Hacking and Philosophy: The Mentor’s Manifesto

hnpMentorsManifesto

Welcome back to Hacking & Philosophy! I’ve done my best to keep up with the comments from last week’s article, and your responses and suggestions have been invaluable. Most readers expressed concern over how this column would define “hacker” or “hacking,” and whether the texts focused more on hacking-as-illegal or the hacker/maker culture. Rest assured that all interpretations are welcome, but I have no intention of dwelling on the sensationalized, criminal hacker stereotype, either. Others asked whether we’d be holding our conversation somewhere a bit more user-friendly: a solution is in the works. For now, we will stick to the comments.

Last week, I asked you to read an early document in hacking history: The Mentor’s “A Hacker Manifesto,” also called “The Conscience of a Hacker.” What follows is my analysis of the essay. I invite you to join me in a discussion in the comments: post your responses to the piece, your questions, your objections, anything! Now, lets take a trip back to the 80’s…

I. Why Did I Choose This Essay?

It’s one of the earliest documents that attempts to encapsulate and explain the hacker mentality. The specifics surrounding its origins are a bit hazy: Douglas Thomas cites its publication as 1985, but every other reference to the work (including [The Mentor] himself) identifies it as 1986.[1] The circumstances surrounding its writing concern [The Mentor's] arrest, but limited information exists on what the charges were or the result of that situation. These uncertainties are, however, largely unimportant, because “Manifesto” gained significant traction; it was widely distributed online and subsequently adopted by readers identifying with its message.

II. Who is the Author?

[The Mentor] is [Loyd Blankenship], who belonged to the “‘2nd generation’ of LOD [Legion of Doom].”[2] He was arrested in 1986 when he “got caught inside a computer he should not have been caught in” and wrote the essay out of frustration; as [Blankenship] explains it, he

didn’t hurt anything, I was just in a computer I shouldn’t have been. And [had] a great deal of empathy for my friends around the nation that were also in the same situation. This was post-WarGames, the movie, so pretty much the only public perception of hackers at that time was ‘hey, we’re going to start a nuclear war, or play tic-tac-toe, one of the two,’ and so I decided I would try to write what I really felt was the essence of what we were doing and why we were doing it.[3]

If you have some time, listen to his talk from H2K2 in 2002 (direct YouTube), where this quotation comes from.

III. What’s Important?

A few of the comments last week saw the word “arrested” in the first line of this essay and/or the title of some suggested texts to cover, which seemed to indicate a discussion of “hacking-as-illegal” rather than “hacking-as-making” or another less-criminal interpretation. That’s not to say these commenters were incorrect to jump to those thoughts. The problem, as outlined here by [Blankenship], is authority figures’ severe misinterpretation of hackers’ intentions. Even in this early essay—which is concerned with issues of legality—there’s an attempt to reclaim “hacking” as a worthy intellectual activity. “Manifesto” is more interested in the hacker’s relationship to technology than with the technology itself, and with justifying a mindset where exploration is promoted rather than condemned.

[Blankenship] spells out his personal motivations as a hacker in each paragraph and follows them with a refrain of some authority’s negative response, such as “Damn underachiever,” “Probably copied it,” “All he does is play games,” and “Tying up the phone line again.” As I mentioned last time, the illegal side of hacker culture is inseparable from a larger discussion of hacking: not only have crimes been committed (and malicious ones, not simply misinterpretation) but positions of authority—governments, news organizations, films & television—have constructed hackers as shady inhabitants of a technounderworld.

I’m going to steal a phrase my friend [Andy McNamara]: hacking and hackers have become a “counter-culture caricature,” where tech-savvy criminals do whatever they please, despite what damage it may cause.[4] In almost direct contrast, however, [Blankenship] seems specifically concerned with taking responsibility for his actions with his discussion of programming:

It [the computer] does what I want it to. If it makes a mistake, it’s because I screwed it up. Not because it doesn’t like me…Or feels threatened by me…Or thinks I’m a smart ass…Or doesn’t like teaching and shouldn’t be here…

Although technology offers [Blankenship] an alternative to a lackluster education, it’s also the source of the legal troubles he’s experiencing at the time of the Manifesto’s writing. Technology is a pharmakon, a term discussed extensively by [Stiegler] (whose work I hope we will read).[5] Pharmakons are simultaneously poisons and remedies, problems and solutions. This is one of the more interesting (to me) topics here, and I’d like to hear different perspectives on this situation of technology-as-pharmakon. [Blankenship's] situation illustrates a few examples:

  • Technology as liberator: “a door opened to a world…” vs. Technology as oppressor: he’s arrested for hacking / technology was certainly used to identify and capture him.
  • Technology as a form of personal expression: “This is our world now… / the beauty of the baud.” vs. Technology as restricted, institutionalized: authority figures dictate what can and cannot be done with computers
  • Technology as impartial: “We exist without skin color, without nationality, without religious bias…” vs. Technology as Concealed Prejudice

I want to briefly discuss the third example, because most texts skip over what I see as a glaring misconception: that the Internet is the great equalizer, eliminating all traces of race, religion, socioeconomic status, etc. with its veil of anonymity. It isn’t. The early years of the Internet were filled with an optimism for leveling cultural playing fields; most of the positive sentiments were popularized by the Grateful Dead’s [John Barlow] as a means to both eliminate privilege and promote larger, universal goals of exploration and education—goals that [Blankenship] would certainly agree with.[6] The problem with this interpretation, however, is limited access and pervasive colorblindness. [Blankenship's] discussion of his childhood reveals the privileges he experienced early in his life. When asked about his first encounter with computers, he responded:

We moved from Austin right before the summer between my 5th and 6th grade years of school (early 1976). When I got to San Marcos, I didn’t know anyone, and started hanging out at the Southwest Texas State U. computer lab in the college library. It was populated with Pet-10’s, CompuColors and some early Apple II machines. I mostly played games on them (Artillery, etc.). The place my mom worked had a giant PDP mainframe, and I got to meet some of the sysops. They showed me a game called Star Trek on it that I loved. I got them to print out the BASIC source code for it, and taught myself BASIC by porting it over to the Compucolors. The first computer I actually owned as an Apple IIe that I got in either 1979 or 1980.

