Hacker attitude

The ‘hacker’ culture had been around for so long, and involved in so much of the substantial progress of the last half of the decade, to have their own ethos and philosophy into codified laws, somewhat like the ten commandments. Except that these rules are, as pertaining to the hacker subculture itself, a matter of choice for the most part. If you are finding yourself agreeing to the code, than you are probably a hacker, regardless of whether you know about computers or not. Even if you regularly write in assembly language for living, if you cannot agree to the codes outlined by the hacker culture, you are probably not a hacker. In a way calling it a ‘code’ and comparing it to the ten commandments would be something of a misnomer. Think of it as something of an identification tag, to be used between people of similar disposition.

There are five fundamental common attitudes shared by most hackers, and they are as follows.

1. The world is full of fascinating problems waiting to be solved.
2. No problem should ever have to be solved twice.
3. Boredom and drudgery are evil.
4. Freedom is good.
5. Attitude is no substitute for competence.

It is rather interesting that all of the five attitudes go against common beliefs and pratice held by most public school education system. At least for the inner city schools I know of. Around those schools teachers and administrators can say they are trying to teach children how to respect the authority without even blushing in shame. That’s right folks, not respect to your fellow men/ladies, and not respect to yourself. The primary goal seem to be built around having the kids in middle and high school stages of education to respect the person who has the right to call the police or security on them. Of course, I am being rather crass here, but this is the sentiment shared by most if not all urban city youths, the same feeling I shared when I was their age. And who am I supposed to blame for current less-than-fantastic state the public education system is in? Kids or experienced, supposed ‘professionals’ who get paid to study the children and lead them to the best possible future?

As I grow older I’m finding that this ‘hacker’ mindset is not new at all. I believe it had been around since the very beginning of civilizations, and that this is a part of natural instinct of being a human being. It is becoming increasingly certain that you don’t need to know about computers to hack things. What you need instead is the insight and wisdom to seem through the system of the world. It’s like applied cybernetics. As long as things affect each other in certain way they form a system. A system of human society is a system like any other, albeit fundamentally more complex since such systems are usually evolved rather than designed. As long as something can be considered a system, it can be, and perhaps should be, hacked. A mudlark in highly hierarchical society later becoming a shipping magnate, or a leader of a nation, is as much a hacker as the computer science major hacking with python and C++ in pursuit of digital artificial life. A writer, a cook, a musician, the applicable list goes on and on. The field of synthetic biology, though fledgling at the moment, seem to be shaping up as the next contender to the hackerdom’s primary pursuit, in the search of the ability to hack the life as we know it. Who knows what we’ll be hacking some distant time into the future? Perhaps the very nature of space and time itself. Maybe even designer universes.

And from this standpoint of the universal hackery, I must ask, would it be possible to hack the human world? Would it be possible to hack the public mind and the generational zeitgeist to nudge the rest of humanity into some vision of future? Is it possible to hack the origin of all the situations and motivations, the human itself?

Rice shortage-Network demonstration

The matter of rice shortage is becoming increasingly mainstream. The warning of possible shortage and dangerous increase in price had been around for a long time, and unusual price hike of rice in major exporters like Thailand had been reported in (relatively) mainstream media about three to four months ago. In fact, major United Nations advisers and IMF personnel had been giving warnings since mid 2007 in mainstream sources. I myself remember scoffing at a particular warning given by a United Nations forecaster, warning of possible food shortage and criticizing the rapid increase in biocrop cultivation as a major player. I guess such is the evanescence of appealing to mainstream media, where the specific sources and logistical data to support novel claims are frequently invisible or simply unavailable.

The warning was in place, and the back-up system for possible shortage in each of the nations most heavily affected had been more or less in place. So why do we have a developing crisis at hand with reported casualties? The answer I believe, lies in the lack of distribution network in the world today. Of course, with the advent of the technology the world itself is ever more networked than before. As each second passes it is predicted that the network of the world will become thicker and wider, someday possibly encompassing every single member of humanity in direct and accessible way. But that is the network of information. What about the physical network, the infrastructure, the ones we use to ship the things we order through the virtual spaces of the net? The airlines, the shipping lanes, the railroads and the expressways. I have on reliable sources that the actual range and volume of physical shipping across the world had remained at similar or lower levels since the height of the age of imperialism so long ago (the specific source I can’t find at the moment, if someone knows otherwise please correct me). It is somewhat unlikely that there is an actual shortage of food (at least not to the degree that some sensationalist media would have us believe). What we have at hand is more akin to the lack of distribution network, so that the flow of resources are channeled into the most readily available physical network without regards to economical balance, or even, the need. In the type of eschewed free market system we have in place at the moment, there is virtually no incentive for tapping into parts of the world without pre-built infrastructure. And without the resources of the world available at hand, popular discontent is bound to rise, leading to further instability.

Living in New York city, I am physically and mentally insulated from most of such problems plaguing the world. Hipsters in fashionable clothings walk into fashionable restaurants and eat a plateful of vegetables, supposedly crafted from fashionable ingredients, possibly grown in fashinable dirt, as they clutch their fashinable laptops while hoping someone sees them writing down a ‘novel.’ In the subway a woman so bloated that she has to take up two sits and a half holds onto her third bucket of KFC. Is there something wrong with this picture? I do not particularly think so. Of course, the scene I’ve just described is certainly distasteful, but I do not believe people should be judged and criticized for utilizing the resources made available to them by the environment. The physical network of the world is configured in such a way that massive amount of cheap resources and resources expensive beyond their actual value exist hand-in-hand, composing the greater fabric of the market system.

We are all cogs reinforcing the current system of the world. And this system of the world, this world-wide system of ‘free-market’ seem to be suffering from some sort of bug. A free market system without proper physical distribution network for the market to take place on is fundamentally oppressive and exploitative, even without malice, even with good will of the individual members of the system. Perhaps it is possible to speculate that the fiasco experienced by certain biocrop based national economies are very similar to that experienced by planned and enclosed economies of the old communist nations. There had been a few novel attempts at readjusting the system of the world through various means, like freer access to information network from poorer places of the globe allowing development of a market system based on information and knowledge, but outcome of such works-in progress are unpredictable at the moment.

All I can say is, I think the problems like the kind we are seeing right now seem to stem from certain inadequacy of the global network itself, and will persist in different forms so long as that inadequacy continues to plague the system of the world. And the developed nations of the world are making a huge mistake in allowing such unbalance to continue, as such difference in network-system tend to cluster individual components into groups sharing similar traits, which in this case would be poverty and isolation of economic and cultural nature.

This reminds me, how about donating some rice to the UN? It won’t cost you a dime and you’ll probably have fun doing it.