Should Hacking Be Encouraged?

For as long as human beings have walked the face of this Earth, more than a few have held dear the hope that their children would one day follow in their footsteps.

Doctors encourage their kids to study medicine; lawyers advocate careers in law; rulers of evil empirescreate their own little clones.

It should come as no great surprise, then, that hackers share similar aspirations.

‘Hackers Are Not Consumer Lemmings’

“Why I want my daughter to be a hacker” is the title of a post that’s been making waves in the Linux blogosphere of late, and no wonder: A more provocative title would be hard to imagine.

It’s never explicitly said that qchapter, the author, is a hacker himself, but he has plenty of reasons to encourage the pursuit in the next generation.

“Hackers are not consumer lemmings” is one, for instance; “hackers favor open systems” is another. More generally, “hackers are simply empowered individuals that want to figure things out for themselves,” the author wrote.

Did other citizens of the Linux blogosphere have ideas of their own to share on the topic? You bet your best white hat they did. Near 100 comments had been posted on qchapter’s site by Friday, in addition to many more on LXer.

‘Your Daughter Is Very Lucky’

“I don’t know you, but you must be the best dad ever,” wrote Andrew Currie on qchapter’s site, for instance.

On the other hand: “You did not define ‘hacker’ clearly, because you yourself do not understand what a hacker truly is,” asserted InaTux. “What you are referred to is a ‘cracker'” — “one who can ‘crack’ security to gain control of something one did not previously have control over.”

Then again: “Awesome post, I think you have pretty much nailed the term ‘hacker,'” enthused corenominal. “Your daughter is very lucky to have you as her dad! :)”

It was soon clear that the topic had struck a chord. Linux Girl headed down to the blogosphere’s seedy Black Hat Bar for more insight.

‘Merit Is the Deciding Factor’

“My daughters are both active on the web on social networking; my son does hack in PHP,” blogger Robert Pogson began. “One out of three is OK, I guess.”

Women do have definite advantages in FLOSS, Pogson added, “because merit is the deciding factor in advancement. The best hacker will never become the boss at M$.”

Margarita Manterola, for example, “just took a good run at the leadership of the Debian GNU/Linux project,” he pointed out. “Came in second by my estimate. She could win next time.”

‘Ridiculous Paradigms’

“Do I want my children to think for themselves? Yes,” began Slashdot blogger Josh Ulmer. “Do I believe that all closed systems are bad, or that they should think outside the box continuously, or any of the other ridiculous paradigms spouted in this diatribe? No.”

The perfect “co-op, open-sourced, self-governing commune qchapter wants his daughter to be a part of does not work,” Ulmer explained. “Understanding the system and knowing that you can work around it and with it at the same time is more important to life than spending your time trying to figure out a more efficient way to do something that is already good enough.”

In other words, “the desire to tinker results in a much more productive whole than the feeling of need to change for change’s sake,” he added.

‘Fight the Power, Man!’

Indeed, “it sounds like [qchapter’s] whole article is basically, ‘fight the power, man, yeah!’ which is about as useful as that slogan,” Slashdot blogger hairyfeet opined. “I much prefer my kids to simply have a brain and be independent thinkers.”

There’s no need to hack anything to make an informed choice, hairyfeet pointed out. “If the right choice is in the center, fine; if not, as long as they are reading and making informed decisions, I’m a happy camper.”

Giving kids “enough education and love that they can think for themselves and be themselves is much more important than trying to shove my beliefs down their throat,” he added. “Let them be themselves, let them know that no matter what you love them — that is what really matters.

“If you want to ‘fight the power man!’ do it yourself,” hairyfeet advised. “Don’t try to live your life through your kids.”

‘More Than Just a Contrary Position’

The world definitely needs more free-thinkers, but “it’s not just hackers who are free-thinking,” Montreal consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack pointed out.

“One thing that has always got me was the number of people who think they are free-thinking simply because they are anti-establishment or copying people they think are intelligent,” Mack explained. “Free thought is more than just taking a contrary position — it’s analyzing for yourself when the established ways of thinking are right and when they are wrong.”


  • Katherine,

    Thanks for continuing the discussion here on Linux Outsider. The two Slashdot bloggers are critical of my position, and I think they may be missing the point. We must have open alternatives to closed systems. Sure not all closed systems are bad, but imagine if we didn’t have any free and open operating systems like GNU/Linux or FreeBSD? It is exactly these "ridiculous paradigms" and the uncompromising efforts of hackers like Richard M. Stallman that have made software freedom possible.

    And nowhere do I speak of change just for change’s sake. We need change because many of the economic and infrastructural systems that we rely on are are failing or close to collapse.

    The hacker mindset is important for our children because it will help to create individuals that can drive the change that will help communities survive and prosper in the future.

    You can’t create a solution if you don’t see the problem.

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