hacker ethic


Also found in: Wikipedia.

hacker ethic

(philosophy)
1. The belief that information-sharing is a powerful positive good, and that it is an ethical duty of hackers to share their expertise by writing free software and facilitating access to information and to computing resources wherever possible.

2. The belief that system-cracking for fun and exploration is ethically OK as long as the cracker commits no theft, vandalism, or breach of confidentiality.

Both of these normative ethical principles are widely, but by no means universally, accepted among hackers. Most hackers subscribe to the hacker ethic in sense 1, and many act on it by writing and giving away free software. A few go further and assert that *all* information should be free and *any* proprietary control of it is bad; this is the philosophy behind the GNU project.

Sense 2 is more controversial: some people consider the act of cracking itself to be unethical, like breaking and entering. But the belief that "ethical" cracking excludes destruction at least moderates the behaviour of people who see themselves as "benign" crackers (see also samurai). On this view, it may be one of the highest forms of hackerly courtesy to (a) break into a system, and then (b) explain to the sysop, preferably by e-mail from a superuser account, exactly how it was done and how the hole can be plugged - acting as an unpaid (and unsolicited) tiger team.

The most reliable manifestation of either version of the hacker ethic is that almost all hackers are actively willing to share technical tricks, software, and (where possible) computing resources with other hackers. Huge cooperative networks such as Usenet, FidoNet and Internet (see Internet address) can function without central control because of this trait; they both rely on and reinforce a sense of community that may be hackerdom's most valuable intangible asset.
References in periodicals archive ?
The hacker ethic can be viewed as a particular ontological perspective adopted by members of the hacking subculture.
From its roots as a website with no ads, no business plan and a hacker ethic, Facebook has grown into a company worth $150 billion, with 6,337 employees and sprawling headquarters in the heart of Silicon Valley.
At this point, a question must be asked: Isn't the hacker ethic on a collision course with the Catholic mens [mind] and its vision of authority and tradition?
The hacker ethic, according to Levy, is that all information should be free.
The reading list includes a cyberpunk novel (Snowcrash by Neal Stephenson); a business biography from a former cartoonist at Hallmark Cards (Orbiting The Giant Hairball by Gordon MacKenzie); and an assortment of books about the information revolution with varying degrees of obscurity (The Hacker Ethic by Pekka Himanen, The Unfinished Revolution by Michael Dertouzous, and Just For Fun, by Linus Torvalds.
Pekka Himanen, the Finnish philosopher, is proposing a notion, which I think is quite extraordinary, that in fact the hacker ethic in relation to informational capitalism is equivalent to that of the Protestant work ethic in relation to capitalism.
The Hacker Ethic, like Steven Levy's book above, takes us on a journey through fundamental questions about life in the information age.
He writes, "The Hacker Ethic was an idealist and obsessive standard that led to weird lifestyles, to hilarious clashes with bureaucracies, and even to potential illegalities: in their urge to explore computers, hackers don't necessarily care whose computer is being explored.
Individual essays discuss such topics as knowledge creation and sharing in Japanese organizations, KM and democracy, emerging ethics of knowledge sharing, hacker ethics, diversity and ethics of distributed knowledge in higher education, balancing knowledge protection and interchange and personal mastery in KM organizations.
In September, the button-down corporate world got a lesson in hacker ethics.
They also discuss hacking as a power trip, hacker ethics and addiction, and perceptions of the law.