This account seems to place him in an upper-middle-class demographic: he has access not only to university computer equipment but machines at his mother’s job. Further, he owned his own computer at age 14-15.[7] Think globally. How many people had access to a computer in the 70’s and 80’s? Here’s a better question: How many people had access to electricity and running water in the 70’s? Today? The championing of racial and cultural equality breaks down when you consider most computer users in this time period are white males living in developed nations. We should add [Nakamura's] Digitizing Race to our list. Here’s the relevant quotation:

When we look to the post-2000 graphical popular Internet, this utopian story of the Internet’s beginnings in popular culture can be told with a different spin, one that instead tracks its continuing discourse of colorblindness in terms of access, user experience, and content that is reflected in the scholarship as well as in the nineties neoliberalism’s emphasis on ‘moderate redistribution and cultural universalism.’ [8]

I won’t delve into a discussion of Whiteness and Colorblindness here, other than to say claims of equality that dismiss the role of race or culture (as “Manifesto” does here) typically obscure a larger truth, perpetuating an insidious problem. This is a subject that needs its own post.

IV. Questions

These are genuine questions, not merely a “these should keep ‘em busy!” talking points list, so I’m eager to hear your replies:

  1. Does [Blankenship's] “Manifesto” resonate with you today, or does it seem outdated? Does it speak to your interpretation of hacker culture?
  2. Computers seem to swoop in and rescue [Blankenship] from the frustrations he expresses throughout the essay: he’s too bored with school because it doesn’t present a challenge, but computers do. Is this era the first to need an advanced challenge beyond public education? That may seem like a silly question, but who are [Blankeship's] precursors—individuals fed up with a disconnected education system? What challenges do they seek out?
  3. Have schools made any strides toward accommodating the needs of students like [Blankenship]? If you listen to his talk from H2K2, he seems specifically concerned with the shortcomings of public education. At one point he explains that the solution to the problem is a larger financial investment in schools and educators, but that any attempt to ask for more money usually kills the conversation with officials. Is the situation really that dire?

NEXT WEEK:

Read [Bruce Sterling's] The Hacker Crackdown: Introduction & Part I: Crashing the System

I’ve decided the best route is to press forward chronologically (in terms of publication date), and [Sterling's] work is available for free online at a few locations. See the “External Links” section on Wikipedia. See you then!


NOTES:

[1] Douglas Thomas, Hacker Culture (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002), 245.

[2] “Elf Qrin Interviews The Mentor,” http://www.elfqrin.com/docs/hakref/interviews/eq-i-mentor.html

[3] Loyd Blankenship, “The Conscience of a Hacker,” Panel at H2K2 (Hackers on Planet Earth) New York, NY, July 13, 2002. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tEnnvZbYek

[4] Andy used the phrase counterculture caricature to describe the misrepresentation of gamers and game violence in the media, and how these portrayals often insist on a causal link between game violence and real-world violence by the player, despite numerous studies proving the opposite. See Anderson, Ferguson (direct PDF link), and/or Kutner and Olson.

[5] Bernard Stiegler, For a New Critique of Political Economy, trans. Daniel Ross (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2010), 29.

[6] Fred Turner, From Countoerculture to Cyberculture, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), 14

[7] The quotation is a direct claim of ownership: “The first computer I actually owned…” but I realize this description could refer to a family-owned computer that was not solely his. Regardless, few families owned a computer in the late 70’s early 80’s.

[8] Lisa Nakamura, Digitizing Race, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008), 4-5.


Hacking & Philosophy is an ongoing column with several sections:

Comments

  1. I remember reading this as a kid. says:

    Yeah it about mirrors what I would have wrote. Anything I wanted to learn came with some bogus reason I couldn’t. It was too dangerous , I was too young , it was too expensive, or the ultimate in frustrations I didn’t do well enough at school or got into too much trouble one way or the other. At some point I gave up on being ‘allowed’ to learn, right around the first time I had access to a pc, for nearly identical reasons as listed. I quickly surpassed all the overlords abilities and found myself free. They didn’t understand what I was doing. All they could regulate was how much time I had to do it, not what I could do.

    I attribute it to not enjoying being judged by others. “the only reason I need to learn this is to impress you.” I probably wouldn’t have minded judging my own performance.

    I failed out of school spectacularly. Doing just well enough on paper so I could do the vocational training I wanted rather than useless classes everyone else did. I learned, but it would be difficult to prove that with my grades. That goes to say it is more difficult to capitalize on that knowledge. So you tell me is it dire to utilize the potential that slips by or should we keep making criminals out of intelligent kids?

    • dynamodan says:

      Teach a kid that he/she evolved from a monkey, by random, meaningless chance, and you’ve got ingredient #1 for a criminal. That system is going to continue to produce criminals from intelligent kids.

      • Someone else says:

        If only they taught the truth in schools; that we’ve been placed here on Earth by extraterrestrials as an experiment in genetic manipulation and guided evolution. Then our children might see their lives as meaningful, and not stray from the path of righteousness.

        • static says:

          That was something else some one else. I might put that in my note book, to put on face book the next time some places an inane repost for me to read. I can attribute it to someone else and not be lying

      • Analog says:

        @DynamoDan, I fail to see the correlation. Life is about choices- as it’s the choices we make that define us. Giving someone a tool isn’t a bad thing. I could teach a man carpentry and he could decide to use that knowledge to build a house for a homeless person- or he could use the hammer to bludgeon someone to death and the table-saw to chunk up the body. Tools and knowledge are powerful things, but it’s all in how we choose to apply them.

