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HIS: In Conversation with Hacker-turned-Prof Moran Cerf

Moran Cerf is the definition of a renaissance man. A professor at the Kellogg School of Management, the LIJ department of Neurosurgery, and the MIT Media Lab with a resume that includes furniture-designer, pilot, radio host, and filmmaker – Moran recently took to the stage at the TED conference to share his story in a talk on the meaning and science of free will (and hacking dreams!). Sound disruptive? What if we told you that much of the talk was based on his nearly decade-long experience as a professional hacker, where he discovered a passion for breaking down systems and exploring personal volition? Here, Moran shares how he defines disruption and how this understanding has shaped how he views his work today.

YOU COLLABORATED WITH US ON DISRUPT STORY. WHAT DOES DISRUPTION MEAN TO YOU?
The combined power of understanding our capabilities, with the thinking of a hacker on how to break them, is to me the heart of disruption, and its main driver.

I CAN SEE BOTH YOUR HACKER AND NEUROSCIENTIFIC PERSPECTIVES REFLECTED IN THAT ANSWER. HOW DOES SOMEONE GO FROM HACKER TO NEUROSCIENTIST?
As a hacker, I would break into leading financial and government institutes to test and improve their security. This hacking background led me to later pursue non-traditional ways to investigate the brain, using methods and techniques that benefit from heavy computational skills.

SO YOUR APPROACH IS A COMBINATION OF HACKING AND NEUROSCIENCE.
Using those two worlds allows me to witness disruption as it’s manifested in mundane day-to-day experiences, and in a large scale shifts in our societal foci.

DO YOU CONSIDER THE BRAIN A FOCAL POINT FOR DISRUPTION?
Any disruption and significant change we experience in our life is reasoned by the brain. Everything else in our body is settled and stable. The brain is the mechanisms with which we handle changes in the environment since it’s the only part of us that is able to adapt to new changes. Incidentally, humans’ creativity and ingenuity is also a product of our brain’s work. Therefore, studying the brain as it solves complex puzzles, identifies patterns, relaxes complex constraints, and adapts is the way to understanding the creativity and malleability that drives disruption.

YOU’VE GIVE US A LOT TO THINK ABOUT! OUR FOLLOWERS WILL DEFINITELY ENJOY YOUR CHOICES IN-STORE.
If this kind of conversation interests them, I have curated a list of content that engages with these topics.

Inspired by the idea of disruption, and the thematic layers of Mr. Robot, Moran Cerf selected these cerebral reads to hack your bookshelf. Find them at #DisruptSTORY, and to RSVP for our panel with Moran himself, click here.