Movies Versus Reality
I’m sick of the mainstream media, movies, and everyone else depicting the term “hacker” like a badass script kiddie, screwing up secret files and financial records.
This biased representation in the media leads many people to think of the word “hacker” disparagingly. Instead, the hacker is pictured as “a fringe-type individual with highly-specialized programming skills—who do what they do out of greed, malice, and ill intentions.”
To many people around the world, the concept of “hacking for good” may seem like an oxymoron. The dark image of hackers shadows the fact that people can work together, in a collective effort, to make things better for themselves and others around them.
I can proudly confess that I’m a hacker, and I am proud to be a geek, and my friends and colleagues consider I’m damn good at it.
Yet, I have not done anything illegal so far. I sure can exploit quite a few security holes to gather information. But why would I?
But… Isn’t “Hacking” an Illegal Crime?
Saying “hackers are evil because they can screw your online identity” is as equally ridiculous as saying “car mechanics are lunatics because they can install a time bomb in your engine”.
Hacking, in and of itself, is not illegal. It is as legal as throwing a dart. It all boils down to your intent:
If you are throwing the dart at the bull’s eye of a dartboard, then it’s fair game; but if you are poking the dart into a person, then sorry, friend, you are going to jail.
As in everything, you are responsible, and you will be kept accountable for anything you do. Once this distinction is clear, then hacking is no more dangerous than wood painting.
A hacker is none but an insanely creative person. As with anything out of the ordinary, creativity can be used for good purposes and evil purposes.
Hacking Is Misunderstood
A hacker is a person who makes things work beyond perceived limits or beyond their everyday use. Hackers enjoy exploring the details of systems and are curious about how they can stretch the system’s capabilities, unlike many who merely prefer to learn the minimum necessary skill set to get the stuff done.
Hacking is all about learning, empowerment, and sharing knowledge.
Hacking is not a goal; it is a means to do good.
Hacking is a Path
Hacking is an “attitude”. There’s a community, a shared culture, and the accumulated wisdom behind it.
And you don’t necessarily have to confine yourself to hacking software: The “hacker nature” is independent of the particular medium the hacker works in.
No matter what you do, and no matter where you are if you have the hacker spirit, you will reflect it on every action you take. And that’s something to be proud of.
As hackers, we solve problems; we build things and believe in collaboration, meritocracy, and mutual help. That’s the core essence of being a hacker.
Curiosity Kills the Cat
If we do something really, really well, then it is discovering:
We are motivated, curious, and creative. We get so deep into how things work that we acquire the knowledge to control them and change them to something else; most-of-the-time something they are not, or something that they are not “meant to be.”
From the eyes of a hacker, failure is not a mistake. It is something to be taken a lesson from. Every failure means something new has got to be learned. Moreover, making the same mistake twice is not that bad because, out of scientific curiosity, that same mistake might lead to different results to explore.
Teach Hacking at Schools
A hacker’s exploratory mindset is what society needs to progress. That’s why hacking must be taught in schools.
After a hard day at work, I would love to how a strand of virus can be entirely deleted from human cells for the first time, or what the best way of learning a new language is, or how nanoflakes provide greater solar efficiency and may solve the energy needs of the next generations.
This constant and ever-growing thirst for knowledge is a significant personality trait/disorder of a hacker:
Learning for the Sake of Learning
Hackers have an irrecoverable malfunction in their brains called “curiosity.”
We want to learn anything and everything regardless of whether it will be useful at work or in our daily life. It’s this “curiosity” that makes us look at things from diagonally different angles. It’s this curiosity that makes a hacker figure out unconventional solutions to seemingly-hard problems in ways that no one else can imagine.
Not only do we want to acquire knowledge about everything but the kitchen sink, but we also want to share the culture and help others who wish to walk the walk.
And I bet you, if there were a way to inject this mentality to the rest of the world, then the world would become an exponentially better place.
Yet still, people want to see us as skinny nerds with their $100,000 computer set-up, using nicknames like “M4fi4-B0i” as an alias to talk to other fellow hackers, plotting on how to take down the government.
Hey, wake up Trinity… Wake… Up!
Well, that $#!% only happens in Hollywood movies.
Everything the majority of the world knows about hackers is entirely and utterly wrong. There’s a way to fix this by showing, to the rest of the world, that we, hackers, can hack the world and make it a better place to live.
Our Disobedience Is to the Status Quo
Hacking is evolution.
Whatever we hack, be it a programming language, a poem, a math formula, a new color and shape for our yard fence, a new melody for a song… we create a possibility of new stuff entering our world.
Not always great stuff, not even stuff that works or has a particular purpose, but new stuff—it’s the information that matters. It’s in that information where new possibilities for a new world emerge.
Hacking is Change
Hacking, is the change in the inherited characteristics of a system over successive iterations.
This rapid iterative change gives rise to diversity, and diversity helps us create better solutions.
Hacking is not a result; it is a movement towards a future higher state: Continuous improvement; it is a curious exploration that leads to massive change.
You Are Born To Be a Hacker
Haven’t you ever tried to do something over and over again, in different ways, to make it do what you wanted?