        • dynamodan says:

          Sorry if I wasn’t clear. “So you tell me is it dire to utilize the potential that slips by or should we keep making criminals out of intelligent kids?” We shouldn’t keep making criminals out of kids, that’s what I’m saying. Wasn’t that obvious enough? I agree everyone is ultimately responsible for their own choices, but depending on what you teach them, they are likely to make the wrong choices. Teach kids they’re just a shaved animal, descended from an ape, and no meaning, and yes, they are more likely to behave like animals. The public school system is too busy dealing with the consequences of that philosophy to be able to have shop class and do real education. @Analog, lots of people fail to see the correlation, don’t feel too bad.

          • Anathae says:

            Before you blaim the teaching of evolution on the existance of criminal activity, consider all the evil that has been committed in any and all of the religion’s names. If, as you posit, teaching evolution causes criminal activity, how could there have been criminal activity prior to it’s formulation.

            But, I suspect, there is nothing I can say that will change your mind; only cause you mild cognative dissonance. Don’t feel too bad.

          • dynamodan says:

            Hmm well it’s the other way around, I blame certain criminal activity on wrong teaching. ;) Darwinism and athiesm are a religion all its own, with its own ideologies and morals. It is responsible for the horrific treatment of hated races and the elderly and disabled. Survival of the fittest, you know. Some of the atrocities committed in Hitlers camps were in the name of science as well, just call it innocent curiosity if you wish.

            I agree that lots of horrible things have been done and continue to be done in the name of religion. But not all religion is wrong because some of it’s wrong. If so, then all hacking is wrong because some of it’s wrong. Pretzel logic. I would venture to guess that hackaday aims to prevent the good and right hacking from being marginalized and criminalized by the wrong hacking.

            “If, as you posit, teaching evolution causes criminal activity, how could there have been criminal activity prior…” LOL what sort of question is that? There are many causes of criminal activity, not just one. It’s like saying, “before there were cell phones, how could any wrecks have ever been caused.”

          • Eirinn says:

            “Darwinism and athiesm are a religion all its own, with its own ideologies and morals. It is responsible for the horrific treatment of hated races and the elderly and disabled. ”

            Are you being serious? There’s so many things wrong with this paragraph that i feel physically bad having to point out the faults.

            I want you to post the sources of your accusations, because attributing racial hate and horrific treatment of elderly and disabled have historically been attributed to human nature. More often than not also religion.

            Evolution theory is exactly that. A theory based on findings that can be proven. It is not a religion as it has nothing to do with the concept. Atheism is not a religion either, it’s a denouncement of religion. Neither Darwinism nor Atheism has morals or ideologies appended to them. That people that associates with it attribute it to them is an entirely different matter.

            “Some of the atrocities committed in Hitlers camps were in the name of science as well, just call it innocent curiosity if you wish.”

            Hitler was a catholic. It’s just as easy drawing a theological comparison as drawing a scientific one. It doesn’t mean either of them are right. Atrocities are committed in the name of everything on earth. Columbus ended up murdering one and a half million people in the name of religion and gold and the prick has his own national holiday. And no, he didn’t discover America either, Americo did, and before him was the Vikings.

            From an atheistic point of view there has been thousands of religions and all the followers from all the religions insists their particular version is right.

            Teaching about vegetables does not turn people into vegetables and teaching about evolution don’t turn people into monkies – allow me to use a popular term, Jesus Christ man, seriously!

          • Dynamo Dan says:

            I’m absolutely serious.

            “hitler was a catholic” As a kid perhaps! Who are you trying to fool??http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_of_Adolf_Hitler
            Most Germans didn’t know what was going on inside Auschwitz, that’s why Eisenhower took German civilians in there after the war and carefully documented what was found there.

            On atheism being a religion:

            http://www.icr.org/article/455/

            Lots of quotes from big names in evolution science.

            On evolutionary racism:

            http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/13/world/asia/13aborigine.html?_r=0

            http://yecheadquarters.org/shame.3.html

            http://creation.com/evolutionary-racism

            These are embarrassments that today’s “scientific” community wants to sweep under the rug. Some of the mistreatment of Aborigines and Africans wasn’t so much racial hate as it was that they were considered partly evolved primates, suitable for experimentation. Maybe people were just being curious and exploring outside of what the establishment considered acceptable.

          • Dax says:

            >”On atheism being a religion”

            Nearly all of that link is simple rhetorical trickery. For example:

            >”Of course we can’t prove that there isn’t a God.5
            >”Therefore, they must believe it, and that makes it a religion.”

            Which is non-sequitur because the original burden of proof was on the theist to prove that there IS a god. Without such proof, without even a theory of god, or a consistent definition of god, no belief is required to say there isn’t a god.

            And that is logically so, because when religion defines god as being unknowable or unfathomable, it is basically saying that nobody knows what they’re talking about when they say the word. If they don’t know what they’re talking about, they’re really talking about nothing at all.

            If on the other hand you do claim that you do know god, what it’s like, what it does, how it does it etc. then please present the evidence. Show us God.

          • Dax says:

            >”Darwinism and athiesm are a religion all its own, with its own ideologies and morals. It is responsible for the horrific treatment of hated races and the elderly and disabled. Survival of the fittest, you know.”

            Darwinism and atheism, nor science make any sort of moral claims or demands. They claim no will of nature, or will of evolution, or will of the universal laws that should be obeyed. They are fundamentally just simple statements of what appears to be and what is logically so. Therefore they are not responsible for any of the atrocities any more than a stone is responsible for being thrown – it is a stone, what do you expect of it?

            Who is responsible is the people who made the fallacy of briging the gap between what is and what ought to be with ideologies such as Nazism. There is nothing in Darwinism that says it is so because it is right to be so, so the only way you can construe Darwinism into Nazism is by employing the very sort of rhetorical tricks and fallacies as what the religious people use to argue that atheism is a religion.

          • Dax says:

            >”LOL what sort of question is that?”

            A valid one. If we take the supposition that atheism causes immorality causes crime, then it should follow that crime rates should go up the more people become atheists.

            But in reality they’ve gone the opposite direction. Correlation or causation, you decide.

