Monday, April 19, 2010

Wired Article On Geek Power

This is a good article from Wired;
But behind the inventiveness was something even more marvelous — all real hackers shared a set of values that has turned out to be a credo for the information age. I attempted to codify this unspoken ethos into a series of principles called the hacker ethic. Some of the notions now seem forehead-smackingly obvious but at the time were far from accepted (”You can create art and beauty on a computer”). Others spoke to the meritocratic possibilities of a digital age (”Hackers should be judged by their hacking, not bogus criteria such as degrees, age, race, or position”). Another axiom identified computers as instruments of insurrection, granting power to any individual with a keyboard and sufficient brainpower (”Mistrust authority — promote decentralization”). But the precept I perceived as most central to hacker culture turned out to be the most controversial: “All information should be free.”

Stewart Brand, hacker godfather and Whole Earth Catalog founder, hacked even that statement. It happened at the first Hackers’ Conference, the week my book was published, during a session I moderated on the future of the hacker ethic. “On the one hand, information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable,” he said. “On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.” His words neatly encapsulate the tension that has since defined the hacker movement — a sometimes pitched battle between geeky idealism and icy-hearted commerce.
It is worth a read.

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