Hacking is about knowledge (and only knowledge)

This blog post has been motivated after a series of attempts to cause harm to others under different costumes in hacking environments. It aims to explain why this is a bad thing for hacking communities  as a whole and what can be expected from me and which are my expectations when acting in such environments.

To define what is hacking it is easier to use a top down approach picking some examples and seeing what do they have in common. Hacking is, for example, using a programming bug to take full control of a device (for example write a root exploit), but it is also creating some nice device out of trashed electronics or a cool robot as it is writing some code able to solve a hard problem or to make use of hardware in unexpected way.

These examples don’t cover the whole gamut of the concept of hacking and may even enter in areas which aren’t traditionally considered hacking (some consider the demoscene a separate area for example), but show clearly that the main nexus is using technology and making creative things with it.

For such creative things to happen deep knowledge of the technologies being used is needed, and that basically sums the reason why most hackers actually do such creative things: to deepen their knowledge and to become better at it. Sure, once the cool project is done you are showing off your skills but most hackers will go for another one short afterwards to learn new things.

It’s because of this need and search for knowledge that the hacking culture is all about acquiring, creating and sharing knowledge. You’ll actually find that the hackers with the most knowledge in an area tend to be the most famous but the most popular are those willing to share it. The reason behind this is that knowledge isn’t very useful if it isn’t shared with others so they can also use it on their own projects. This is also why giving back is such an important thing, because knowledge sharing would cease to exist if people did not give back for what they got.

You’ll see that there’s no mention of politics, political correctness, religion, philosophy or any other polemic topic here. The truth is that whilst most hackers will usually challenge your views on such topics, they do that from a respect position as a way to further your (and theirs) knowledge in such topics. The key word here is respect, without it you are unlikely to be able to exchange knowledge because you will not put value in any impressions you receive from somebody who you do not respect.

And that brings us to the core issue here, knowledge sharing works when you care about what the other person does not about what he thinks. Let’s face it, if the other person has managed to find something you could not, it is most likely because he thinks differently from you. Therefore, it depends on you to accept that and benefit from the knowledge you can get from that person.

With that said, I’ll be covering now hate. There is people who for some reason have irrational feelings towards others, let them be fear, contempt or anguish. When people is mature, they can keep all these feelings under control and act rationally around others, some people though is unable to do that and has as it is main objective causing harm to the source of those feelings.

It is not hard to add two plus two and realize that people who intend to cause harm to others are not a good thing to keep around. There is many reasons for this: first they’ll scare most people away as people like to avoid conflict and second, you will never know when they’ll decide to put you on their eyesight. Also it’s quite obvious that intention of harming and respect are quite incompatible.

Because of this, people usually hide their intentions under a more “noble” cause so they are justified  in a way so that people will not think: “Hey! That guy is causing harm to others” but “Heh! That person really deserved it”. The thing is that the ends never justify the means. If you believe that X is the best you are more than welcome to go around talk to others and explain them why you think X is the best, but no matter how valid X is there is no reason for you to harm others because they think differently, actually you should be willing to accept that maybe X is not the best if you see you can’t defend your posture rationally.

And that brings us to “political correctness”. Political correctness is basically a corrupted version of respect. Whilst respect is about accepting others independently of what they think, political correctness is about not voicing opinions or ways of thinking different from those defined by the social rules shall not people be harmed. The truth is that if the fact somebody respectfully voices an opinion you dislike harms you then you should probably reconsider your own thought grounds and if that doesn’t work go to a psychologist as you may have a much deeper issue.

Political correctness is a blocker for creating and sharing new knowledge. New approaches to issues or to the world are likely to not to be the ones accepted by society because otherwise they wouldn’t be novel. In fact, fights like the equality of women, or the no discrimination by race or sexual preference were (and in some places still are) against the established social norms. It’s because of this that you should expect hackers to not to be political correct, because otherwise they’ll be limited by the arbitrary rules set by society. You should instead expect hackers to have their own rules and moral codes which are different from each other and are likely to differ from those accepted by society. Fortunately, respect allows us to interact with each other no matter how different our rules are.

I’d like to close this with a manifesto. When I was younger the different hacker manifestos around the Internet helped me shape my own moral and ethics code as a hacker, hopefully this will help those coming after me.

  1. Rules exist to be bent and replaced as they become obsolete. So happens with the ones in this manifesto.
  2. You should think and act rationally.
  3. You should aim to get more and better knowledge.
  4. You should always give back and try to give back more than what you got.
  5. You should respect others no matter what.
  6. It’s better to be sorry than safe.
  7. You should not cause harm to others intentionally if you non intentionally cause harm to others you should aim to fix what you broke but if the other doesn’t wants you to fix what you broke let him be, at least you tried.
  8. Always think out of the box, the marked pathways will bring you to the same place.
  9. You have limited energy so use it wisely.
  10. Be prone to share your knowledge with those who begin and have potential and interest, we all had to begin somewhere.

As said, these aren’t rules all hackers abide by, each hacker has their own but these are nowadays the most important for me and the ones I expect from other hackers.