      • Tim says:

        Somebody has to remind us that we are a bunch of shaved apes who continue to learn to use more complex tools. As superior as we think we are, it doesn’t take much to send us right back into ape-mode. I think therefore I am, until my hard drive locks up and then I am screaming and flinging poop.

      • supershwa says:

        The “#1 ingredient” for any potential criminal is something we all share: an animalistic nature. It’s our levels of intelligence, discipline and sensitivity that we use to control these impulses, which provides us options to choose from. Our upbringing always has a great hand in our ability to utilize these qualities: our parents, our teachers, our friends, our peers, our mentors, etc.

        • Atomic says:

          I respectfully disagree. I believe the #1 requirement for any criminal is a lack of human empathy and the ability to disregard thoughts of the potential consequences of their actions.

          • Analog says:

            I think you’re both correct in a way, personally i believe that there are plenty of laws that are misaligned to what is commonly seen as acceptable by the greater portion of the population governed by said laws. Everyone has their own moral code, and though many share common elements i think it would be impossible to have 100 random people sit in a room and agree on 100% of everything that they view as right and wrong. I do agree that most career criminals are socially misaligned, probably at least in part as a result of their upbringing, the environments and situations they were subjected to surely play a part in it, I also agree that many crimes are impulsive (or animalistic) but certainly not all. One must also consider the difference between psychopathic and sociopathic behavior. I don’t think that we can generalize all criminals into either category and each crime should be considered on it’s own merits. For example, i view a homeless man stealing bread from a grocery store as much less of a crime than a rich man stealing a candy bar from a convince store for the thrill. Are both technically criminal theft? Yes. Is theft morally wrong to most people? Yes. The details here differ greatly. One man is stealing to survive and the other is stealing for self gratification. The former is something most people can empathize with while the latter is something most will find entirely reprehensible. This introduces a grey area, it’s in those grey areas that people’s own moral codes drift apart. Murder is generally regarded as morally wrong, but by the same token it is often acceptable for one person to die if it means saving the lives of a million other people. This however does not make the act killing that one person not murder. This then becomes a moral dilemma, but- i could go on for pages about graded absolutism, categorical imperative, lesser evil views, etc. It should suffice to say that not everyone handles moral dilemmas the same way and often views will split the further into detail one goes with a hypothetical situation.

            That said, I personally don’t think there is any one single main ingredient for criminal behavior, as each crime is in a way- different. Motivation or cause can be different, , execution can be different, and outcomes can vary.

            Just some food for thought.

      • nuizvini says:

        You feel deceived? It is illusion. Just take a deep breath. Drink a glass of water. Relax :)

      • CWood says:

        To be honest, I don’t think the actual content of what’s currently being taught has much to do with the dire situation of public education. IMHO, it’s the lack of freedom that the kids experience that is the main factor. Look at any child, around 2-4 years old, and they don’t ever stop asking questions. “Mummy, why is the sky blue?” “Mummy, why are we alive?” and so on. They ask about everything. Every time they see or experience something new, they ask about it.

        Point being, they’re curious. Naturally so. The education system, however, is cut to crush this from them, by design. The public education system is very well made, for what it was designed for. The problem is, we haven’t updated it since. We made the education system (or rather, our forefathers did) to churn out factory workers, during the industrial revolution (and later, tuned it during the wars). Factory workers don’t need to think, they don’t need to be curious, they only need to do what they’re told.

        Put this in today’s society, and people will fall 1 of 4 ways. Either:
        1.) They get stuck in a dead-end job, doing the same thing day in, day out, that should have been automated years ago. Things like cashiers, etc.
        2.) They hold on to their curiosity, take control of their education as much as possible, and turn out to be very successful (whether that’s through dropping out and teaching yourself, or through other means, is irrelevant).
        3.) They teach themselves as in #2, but have lost faith in authority. This typically leads to “malicious” hackers (that I, and many others, think of as crackers), of the politically driven kind, as well as political activists, and, of course, political hackers like Stallman.
        4.) They don’t have enough knowledge to function, as in #1, but can’t get a dead end job. In this case, they will typically turn to petty crime, if nothing more than to make ends meet.

        This is why, in my honest opinion, an education overhaul (not a reform, an overhaul) is the single biggest thing that the Western world can do to progress as a society (or collection thereof). Crime will plummet (it won’t go away, as there are other causes for criminal activity, some mental illnesses being just one), the economic situation will vastly improve, and the research/engineering output will skyrocket.

        I, myself, found myself in a very similar situation as described in the Manifesto. I was bored stupid at school, and as a consequence of this, and a few coincidences, lead me to learn programming. Luckily, I found myself on the non-criminal side of things (although, I’m still fast in my belief that being illegal doesn’t make it wrong, and vice-versa being legal doesn’t make it right. Just look at some of the NSA revelations, or the loss of net neutrality, to figure out why I think that), but I’m still fairly firm in my political beliefs, and find that many of my personal projects have a political side to them. I guess that puts me in category 3 above.

        To put a long story short, it isn’t what we teach, the problem is how we teach it. If someone asks a question in a modern classroom question, the answer will come as, in so may words, “I’m not going to answer your question. Go away.” Usually, this will be worded as, “That isn’t relevant to what we’re learning right now. You don’t need to know for the exam.” And therein lies the biggest problem of all. The education system, and largely, society as a whole, is too focused on grades to see the bigger picture. We can’t see the forest through the trees, as it were, that we’re completely messing everything up.

        Category #2 above, is really the only useful one to society. #3 to an extent, but that’s where it gets complicated. But if I were to put some percentages to the above categories, I’d say that #1 gets about 40% of people, #4 gets another ~40%, #2 gets around 5-10%, and #3 10-15%. These are rough guesstimates, so don’t treat them as definite. But any political analyst worth their salt will tell you that this is one of the worst possible situations we can be in as a society, due to the massive inherent lack of progress we’re making right now, due to all of the lost potential.

        • I remember reading this as a kid. says:

          Well said sir.

