The hacker ethic – Pekka Himanen


The hacker ethic philisophy

The hacker ethic is most commonly associated with computing, but it has a much wider application to our time.
Hackers are, essentially, experts or enthusiasts of any kind. You could be a hacker in, say, astronomy or carpentry. Being a hacker is more of an approach or attitude than a label for a small group of people. The ethic that is emerging around hackers is a challenge to our society and our lives.The guiding principles of hackers can be summarised as follows, but it is important to note that not all hackers will observe all of the principles all of the time. Hackers are interested in and enthusiastic about their work, and take joy in their creativity.

They value freedom, to not be trapped in a routinised nine to five workday, but to enjoy a dynamic flow between their creative work and life’s other passions. Money is not a value in itself;
more value is placed on creating something of social worth that will be appreciated by their community of peers.
The results of their work must be free to be used and developed further by others. Hackers have a strong network ethic, or nethic, which is defined by the values of activity and caring. This means getting everyone to participate in and benefit from the network society, and protecting freedom of expression on the Internet, privacy, and the right to create an individualist lifestyle. The highest value among hackers is creativity – the imaginative use of their abilities and giving the world a genuinely valuable new creation.

Hackers create because they find it interesting. Vinton Cerf, who is often referred to as the father of the Internet, commented, “There was something amazingly enticing about programming.” Steve Wozniak, who built the first real PC, said, “It was just the most intriguing world.” Passion is a general characteristic among hackers.
Their interest and enthusiasm energises them. And hacker activity is joyful, with roots in playful exploration. Tim Berners-Lee described how his work on creating the Web began with experiments in linking “play programmes”. This passionate and joyful relationship to work is not exclusive to computer hackers. It can be found among academics, artists, information professionals, managers, media workers and engineers. It is a work ethic that is gaining ground in our network society. As the term hacker can apply to anyone, we can call this shift a hacker ethic. It is a general social change that is challenging the long-dominant Protestant ethic. Like all cultural changes, the displacement of the Protestant ethic will take time. It is so deeply embedded in our consciousness that it is often thought of as human nature.

Money ethic

The new economy does not reject the goal of money making; we are living in the most purely capitalist era of history. Making money comes not from sharing information but from owning it, with copyright closing off information. But many hackers still distribute the results of their creativity openly. Creations such as Linux are “copylefted”: copyleft guarantees that all developments will be available for free use and further development by others. Among hackers there is a strong motive of peer recognition. Recognition within a community that shares
their passion can be more important than money, just as it can be for scholars in academia. If just making money is people’s goal, they can forget what their interests are.

Not all hackers share this money ethic, nor is it likely to spread into society at large, but it has been an important driving force of our time. It led to the Web, for one example. Some hackers are comfortable making money within the traditional capitalist system; some do so only until they have earned financial independence and can retire to pursue their true passion. Hackers know that in a capitalist economy it is difficult to be completely free. Capitalists gain power over people’s lives by means of money. It is precisely by working for someone else that hackers may lose the freedom to work on their passion. Some hackers are not opposed to making money but
are opposed to closing off information from others, and support open-source development of, say, software

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