Angels or Demons: The Hacker Phenomenon Unplugged

Ever since I read William Gibson‘s classic science fiction novel Neuromancer I have been fascinated with hackers and the hacking phenomenon. Given that the internet is one of the essential enabling technologies for the technological singularity and that the merging of man and machine deepens exponentially, hacking will only increase in relevance. Thus I decided to spend the past long weekend at least in part by sifting through reference materials on the topic of hackers and hacking. Here are some of the best and most interesting ones that I found:

The Secret History of Hacking

This classic 2001 documentary traces the history of hacking from the early phone phreaks such as John Draper — creator of the first Blue Box (aka Captain Crunch), going through the followers they inspired such as Steve Wozniak — co-founder of Apple Computer (aka the iWoz), and culminating with Kevin Mitnick — one the first FBI most wanted hackers.

If you want to find out how hacking started and who were the early pioneers check out the full Secret History of Hacking documentary below:

To learn more about the philosophical side of hacking and the hacker’s code of ethics check out A Hacker Manifesto by McKenzie Wark.

Finally, for the most up to date review of the hacker phenomenon check out Hackers Wanted.

Hackers Wanted is an unreleased American documentary film directed and written by Sam Bozzo which explores the origins and nature of hackers and hacking by following the adventures of Adrian Lamo, and contrasting his story with that of controversial figures throughout history. The film is narrated by Kevin Spacey.

You can see the full Hackers Wanted documentary by clicking here.

So, the main issues are:

Is hacking black or white?

Are hackers good or evil?

Are they criminal masterminds or misunderstood geniuses and proactive citizens?

Should we lock them up behind bars or try to utilize their unique skills and knowledge?

I believe that in cases such as those of John Draper, Kevin Mitnik and Adrian Lamo, ostracizing and especially locking up hackers behind bars is the most disproportionate, counterproductive, self-defeating and mindless application of our technologically inadequate laws.

What do you think?


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