        • Atomic says:

          I am close personal friends with a number of K-12 teachers and over the years have discussed with them my frustrations over what I perceive to be the greatest short comings of the educational system and how I perceive it regularly encourages the creation of criminals. It encourages them by openly betraying them and having the gall to ask them to like it. Like a cab driver that drops you off late @ the wrong location and has the gall to ask for a tip.

          Lack of self paced learning. You learn everything the rest of the class is learning but only at the pace they set. If you read ahead and ask questions you’re told you should be back with the rest of the class. At this point the teachers are basically waste your time. And the worst part is that in most cases I’ve been told its not the teachers choice. They’re told by the school districts that they need to keep students from getting ahead of everyone else.

          Lack of choice in learning. In elementary school I was fascinated with applied physics, computers and robotics but there was not options to follow those fields until my very last years of high school.

          Lack of interest. The entertainment industry is fully aware that children are getting smarter. But the curriculum is still written as if fourth grade students have a second grade reading level.

          Lack of relevance. Children are taught all about history. They learn names and places and dates of important events. They hardly spend any time teaching why any part of those dates are important. They teach about the industrial revolution but they do not teach any part of why it was revolutionary.

          Lack of talent. The proverbial saying is “Those that can do and those that cant teach.” The saying does and doesn’t apply. I have many friends with teaching degree’s whom have gone into completely different fields because there are no jobs available because of the entrenched career teachers that keep going even after they repeatedly demonstrate that they cant cut it. And even when they find teaching jobs they still leave teaching because schools and school districts strongly discourage anyone from deviating from the set curriculum that has so far been boring the shit out of children for decades.

          Career counselors will tell you that if you find a job you enjoy and are interested in you will be better at it than a job you find boring or uninteresting. The same is true of education. If schools allowed students the opportunity to learn more about things that interested them they would effectively be creating better students.

          I have more but thats all I am going to rant about now.

        • courier says:

          +1

      • Crow1170 says:

        There is some merit to connecting the meaninglessness of evolved life to the meaninglessness of social constructs, like laws. I challenge you, however, to find even one example of an ape that doesn’t behave like an ape. If we are shaved apes, then we ought to behave like them, obeying the alpha and following common behaviors. Criminal behavior is nonsensical in the animal world- when has one squirrel stolen nuts from another? When has one bull gored another over land or birthright?

        Criminal acts are exception to the social order, the kind of exception that stems a sentient being valuing itself over the society it exists in. This is categorically the anti-animal, the opposite of an evolved behavior. It may be the premise that they are more human than other humans that leads criminals to act as they do, considering others as ‘mere animals’.

        • Dax says:

          >”Criminal behavior is nonsensical in the animal world- when has one squirrel stolen nuts from another?”

          Plenty of times. That’s why squirrels sometimes engage in fake burying, where they pretend to be hiding nuts where they aren’t just in case another squirrel is watching.

          What you have there is a naturalistic fallacy; bad things in nature simply cannot exist, so humans must be something other than the products of nature.

      • bob says:

        Guys, don’t feed the trolls.

  2. cdilla says:

    When bought my first domain in the mid-nineties the Mentor’s Manifesto was printed at the bottom of the home page. It’s been through many revisions in the intervening twenty years or so, but the Manifesto is still there.
    Yes, it still resonates. It has a whisper of the lost forever early days nostalgia, and a great wave of disappointment that whilst technology has advanced so much, the attitudes and intolerance that are the backdrop of the Manifesto have only hardened and grown.
    With regards schools, in the UK at least, nothing has improved and again, to my perception things have gotten worse. Intelligence, innovation, imagination are all quashed in a government sponsored desire to pump out bland, compliant, mediocre young adults who question nothing and walk willingly into their lives of unperceived servitude.
    .

    • . says:

      I go to secondary school in the uk and i can confirm that. We get told what we need to get and are taught to question nothing and do only what is expressly instructed, its a fucking joke.
      Well American schools are worse from what i’ve heard in terms of learning so i should be grateful.

      • Dan Fruzzetti says:

        The problem with education in the US is simpler than most will let on. The vast majority of american educators are extremely bright and dedicated. We could be crafting the most relevant, moving curricula that would raise 100% of kids above their starting stations and truly change the world, if we had enough time to research and plan such lessons. But we don’t. We get just enough time to barely gloss over the meaningless ‘work’ of our 175 students per day and none of the time we would need to create anything new or meaningful or which extends a child’s education beyond the meaningless 1997 content standards. We live in a country where the system just barely pays enough for us to be 125% maxed out, so we are always playing catch up instead of finding the next powerful way to change lives. We could be working with our students in the field to combat hunger and homelessness and even develop new products. That’s IF we only had 30 students to see each day and could spend more time preparing than repeating the same lesson over and over. But tax payers won’t increase the chunk paid to decrease class sizes by adding teachers. Instead they expect big changes for free, while always forcing us to take on more students and more classes always stifling the relationship between teacher, student, family, and the real world.

        To enable such a change americans would have to invest 4x as much money and wait 20 years to measure the results, something lazy instant gratification americans couldn’t possibly see the value in.

        • pcf11 says:

          Yeah I left a state because I was paying too much in taxes. Where I’m at now I’m paying a 20th and it is nice! Let people educate their own brats at their own expense too. If someone really wants to learn it isn’t money that teaches them anyways.

        • Atomic says:

          Its good to blame tax payers for not wanting to pay more money but someone more clever would be blaming the school district administrators whom collect 30-40% of the money allocated to the district while doing very little to contribute the education of anyone.

          In windows PC terms you dont need a faster computer; You just need to uninstall the malware/bloatware or perhaps install linux. I’m not certain what linux might symbolize. I kind of lost the analogy at that point.

          • markey1979 says:

            @Atomic,

            I think Linux would symbolize Coursera???

            Maybe I did not read into this enough…… ;)

          • Dax says:

            Linux would imply installing Steiner schools.

            You’d get a handful of extremely brilliant kids out of them, and a whole lot more who become professionals at eating crayons and creating paper airplanes becuse they didn’t get what it was all about.

