While reading Doug’s answer I found myself identifying with his stories of how he interacts with the world around him — examining, tinkering, understanding.
I remember my time as a visual artist and approaching problems with a balance of learned technique and playful experimentation. Some of the most successful solutions — both in art and now in tech involve toying with the edges of what something is ‘supposed’ to do. As Doug put it:
What does it do? What is [it] supposed to do?
Those are two entirely different questions!
I’ve always thought that creativity or in this case, hacking — isn’t something that is reserved for “artists” (or whoever your chosen “creative” group is). They are qualities that are intrinsic in all of us. We start our lives wanting to play and interact with the world. The problem is that there are a lot of other things (people, institutions, societal norms, etc) interested in controlling that spark, bending to their interests, or worse extinguishing it when it is inconvenient for them.
Ultimately, I see both creativity and hacking as personal tools for understanding reality. I found the closing paragraph a great summary of what we obtain with the application of these tools by human hands [my emphasis]:
Anything that can do something, or that has complex dynamics, or functions, can be hacked on and the products of that hack are understanding of that thing that goes deeper than the obvious, or official, or expected types of understanding.