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The Hacker Ethic: An Exploration

The Hacker Ethic: An Exploration

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Published by Ramy E.
Hacker Ethos: Beyond Breaching Security By Ramy Elmeligy Living in the Technology Age

The quality of American life, measured in material terms, is among the best in the world. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s quality-of-life index for 2005 pegs America as the 13th best place to live out of 111 countries. It also says that the GDP per person in America is over $41,000, second only to that of Luxembourg. This economic prosperity has allowed people all over the country to afford and enjoy comfor
Hacker Ethos: Beyond Breaching Security By Ramy Elmeligy Living in the Technology Age

The quality of American life, measured in material terms, is among the best in the world. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s quality-of-life index for 2005 pegs America as the 13th best place to live out of 111 countries. It also says that the GDP per person in America is over $41,000, second only to that of Luxembourg. This economic prosperity has allowed people all over the country to afford and enjoy comfor

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Published by: Ramy E. on Sep 10, 2008
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04/02/2013

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Hacker Ethos: Beyond Breaching Security
By Ramy ElmeligyLiving in the Technology Age
 
The quality of American life, measured in material terms, is among the best in theworld. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s quality-of-life index for 2005 pegs America asthe 13
th
best place to live out of 111 countries. It also says that the GDP per person inAmerica is over $41,000, second only to that of Luxembourg. This economic prosperityhas allowed people all over the country to afford and enjoy comfort in an unprecedentedway. Technology has changed the nature of our working lives, lifting from our hands the burdens of menial tasks, slow communication and simple calculations. One might think that these luxuries make the American life rather leisurely. But have these changes beenaccompanied by better attitudes toward work and livelihood? Not quite. Somehow, despite all the conveniences that are afforded Americans, thelives of working professionals are still described by phrases such as “the daily grind” andthe “rat race.” American society still revolves around labor; it still values, above all, thesweat of a day’s hard work. Colonial Americans were the earliest bearers of thisProtestant work ethic. Max Weber crystallized it in his 1905 essay
The Protestant Ethicand the Spirit of Capitalism
. Weber describes the Protestant Ethic as “an obligation[towards work] which the individual is supposed to feel,” a “peculiar idea, so familiar tous today, but in reality so little a matter of course.” He notes that “labour must… be performed as if it were an absolute end in itself,” an idea which persists today in definingwork as a duty and identifying it with rigidity and drudgery. The aversion to work this hascreated in many is evidenced by the very terminology used to refer to the cubicle-boundmisery of the “nine-to-fivers” and other working-class of America, slaves of the wallclock.
 
What if there was an alternative to living and working with maximal efficiencyalways in mind? What if work wasn’t something forced, uninspiring and pestilent? Whatif workers and professionals felt loyal to their callings and found joy in them, rather thanseeing them as mere means to making ends meet? Some people have decided that allthese things are possible, and that working towards them is a worthy goal. These peopleare not a uniform, well-defined or exclusive group, only co-believers in a particular  philosophy. For them, satisfaction and innovation have displaced work as life’s chief aim.These people are hackers.Hackers? Surely these miscreants of the digital age have nothing valuable to offer society—if what is popularly believed about hackers is any indication, their communitywould seem like the last place to find ethics or philosophies worthy of consideration.“Computer hackers” fall into the same category of romanticized character as pirates,knights and cowboys. Fictional portrayals and media scrutiny have branded them with areputation of lawlessness and maliciousness that is not entirely deserved. Movies, novels,and high-profile computer criminals have simplified and vilified the image of hackers,who are typically portrayed as shrewd, misguided, attention-seeking teenagers. But thereal roots of hacker culture lie in a spirit of innovation, information-sharing, andirreverent humor. “True” hackers, as they might designate themselves, would be moreinterested in problem-solving and programming wizardry than in taking down servers andmainframes (Hacker Ethic, Wikipedia). In fact, many hackers are principled people, wholive in accordance with a set of beliefs commonly termed “the hacker ethic.”This hacker ethos stems from a time when a “hacker” was a wizard programmer who could engineer brilliant “hacks” to complex programming problems (Wikipedia,

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