Letting go of the concept of harmony

February 19, 2014

Read time 2 min

This January, AaltoES organized an event called “Code It!“, a nine-day programming contest. There were five challenges in the contest, and they included both algorithmic challenges and game bots competing against each other. I was offered the chance to give a keynote speech at the closing party.

I see programming contests and code camps as sort of hacking events. I wanted to speak about what I personally think is great in hacking – what is great in the hacking mindset, to be more specific.

In the keynote I talked about how I see hacking as bending the rules, cutting corners to achieve something faster and more simple, and how one needs to be creative to find new ways of solving stuff or to do something that hasn’t been done before. As an example I showed the audience Rolling Jubilee. It is an effort to raise money to buy medical debt from secondary debt market, and then just cancel it, to get bankrupt people off the loan hook. They’ve used roughly $680.000 to cancel $14.7 million of debt. I think that is just simply brilliant.

Another example is this amazing 13-year-old-kid who talks about how he only wants to be happy. Happy and healthy. Having discovered this, he got out of school and started learning things differently: by experiencing instead of memorizing, keeping being happy and healthy his number one priority all the time.


Hacking is about breaking the norm, just as is happiness. You need to do things that give you joy and not think too much of how others see your actions. If you live by other people’s expectations, you won’t be happy. And your code won’t be good either. But breaking the norm is often hard. It requires believing in oneself, ignoring other people’s opinions and going against the stream.

Giorgio Moroder is a pioneer of electronic dance music. Last year Daft Punk released a song called Giorgio by Moroder, in which Giorgio explains his early years of playing music, how he had to sleep in a car to follow his dreams. At one point he says something that really caught my attention. “If you let go of the concept of harmony and music being correct, you can do whatever you want!”

Try changing music to JavaScript. Or code. Or actually…life. Talk about breaking the norm. Talk about not worrying about other people’s expectations. Talk about happy. To this thought, I ended my speech.

First photo by Vladimir Orekhov

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