Haven’t you ever disassembled a toy to see how it works while you were a child?
Haven’t you ever ended your almost finished jar of Nutella with ice cream? (if not, try it; seriously)
That exactly is what hacking is. You hack stuff when you deeply examine how things work and change it creatively into doing what you want.
Diving right into the problem and following a feeling rather than a formal methodology; that’s the hacker’s way of doing things.
And it is not necessarily a bad thing. Many great inventions have spawned out of genius minds who have not followed the conventions of what had been believed to be accurate at their time.
Every Society Needs Crazy Makers
Hackers are pioneers. We discover new and unusual ways of doing things; we continuously learn, research, and explore.
Hacking is about discovering and finding unusual solutions to seemingly-ordinary problems. It’s about doing things differently with the hope of creating better outcomes.
Every child is a natural hacker; ergo, you are born to be a hacker.
It’s time, society, the system, whatever you name it… makes you grind this innate ability to a halt.
Pardon Me, So What Is a “Hack” Again?
A “hack” is trying to do something differently.
It’s possible that what you create can turn out to be a solution that’s better than similar ones that have ever been done before, or it can be some crazy shit that no one else but you will ever use.
The essence of hacking is not the final outcome. Per contra, hacking is the road you are willing to walk.
What Makes a Hacker?
If everybody is born to be a hacker, then so are you. Yet, certain characteristics make hackers stand out.
Do you want to walk the walk? Then just sharpen the following habits of yours:
We value inner motivation and self-direction. We believe that people learn best when they are free to explore their passions.
We know that no matter how much karate you know, there’s someone better than you somewhere. So we share knowledge, share wisdom, and try to build things on top of the shoulders of giants, and we openly share what we’ve learned on the way.
Hackers are connected, thoughtful, and supportive.
That’s the most crucial part of it. Just observe a three-year-old interacting with the environment; how curious they are, how they question even the most basic facts. A hacker is that three-year-old kiddo—fully grown up—without losing their attention, intention, and curiosity.
Contrary to the popular myth, you don’t have to be a nerd to be a hacker. It does help, however, 😉.
Have you read anything about coding, computers, or programming in this article so far?
Read once more, if you are not sure.
It’s a preconceived notion that to be a hacker, you need to be good at math, or you need to be good at cracking some code. To be a hacker, all you need to do is be curious and be able to question everything.
You don’t need to be a programming prodigy to achieve that. You just need to be willing.
You Can Hack For Good
Hacking, in a sense, is the ability to connect the dots to create desirable outcomes. When this ability is used to promote ecology, sustainability, civic life… to improve the state of the world around us, then beautiful things happen.
There are enough insurmountable issues that need to be tackled in the world today. Take, for example, the climate crisis, racial injustice, all forms of discrimination, gender inequality, war, hunger, need for clean air, underrepresented groups, increased crime rates, torture…
Hacking is one way to create better alternatives to those. It is a way to create a better alternative to our current way of living. Sometimes you want to flip things around and want to convince people of actually wanting to live in a better world sustainably and humanely. And that’s when the hackers come into play.
It’s as simple as that and not simpler.
Hacking is Not Only For the Elite
Hacking is not something exclusive to a limited sub-community of geeks.
One of the core values of the hacker ethic is that hackers are not judged by bogus criteria like their degrees, their education, whether they have a CS major, or a Ph.D., or an MBA, or their race, or their position, or how long they have been into hacking. In contrast, the hacker culture is exceptionally open.
The best idea and the best implementation always win–not the person who’s best at lobbying for a picture or the person who has a more prominent role power.
Which makes us do more, talk less, and get $#!% done.
Hack the System
You can learn a lot from the world, or a system, by taking it apart into pieces, seeing how stuff works. This micro-level knowledge that you acquire helps you create new and more exciting things.
Seeing the system’s internals will help you understand how it is broken and what can be done to fix it.
And the thing to fix it need not be a computer program:
- It can be the day-long waiting lines in government agencies;
- It can be discrimination or racism that we constantly see around;
- It can be a preventing disease from killing millions;
- It can be preventing child abuse;
- Or it can be gender inequality…
As a matter of fact, something can always be better.
Nothing is ever complete. You just have to go fix it.
This Is Not a Cake Walk
I will be upfront, though. This is not an easy task because human beings have an astonishing capacity to disregard all kinds of noise.
Human beings have a galactically-strong resistance to change.
So it’s not just a matter of coming up with an ingenious solution, supported by a strong argument; to make people care, you have to make your solution so desirable that people cannot resist it.
You have to translate an idea into something tangible that can blend into the everyday lives of people. And this leap can only be done with a hacker’s mindset.
You do have this mindset; it’s just “maybe” you haven’t taken the red pill “yet”.
This is not about thinking about who we are or what hacking is.
This is about “getting your hands dirty and getting $#!% done” because once your hands are dirty, miracles can happen.
So, if you are unhappy with the status quo, instead of putting a black ribbon on your social media profile, go and make a flocking change.
Hacking is good, and you are born to be a hacker. Remember that.
There’s only one question that remains…
Are you ready to hack?
Then, may the source be with you 🦄.
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