re giving no reasons whatsoever for why one should act this way and not some other. If you say “you should be nice to people because it’s the right thing to do” you’re still giving no reasons whatsoever, even though it may superficially look like you are.
      Psychohacking has nothing to do with morality, in the sense that it’s not normative. You could say that the first paragraph about morality was just a prop. The idea is that a person should choose what they want from life (happiness, meaning, etc.) and then follow the strategy that’s suited for that goal. For example, meditation is great for achieving happiness but not for becoming competitive. If a person cares more about the latter, meditation is perfectly useless (at least in its original form).
      You could argue that people will want evil things, but this puts you in a bad position: who decides what’s evil? Shouldn’t you trust the community a little more? Isn’t democracy based on the idea that people know what they want better than their rulers?
      The whole point is: who am I to choose what people should want from life?
      Onto the other point regarding psychology. Psychology can be used to help, but that is psychotherapy and it uses basic research, but is not basic research (there can be research done during psychotherapy, but it will hardly be as systematic as a double-blind experiment). In this sense, I’d see psychotherapy more as “applied psychology” just like nanomaterial engineering is applied physics. However, psychotherapy is a “therapy” whereas psychohacking doesn’t assume anything is wrong. It’s not about curing anyone, but about helping people achieve their desired state of mind.
      The crucial difference, though, is the “hacker” part: a hacker is just an individual enthusiast that sets out to explore on her own. The idea is exactly like biohacking (you have your little lab at home and do your own experiments, without aiming for a Nobel, just out of curiosity and passion) but with your mind. In other words: building a community of people telling each other what worked for them, how they did it and how they measured it (with special emphasis on that last part).
      Did that clarify things? I tried my best to be succinct and clear with the article, but unfortunately I haven’t been in the sharpest state of mind lately, so it’s hard to concentrate and let the prose feel crystal clear.

      Reply
      1. bloggingisaresponsibility

        Yes, that clarifies.

        You’re right in that I read the part of morality and fixated on that. I’ve been giving morality some thought lately. “If you want X then do Y”; could morality ever provide the X? So your post struck a chord.

        I think of therapy as similar in psycho-hacking in that it doesn’t “fix” people so much as adapt them to their environment. Mental health is culturally defined, so certain dogmatic views about mental illness notwithstanding, therapy should give people the tools to cope. Of course whether aiming for cultural “sanity” is a worthy goal to begin with is debatable…

        But the hacker part does drive the difference home.

        Thanks for the clarification!

        Reply
  2. elkement

    To me it seems that psychohacking is part of life-hacking. Would you agree?
    I am too lazy now to google for definitions of life-hacking … but I have recently read an article (in German) that defined any sort of self-improvement – physically and mentally – as life-hacking.

    Reply

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