Jach's personal blog

(Largely containing a mind-dump to myselves: past, present, and future)
Current favorite quote: "Supposedly smart people are weirdly ignorant of Bayes' Rule." William B Vogt, 2010

The Hacker Manifesto

From here:

Another one got caught today, it's all over the papers. "Teenager Arrested in Computer Crime Scandal", "Hacker Arrested after Bank Tampering"...

Damn kids. They're all alike.

But did you, in your three-piece psychology and 1950's technobrain, ever take a look behind the eyes of the hacker? Did you ever wonder what made him tick, what forces shaped him, what may have molded him?

I am a hacker, enter my world...

Mine is a world that begins with school... I'm smarter than most of the other kids, this crap they teach us bores me...

Damn underachiever. They're all alike.

I'm in junior high or high school. I've listened to teachers explain for the fifteenth time how to reduce a fraction. I understand it. "No, Ms. Smith, I didn't show my work. I did it in my head..."

Damn kid. Probably copied it. They're all alike.

I made a discovery today. I found a computer. Wait a second, this is cool. It does what I want it to. If it makes a mistake, it's because I screwed it up. Not because it doesn't like me... Or feels threatened by me.. Or thinks I'm a smart ass.. Or doesn't like teaching and shouldn't be here...

Damn kid. All he does is play games. They're all alike.

And then it happened... a door opened to a world... rushing through the phone line like heroin through an addict's veins, an electronic pulse is sent out, a refuge from the day-to-day incompetencies is sought... a board is found. "This is it... this is where I belong..." I know everyone here... even if I've never met them, never talked to them, may never hear from them again... I know you all...

Damn kid. Tying up the phone line again. They're all alike...

You bet your ass we're all alike... we've been spoon-fed baby food at school when we hungered for steak... the bits of meat that you did let slip through were pre-chewed and tasteless. We've been dominated by sadists, or ignored by the apathetic. The few that had something to teach found us willing pupils, but those few are like drops of water in the desert.

This is our world now... the world of the electron and the switch, the beauty of the baud. We make use of a service already existing without paying for what could be dirt-cheap if it wasn't run by profiteering gluttons, and you call us criminals. We explore... and you call us criminals. We seek after knowledge... and you call us criminals. We exist without skin color, without nationality, without religious bias... and you call us criminals. You build atomic bombs, you wage wars, you murder, cheat, and lie to us and try to make us believe it's for our own good, yet we're the criminals.

Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of curiosity. My crime is that of judging people by what they say and think, not what they look like. My crime is that of outsmarting you, something that you will never forgive me for.

I am a hacker, and this is my manifesto. You may stop this individual, but you can't stop us all... after all, we're all alike.

Ah, the joys of being similar to others on account of being different.

If there's such a thing as getting them while they're young, this document would certainly stand out on my list of writing that does so. It's very seductive to the average teenager who considers himself or herself to be above average in intelligence. It's even seductive to people in their 20s.

One of the things I'd tell my younger self is to watch out for these documents. It's good to celebrate differences and occasionally similarities, but watch out when you make it a mantra. Majority view isn't wrong because it's the majority; it can be wrong on several levels but it's never because of that. A friend once observed "If everyone started believing X, you'd start believing Y." Which is partly true; there are some X's and Y's for which that statement is true, and some for which it is false.

That document was written in 1986. Almost 24 years ago. I think it's important to be wary of documents that are that old but haven't changed the world. I don't dispute that hackers have changed the world--they built the internet after all--but they didn't change it in accordance with the document. The fact this can still appeal to the average above-average student with a technology background speaks for this. The education system has gotten better, but it hasn't gotten much better, and is definitely not on a scale fitting the bettering of computer devices.

Regardless of its good parts, I still go back to the various seducing aspects of it. Identifying with the target audience, implying a sense of being better than other students and the teachers, implying a battle against "the man", etc. There's just too much focusing on rebelling against the common establishment when that's not what defines a hacker. Of course the word "manifesto" should set off warning flags.

If I were to write a self-help book in an attempt to pocket a semi-decent sum (they're good selling), I would use tricks like that to sell more. I might even outright lie. I have to assume the Manifesto was written to be viral, and such tricks against the human architecture are great for doing it. There are non-tricky ways to make something go viral, but it's usually much more challenging to pull them off. My morals aren't as strong as others when it comes to deceiving people to sell things, but because it's so common a trait I think it's very important for people to get better at recognizing sleights of hand. The Hacker Manifesto is fun to read, and is viral, but it's tricky and not so much about pure hacking, so it should be taken with a grain of salt and analyzed for its trickery.

Posted on 2009-12-12 by Jach

Tags: hacking


Trackback URL:

Back to the top

Back to the first comment

Comment using the form below

(Only if you want to be notified of further responses, never displayed.)

Your Comment:

LaTeX allowed in comments, use $$\$\$...\$\$$$ to wrap inline and $$[math]...[/math]$$ to wrap blocks.