Hacker Freedom

What defines a hacker? Why are some called hackers and others not? First, it is important to remember that hackers are not crackers. The media and some proprietary software companies have propagated the myth that hackers break into networks and computers to remove information or do some other type of damage. This happened precisely because some businessmen did not want hacker culture to expand among young people and gain support in society. But why?

Every culture is made up of values. We can also say that various groups and communities have their own culture. Hackers are people who have a very special set of values. These values make them a very important community in the information society.

The most important values for a hacker are freedom and cooperation. Pekka Himanen, a researcher of hacker communities, observed that for a hacker controlled leisure and routine is as boring as forced labor. Hackers love to discover and overcome big challenges where they can freely use their intelligence. This is why they often spend endless hours trying to solve a problem. Oftentimes, hackers discover that to overcome an obstacle, they need to learn a new programming language. And what do they do? They learn it. Not because someone told them to, but because they need it to overcome their limitations. They enjoy freedom.

When a hacker overcomes a challenge, in general, he shares the result. He alerts the community that he solved the problem or created something useful and explains how he did it. This is precisely how hackers receive recognition from other hackers. Sharing and helping others has become one of the main values of the hacker community. Imagine the irritation of people who want to control knowledge to make lots of money. This is why these people have maligned hackers by saying that they break the law. Richard Stallman, one of the most important hackers, started the idea of open source non-proprietary software. In the beginning they tried to say that open source software was against the law, then later said that it didn't work. Today, NASA and White House use software developed freely by hackers.

To conclude this conversation, I have a challenging question: why does freedom depend on knowledge? Why must we learn to be free?


Sergio Amadeu
Sociologist

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