        • Joe1 says:

          Even worse: How little of that money if given would actually hire teachers or allow research into new ways to learn. Be honest about currently existing budgets. And ‘they’ want to nationalize nonsense to waste talent even worse! :(

      • Andrew says:

        Do you know that you can learn whatever you want outside of school? The reason you are all taught what you need to know is so that you can enter society with a basic level of functionality. Reading, writing and basic arithmetic (although some people can barely manage that). Everything else is gravy.

        The joke would be if you knew there was so much more you could learn, but you didn’t bother to try.

  3. grエ says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tEnnvZbYek has a video of the mp3d speech fwiw. It is a classic, and resonates with me more deeply than the maker culture of today. Yes, we made things then too. I am grateful at least hackers are known more widely as not just being miscreants. But his words put this knowledge into emotional prose, it echoed an understanding found rarely, even still.

  4. Dynamo Dan says:

    Fact check: The term “hacker” still has negative connotations with many people, i.e. the news media and anyone that doesn’t understand it the way we do. The term “hackerspace”, however cool it may seem, is a bit of a lightning rod for trouble, and I wonder how much legal trouble could have been saved many such spaces if a better term had been selected. Why did the TechSpace folks use that name rather than one with “hack” in it? Think about it. Ok points 1 – 3:

    1. Blankenship’s manifesto is way outdated. The whole thing reeks of anti-establishment, i.e. the hippie movement as it stood in the mid-80’s. I don’t think open-source existed much then, and open-source seems the answer to the abuses of the patent system, rather than try to do it by just rebelling against authority. Open-source *is* an authority of its own, an establishment that the patent trolls would like to “take down”.

    2. Blankenship’s precursors are, well, see my answer to #1. But the education system? This must really mean the public school system. It’s way disconnected from reality. I mean, they kicked out God and the Bible? Hellooo? God is the ultimate Maker, everyone knows that! I went to a private school, and the library as well as my own experiments in electronics with radio shack bread boards, were my education system. My parents couldn’t afford to pay my college, instead they paid twice for my education–once in taxes and again in the tuition to the private school. It worked. I have a reasonably high-tech job and live comfortably.

    3. Private schools and home schools have made great strides. There are way more field trips and extracurricular stuff that the beaurocracy of public schools is way too clumsy to even dream about. (i.e. what ever happened to shop class? Too dangerous, ew, ew ew!) And it’s not something that more money can fix. They need to privatize education, and/or hold the educators accountable for the graduate they are producing–and don’t let them dumb down the achievement tests so they can slip by! Knock off points for schools whose students or graduates end up in prison, i.e. the school that short-changed Mr. Blankenship. More accountability will help them figure out real fast what they need to do different.

    • Analog says:

      Can we keep religion out of this? You’re welcome to have your own views and opinions, but such zealous comments- no matter how strongly you feel about them- are likely only to incite a flamewar, rather than real discussion.

      As far as Blankenship’s Manifesto being anti-establishment- I do believe that was his point. He was arrested and wrote this manifesto as a way of expressing his views on how the establishment had wronged him and others like him.

      While open source may indeed be one of the answers to the abuse of the patent system, it’s not been without it’s own troubles (SCO’s lawsuits, the reasons behind the formation of the EFF etc.)- and no- Open Source as a backed concept did not really exist back then at all. Blankenship’s Manifesto wasn’t about open source or programming as much as it was about discovery, the power of knowledge, and how he felt the establishment was holding him (and those like him) back and oppressing him, as well a way of expressing his rebellion against that oppression.

      Some might also argue that private schools and homeschooling are worse for the pupil than public schools, however- while I personally feel that homeschooling severely limits social development and private schooling often has a questionable curriculum (E.G. Blue Ridge Christian Academy’s 4th grade science quiz) I have to say that “All generalizations are false, including this one.” – Mark Twain

      That said, still on the subject of education; personally I was fed the same regurgitated information in middle and high school that I was fed in elementary, I feel that the educational value of middle-school and high-school was quite close to nil. I graduated with a 4,0 GPA at the age of 16 after having flunked the 9th grade on the sole principal that I had done absolutely no homework since the third grade. (I had all the credits and passed all the tests, I just didn’t do the homework because I saw no point in it.) I do feel that the education system in the United States is greatly flawed and does need to be improved, much as Blankenship felt when he wrote his manifesto.

      • dynamodan says:

        “Can we keep religion out of this? You’re welcome to have your own views and opinions, but such zealous comments…”

        Haha it’s not quite that simple. You just used the terms wronged, rebellion and oppression, and these are rooted in our understanding of justice and right and wrong. So, were any sins committed against Mr. Blankenship? Think about it. You’re invoking some moral code, some sense of justice and righteousness from somewhere, no less than I or anyone else.

        I would like to start a hackerspace in my locality, but that term “hacker” — and its philosophy — which is exactly what we are discussing here, has moral baggage with it, and I don’t dislike that any less than you do. One of my associates works for Homeland Security, and it was funny to see him come up gasping for air when I mentioned “hacking” (of course in the sense of curiosity and education).

        A major part of this discussion of the hacker philosophy is the defense of Mr. Blankenship, whether he did any wrong, or whether any wrong was done to him. Wrong?? who said anything about … wrong?! There is no right or wrong, it’s all relative, right? [/sarcasm]

        • dan says:

          So call it a makerspace instead, like plenty of other hacker spaces…

          or did that not occur to you?
          perhaps it is the case that you maybe should have paid a little more attention to the bread and butter type lessons in school then the really simple concepts perhaps wouldn’t pass you by…

          and frankly that’s all this manifesto says to me.
          I got arrested because I did something wrong and I want to blame society rather than take responsibility.

          lets put this into different terms.

          I can do lessons in school, I know all about counting, and currency and weights, because that’s what I do in my spare time, -sell drugs. I don’t need to work out the change from some number, I know all about fractions of ounces etc. I don’t need to learn it again.

