Thursday, May 2, 2013

Hacking all the things

For some reason, the notion that hacking is something done on and with computers has taken a very firm hold on the popular imagination. The reasons for this are many and interesting, and I might very well return to them in the future. Right now, though, I just want to turn your attention to the fact that you can hack pretty much everything that has sufficient complexity to be hackable.

Tautologies. Love 'em.

One example of this, which is on my mind due to it being in the local media at this moment, is the tax code. In particular the tax code regarding the construction and renovation of houses. As you might imagine, these can be rather expensive propositions, and as a means to get people to (re)build things anyway, a deduction was introduced. The short, easy to grasp version is that you can deduce costs relating to labor, and only labor.

This can be hacked, if you put your mind to it.

The way to go about this is to say - okay, labor is deductable, material items are not. How do I make sure that I can get the most out of these particular circumstances?

By transferring costs from material items to labor. Or, in more concrete terms: by selling the material items on the cheap, and then charging loads and loads of money for the work of turning these items into buildings. In a manner such as this:
Big hulking machine: $5
Installing the big hulking machine: $7000/hour

By manipulating the numbers in this way, you can maximize the deduction while at the same time still charging the same price for it. (Or less, should you want to compete with someone else.) Which translates into profits, all legal and proper.

This, dear readers, is an act of hacking. And it is not quite as related to computers as one might imagine hacking to be. Rather, it takes advantage of the complexity of a system. Not a computer system, but a system in general.

All systems are hackable. All systems have parts that can be bent in certain ways to produce an outcome that is something other than the intended one. All you have to do is to put your mind to it and say - okay, this is such, that is thus. How can the working of the one affect the working of the other?

As the players of computer games are so wont of saying:

Good luck, have fun!


  1. that is all.

  2. Well, if you study the ethymology of the word "hacking", the meaning related to computers is derived from a meaning related to a certain kind of practical jokes carried out by students at college campuses, typically involving physical modifications of something on the premises. ;)