Tietotekniikka: nyt!/Anna Pienimäki
Tuukka Hastrup, 010682-1372
Tuukka.Hastrup@iki.fi
27.3.2001
Pekka Himanen: Hakkerietiikka (14.3.2001)

A view to hacker ethics

Pekka Himanen has described hacker ethics as a generalization of the hacker culture. Hacker ethics includes a way of co-operation without a strict hierarchial authority system, still it doesn't mean falling into anarchy, as the skillful ones are generally shown respect. Information must be free - as long as it isn't private information. As Himanen says, hacker ethics highly corresponds to the practices of the this far highly succesful academic world. Hackers have already had a deep impact on modern society: the Internet and its standard facilities are a good example. Do hackers work like the scientists do? Could a wider acceptance of the values and working habits of these groups make our society a happier one?

There is a level where hackers and scientists share the viewpoint. The social relations are alike, and so are the demands of rationality. However, there is a gap in the targets: science is about finding out the truths, whereas hackers are trying to solve their problems using all the possibilities the technology gives us. There is still much in common, because technology is a result of scientific work and the engineering sciences are also about applying science for our good.

On a practical level, scientists and hackers don't work in the same way. Many hackers know the scientific world well, and they know the importance of scientific methods in rational work, but when they hack, it has nothing to do with the accepted scientific methods. Hacking is clearly a free time activity. This could explain why hacking is more like playing than working, if hackers didn't say they hack because of the results. Another reason lies in the current state of computer technology: there are many alternative systems design and computer programming paradigms, so there really isn't a general "right way" of developing computer programs.

There has been computer hackers ever since the introduction of computers. They have been highly succesful, they have been the force behind the information society long before the governments and economy. I'd say the succes is because computing is a whole world parallel to ours: there has been so much to be tried out that it wouldn't have been possible to find all these practical uses without people doing it for fun, not counting the hours. Science is hard work, and computer science is coming well behind, guided by the hackers.

Could we accept hacking as a general work form in our society? It could be one of the few things there is to make our lives happier, as we could be sure that our work is meaningful for us. But science wouldn't really be science anymore, it would be a process of infinite approach towards science through "peer reviews" - every part of the "scientific" knowledge would be equally unsure. In engineering this isn't a problem, as long as the basic research holds. Maybe proving theories can some day be left for the computers to do, and people can concentrate on innovations.