Why Hacker Culture is essential to modern living

Why Hacker Culture is essential to modern living

. 6 min read

Hacker culture refers to an ideology and a set of values that emphasize creativity, freedom, and collaboration. The term hacker refers to a programmer who enjoys programming not just for its intellectual challenge, but for the enjoyment it provides in creating something new that can be shared with others. When most of us hear the word, 'hacker', we probably immediately think 'cyber criminal' and all the negative associations that go with that. But a lot of people don't know that the word 'hacking' actually comes from the idea that, back when most technology existed as physical objects, some curious technically inclined people would 'hack' said objects apart in order to understand how they worked and sometimes try to make alterations or improvements. Ever took apart some of your toys as a kid to see how they worked? Well then, you may be hacker. Now, we live in a world that is increasingly governed by information technology (software). So you could say that a modern hacker does the same thing, not only with code but with the human psyche. If code is written 'correctly' it's practically impossible to hack, but human beings are notoriously easy to deceive, thereby always being the weak point in any software system. You might not be able to crack open a steel door, but you can definitely convince the person on the other side to open it.

So what does all that have to do with surviving in the modern world? Well, basically it all boils down to the game of making money. Targeted advertising, data collection, interest charges, extra fees, and so on... All of it is designed to extract value from your existence. It's not enough that you work and produce value for society. You must also consume in order to keep these giant monsters known as corporations alive. Now, that brings us to where hacking comes into play. Whether you know it or not, you're being hacked every single day by these corporations (more so than governments actually). It's probably not so much that these corporations want to intentionally do harm to you, but the fact of the matter is that they do not care about your mental, physical, or spiritual well being, unless it affects the amount of profit they can make off of you. Since the government isn't going to protect you from that existential onslaught, you'll have to take measures to protect yourself.

So here you are, alone in the world being attacked by entities more powerful than you, trying to mentally manipulate you into taking actions that benefit them and only them. That, my friends is hacking in it's truest form. The larger powers have spent a lot of money to develop and refine these methods, and trust me, they hate losing money more than you do. One example is a technique used when designing user interfaces called, 'dark patterns'. Don't get that confused with night mode. Basically, it's when a user interface is designed in such a way to coerce you into doing something you wouldn't normally want to do. They do this by taking advantage of the fact that people don't normally read ever single element of a webpage before taking an action. So how can you stop something like this? Well, first of all by being aware that it happens. Another example is being roped into credit card debt to pay off things society has convinced you that you just have to have. One more recent huge example is the giant psychological experiment Facebook carried out in 2014, where it manipulated the feeds of 700,000 users to see how the posts they saw on their feed would affect their posts. Essentially, they would show you some sad stuff to see if you would also get sad and post sad things, then do the same with things that should cause you to be happy. This technically was 'ok' because they told you they might do something like this in their terms of service agreement. Of course which you have to click ok on in order to use the application. But let's be honest, no one really reads those terms of service agreements, right? Well believe it or not, clicking that 'I agree' button carries pretty much the same weight in law as signing a physical contract. So either start reading the terms of service, or don't 'sign' something you haven't read. Don't let the companies trick you into thinking they have your best interest in mind, because why would they? You're using a large scale software system 'for free' that costs them quite a large amount of money to keep running. No one is ever going to offer you a service that is truly free of charge if it costs them money to operate. It's been estimated that Facebook probably spends more than $1.5 billion a year in server costs alone to store your photos and posts. Why would they do that out of the kindness of their hearts? Think about it.

Here's my point. Modern day hacking isn't about breaking and entering... Even if you could do something like hack into a bank... Take my word for it, it would not be worth it because you're most likely gonna get caught and completely rekt. If you were playing Call of Duty, you wouldn't try fighting a whole army by yourself right? Even if you get one shot in, you're gonna be wiped off the map before you even realize what happened. Also, scamming regular people is lame as fuck and I hope you DO get caught for trying to do something like that. Modern day hacking is about arming yourself with knowledge of how the technology that runs the world works. Why? because the less you know, the easier it is to hack you. It's like someone falling for perfectly red strawberries on a TV commercial... I mean, we all know it's been painted or photoshopped by now, right? But it probably worked pretty well on the masses until people started openly sharing the knowledge that it's fake.

It seems like for most of us, as computers and information technology have improved over time, quality of life for the average person has actually gone down. This is happening while bottom lines for the corpos has steadily gone up. Of course, it's the age old rich get richer conversation, but the biggest issue here is that the advantage that technology and information have give humans has been disproportionately in favor of the corporations. Think about it, sure you now have the 'privilege' of spending $1,000 USD to carry around a shiny glass tracking device (why is it made of glass again? oh! yeah cause breaking is good for the bottom line :)). You think the purpose of this device is to stay connected to the outside world. Although it does do that, the truth is, It's main purpose is to learn your spending habits so companies can more intelligently target you to sell you something. There's actually nothing really malicious about that, but we're just now starting to see the effects of being bombarded with information from social media and how it can contribute to depression and anxiety. Of course the companies also have a solution for that.. pills that you can buy!

Another reason that hacker culture is so important to the modern world is its association with the free and open source software movement, which promotes universal access to information, freedom of expression, and participation in the global knowledge commons. Believe it or not, open source software hasn't always been so common in the world of tech. Most companies would rather hide the code that makes their products work, meaning that each company is siloed off repeatedly reinventing the wheel, and wasting a ton of money doing it. Then came the open source movement, which really embodies the 'DRY' principle of software (Don't repeat yourself - basically don't waste time writing code that something already does). That really gave a enormous boost to the growth of a lot of the big tech companies that you see in the spotlight now, since they could quickly build working prototypes using bundles of code that someone already wrote in the past, and that have been battle tested in the wild. But most importantly, aside from the fact that companies can quickly bootstrap, its now a lot more feasible for an individual person to build a large scale application on their own without needing hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay a team of developers working with a proprietary codebase. With open source, anyone can use the software for free, and anyone can modify it for their specific use case. Isn't that how the world of ideas and information should work?

So where does that leave us? Not that life is all about making money or anything, but we all know it takes money to survive and thrive in our society. Money in some senses is the life force of each individual since, without a certain amount of it, you can't eat, buy clothes, or have a place to live. The main thing to remember, is to not let your life force be drained just so someone who cares nothing about you can live a life of luxury. If technology has advanced for all of humans, shouldn't the distribution of that advancement and the power it gives be more equally distributed among the people? Well it can, but only if you understand how it all works. I'm not saying everyone needs to be a computer scientist, but as we keep advancing into the future, 'tech skills' will be more of a necessity for surviving and ultimately thriving in the modern world. Maybe like reading and writing was in the last century. How would it sound if someone today said, "I don't get into all that reading and writing stuff, its for nerds". Well, thats what someone who rejects learning the way of computers will sound like in the near future.