Question 81 of 365: What can we reverse engineer?

I would love to be able to talk about the reverse engineering of DVD encryption or iPhone firmware intelligently, but mostly I would be quoting from wikipedia entries on the topics. I love the fact that people can take a look at an object or technology and see just how it was put together. It makes me hopeful that anything we create could be undone. That is a very safe and satisfying feeling, knowing that people are working on undoing all of the problems that technology presents for us in the hopes of figuring out just what benefit was there in the first place. Yet, I can’t speak with any authority on any of it because I am not a part of those communities.

The best I can do is approximate.

I can compare their reverse engineering with my own. And I reverse engineer ideas. More accurately, I reverse engineer the stuff between ideas. Let me explain.

It is my belief that in-between any two ideas there is a machine that connect the two and makes the first one the “input” and the second into the “output”. It is a technology so highly advanced that no manual exists and therefor it must be reverse engineered in order to achieve the insight that both ideas represent.

Concretely, the idea of our schools as they exist now and the idea of our schools as they exist in the future or as they might be are ones that are both fairly easily juxtaposed. You can hold the two of them in your head quite easily. And yet, going from input to output is a massive problem for anyone who endeavors to be the machine in the middle. They are trying to exist where a mechanism is clearly supposed to go. The machine is something that is more complex than one person or even a single group of people. It must be reverse engineered, just like DVD encryption to figure out just what it takes to get from one to the other. Simply plugging in already made mechanisms for change, simply doesn’t work. You must understand every single circuit and ghost within that machine.

Other machines that require reverse engineering are between the ideas of collaboration and time management, community and creation, and data and decisions.

Because these machines are so complex, they require many people to work on figuring out how they work. There must be huge teams of people who are doing nothing but taking them apart and putting them back together. We need people courageously braking through the barriers intentionally put there by the machine’s manufacturer. We need people to talk about and promote every step of the process. The in-between machines don’t want us to know everything that they have to offer. They are interested in being intentionally obtuse and confusing, which is why we have to share all of the information that we have gathered as widely as possible, so that someone who is coming at the issue from a different angle take take up where we left off.

Another problem that I face in my work for Reverse Engineering is that many people do not believe that these machines exist. They believe that you have to create the go-between for big ideas and goals. They are okay to achieve part of the machine and then stop there because they have established at least part of the conduit from one idea to the next. Only some people can travel through their machines because they are kludgy and can’t perceive the whole problem. These half-baked machines are never enough to really place the two ideas next to one another. There are always intermediate steps that can either lead closer or further away from what it is that we really need.

I reject this premise, however. I believe that there exists a certain technology, community, and innovation that will allow us to place chaos in the middle east and peace in the middle east next to one another. We just have to figure out what that is. Let’s assume it is possible. Let’s assume that we aren’t just going to byte off a tiny bit of what we have promised. Let’s assume that we just have reverse engineer our way to understanding.

So, while I can’t reverse engineer my computer, I am doing it for ideas. The next one I want to tackle can be expressed like this:

Me [machine] funding for my ideas.

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0 Comments

  1. Here is what I was thinking:

    If all problems have a solution (and I am aware that it is an enormous IF),
    then each resolution of an issue is simply a machine that takes in the
    problem and puts out a solution. I would like to reverse engineer that
    machine for every problem I see.

    I am basically saying that for every problem, there is an elegant machine
    that will allow me to see through to the other side. Rather than trying to
    build that machine, I can just assume that it exists somewhere in my head
    (or our collective consciousness) and try to reverse engineer it from there.
    Perhaps that is just semantics that is differentiating “building” from
    “reverse engineering,” but I think it is a good enough distinction to want
    to write about it.

    Does that make any more sense?

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