          Science and biology never taught me how to cross pollinate my different strains of weed to create a new “super strain”, all they were interested in was some rubbish about Mendel and peas. I just couldn’t pay attention in those lessons.

          English classes were rubbish, they concentrated on sentence construction, verbs nouns, pronouns etc, what I really needed to know was how to put together a competent defence to protect me from the corruption of government.

          and sports lessons, what a joke, we actually practice running 100meter distances? when I’ve got an arm full of goods that I’ve stolen from a shop it takes a lot more than 100meters to out run the police of our corrupt government. because you know all that stuff is overpriced, and probably could be free anyway. -you know how much food super markets throw away. that means our food is too expensive, it’s mindless profiteering I tell you.

          Can you imagine trying to defend the persons views who writes such bilge? that they think that they are more educated, or working on a different plane somehow higher than those around them. and that excuses theft and trespass, that they are above you and all around you because they believe in their mind that they know better…

          I’m not saying that you should put your head down and dumb down to match those around you.

          but you know what, (just as an example) showing your work is a part of the task, the fact that you can figure it out in your head is great. but it doesn’t excuse you from completing the task as asked. it won’t excuse you later in life when you approach harder problems than simple arithmetic and showing your working can help you see where you made a mistake. and getting into the habit of never showing your working, or otherwise documenting your work is terribly bad, and ensures that no matter how good you think you are and how much more educated, on a higher plane and clever you think you are, that job as a real something in real life just isn’t going to happen.

          if you want to design things, or write code, it’s very good practice to express why you did something, and how you reached a conclusion. that is why you need to show your workings.

          in short the hacker manifesto is just as much BS today as it was last week, and just as much BS as it was nearly 30 years ago when it was written.

          the author got arrested because they broke the law, not because they were somehow special and different.

          How about next week you recommend a book on engineering mathematics, or something by RA Penfold on introductions to parts and how to use them?

          • Analog says:

            You appear to be under the misconception that a moral compass requires a religious foundation. If that is indeed the case, you are sadly mistaken. Once again i’ll ask you to keep your religion out of this conversation, I’ll wager most visitors to this site are atheists and agnostics, and MOST of those that do follow one religion or another tend to have the good sense and common courtesy to leave it out of their posts. You see, religion is like a penis, it’s okay to have one- it’s even okay to be proud of it- but do not whip it out in public and start waving it around, and do not push it on children. It’s not socially acceptable. Your own moral compass should tell you this, I shouldn’t have to.

            The mere idea that teaching evolution is the root cause of criminal behavior is absurd. This would be like someone saying teaching creationism is the root cause of vehicular manslaughter. While more wars have been fought and blood split over religion than any other cause in human history- I seriously doubt it’s the cause of vehicular manslaughter. Now for the last time- show some respect and keep it to yourself.

            Now either you’re a complete imbecile or you failed to read “As far as Blankenship’s Manifesto being anti-establishment- I do believe that was his point. He was arrested and wrote this manifesto as a way of expressing his views on how the establishment had wronged him and others like him.” and understand what that implies.

            Let me break that down for you.

            1. There can be no denying that Blankenship’s Manifesto was anti-establishment.
            2. “wrote this manifesto as a way of expressing his views on how the establishment had wronged him and others like him” I don’t know how to make this any more clear. HIS VIEWS ON HOW THE ESTABLISHMENT WRONGED HIM as in the way he felt he was wronged by the establishment. Hence the anti-establishment nature of his manifesto. Nobody is debating whether his arrest was wrongful or not.

            Blankenship’s manifesto resonates with a number of individuals on a personal level because they have experienced similar feelings in their own life- such as: not fitting in, being subjected to brash generalizations(like those you’ve expressed), being misinterpreted(again as you’ve done so several times in this thread, to further your own ends), feeling too smart for what was being fed to them in school, being upset by the United States educational system’s gratuitous failings, finding an escape from the troubles in their daily lives by using the computer, and to some even being ridiculed for it.

            Again, nobody is defending Blankenship’s actions but identifying with the feelings he expressed. I don’t know why that’s not as clear to as it is to everyone else here.

            Almost everyone in this thread, including yourself- has agreed at least in one respect or another that the educational system is failing in at least one way. Some have offered insight as to what they believe to be more specific problems with the United States education system and why it seems to be failing, some of them even teachers or friends of teachers that are intimately aware of problems that exist but are unable to change them. It may very well be more constructive for you to spend your time on those rather than trying to make an argument against a point of view that has not actually been expressed in this thread.

          • dynamodan says:

            @dan:
            “So call it a makerspace instead, like plenty of other hacker spaces…or did that not occur to you?” See my earlier comments. Of course it occurred to me. So let’s work toward helping the term “makerspace” get the same traction that the hackerspace has. What do we need to do?

            @Analog, which dan were you addressing? dan or dynamodan? If your insults were aimed at me, it would be too bad if the other dan got offended by them. ;)

            “but do not whip it out in public and start waving it around, and do not push it on children” That’s an appeal to our society’s understanding of decency, put in place by religious people. The anti-religious would wish to change that, and to make a lot of things acceptable that are still considered indecent and wrong, including incest.

            http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090213124344AA6a1TP

            I wasn’t exactly “waving it around.” You don’t even know for sure what my religion is, and out of respect for your anti-religious zeal, I’ll keep you guessing. This is a column on the hacker philosophy, and if you don’t wish to propagate discussion on the moral (i.e. “religious”) aspects of it, it’s your choice.

            What’s being pushed on children in the public schools is a theory, but it’s taught as fact and is allowed to do so on its claims of being science and not religion. I beg to differ. “…make an argument against a point of view that has not actually been expressed” Um, I expressed it! Questions #2 and #3 that Josh Marsh posted at the top of this column implicate the education system, and I’m not afraid to express my philosophy and opinion on it. I’m sorry you’re not able to cope with it any better than just trying to tell me to be quiet and go away.

          • Analog says:

            @ dynamodan
            You’re still under the mistaken assumption that religion == morality, and my entire point is that this assumption is incorrect. I don’t know how to be any more clear about that. While it is true that moral values can be imparted by religious views, religion (of any kind) or lack-there-of is not necessary for one to have moral values. Moral values are imparted via a variety of means, even the most devout religious individuals receive moral guidance from people and things other than their religion.

            “You don’t even know for sure what my religion is,”
            I don’t care what your religion is as it’s not my intent to knock on your religion or you for having a religion, whatever it may be. I’m not here to argue about your religion, simply put- it doesn’t belong here. Please keep it to your religious forums and newsgroups, irc chats in the appropriate channels, place of worship/study, etc.

            I’m sorry you’re not able to grasp the basic concepts of equivalence and derivation.

          • Dynamo Dan says:

            Apology accepted.

    • Josh Marsh says:

      I think you’ll find this comment I made from last week interesting, about the term in practice as it pertains to hackerspaces/makerspaces.

      1. I’ll need to think a bit further on the open source movement before I respond to that point, but I’m glad you bring it up.

      2. I’m not sure that I’m clear on your response (which I suspect is my fault): are the hippies the example of precursors, or just anti-establishment in general?

      3. This one will also take a lot longer to field, but I intend to get back to it. I’ve been a teacher for several years, and I come from a family of teachers. Accountability is a difficult subject to approach, and I will do so carefully after I’ve had time to compose my thoughts rather than spill out a gut reaction. I will say that current methods of accountability need refinement: certain underperforming schools are given an incentive to improve performance in the way of more funding, which ends up working to their disadvantage. Schools that need the most support are those with the worst performance, yet they are penalized for said performance and certain funding withheld. At least, that used to be the state of things in public education: I’ll find some sources and return to this.

      • Atomic says:

        @Josh

        Accountability is the wrong word. The word(s) you’re looking for are “performance metrics”.

        As far as funding schools goes there are 2 clear viewpoints that I can see.

        1st) If a school performs poorly should it be rewarded with a larger budget? (This question is actually a logical fallacy)

        OR

        2nd) Should a poorly performing school be looked at like a failing business in need of restructuring and rebudgeting under the theory that businesses fail from the top down?

        There are not (to my knowledge) “student ombudsmen” whom discuss with the student what they would like to learn and then meet with the teacher and the parent to form an education plan for the student. Usually there is just the teacher meeting with the parent to inform them that the student is or isnt doing well and telling the parent that their child need to work harder at memorizing names and dates for things that dont matter to the student, or work harder at learning maths that no one will tell the student what the practical application is.

        If a school does poorly dont blame the teachers or the students, terminate the administrators.

        • Josh Marsh says:

          You’re absolutely correct about that terminology distinction.

          In terms of approaching schools with a business mentality: while top-down restructuring may be a great way to handle failure, it’s the same business mindset that’s demanding a bottom line of “performance metrics.” Maybe the goals deserve reassessment, with inputs from several different perspectives.

          That said, the example you describe sounds very close to the Montessori schools (which I have next to zero exposure to, so anyone feel free to correct me)

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montessori_education

          • Atomic says:

            Its not any kind of successful business mindset your referring to. Successful businesses think long term while still being situationally adaptable.

            Your refering to a consumer mindset where instant gradification is key. The term performance metrics is regularly used when rating an employee or contractor.

            If state educators are going to employ a consumer mindset the least they could do is treat the students like they are the customers instead of the administrators being the customer. Currently students seem to be treated like barely tolerated union employees that cant be fired.

          • dynamodan says:

            “Performance metrics” has a nice ring to it, I like it. It’s business-like. Schools ought to be run like businesses, i.e. private enterprise, going defunct and succumbing to the competition if they fail to meet the demands of a certain quality of service.

            The term “accountability” is probably more applicable to governments and their potential for abuse of authority, such as the way the NSA is being called into question right now. Just like nobody wants their tax dollars to get spent on technology to enable an NSA employee to spy on their exes and get into other such trouble, they don’t want their tax money getting spent on an education system that doesn’t serve its patrons properly.

            “Performance metrics” is a wonderful concept, it also carries the idea of a business measuring its own performance because it *wants* to, and its owners know that if their business doesn’t perform, it doesn’t survive. Customers of a business don’t really hold anyone accountable, they just take their money elsewhere.

          • dynamodan says:

            @Josh I just had a peek at the montessori wiki page, wow look at the list of prominent alumni! I went to 2 different private schools (one of them in Canada) that somewhat follow that model, especially the self-guided and freedom-within-limits parts. I’m so grateful to my parents and schools for fostering the hacker in me.

  5. gecko says:

    I think the Manifesto has still some up-to-date points. After all, for me, hacking as two major aspects:
    1) outsmarting someone or something
    2) taking technology in a creative way and play around with it.

    On the other hand I think that the whole “super intelligent and misunderstood boy finds his sanctuary in the hackers world” thing is a bit outdated by now =)

    • dynamodan says:

      Well stated. Blankenship was smart and creative, and had more potential than the school system knew what to do with.

    • skrowyllausuti says:

      “On the other hand I think that the whole “super intelligent and misunderstood boy finds his sanctuary in the hackers world” thing is a bit outdated by now =)”

      Yeah, it is pretty sad how the hacker communal IQ has been on a downhill slope for the last ten years. Super intelligent and misunderstood boys don’t really fit in anywhere anymore.

      • Analog says:

        Well stated indeed. I have to agree, and it’s sad that the hacker community has changed in such a negative way, but as I stated in another post- I think that the manifesto’s points pertaining to that aspect of the hacker community now better fit the maker community. So i do think it’s still relevant- just not to the originally intended target. I’ve had some really fun/interesting discussions with members of the maker community in recent years, from sharing eagle files, to discussing code, to design decisions, to arguing the differences and similarities between boost converters and transformers, and of course- making and helping each-other make some really cool stuff. Teaching, learning, discovering, and a whole lot of lurking.

  6. grエ says:

    Dynamo, I agree with you that the term hacker is still a loaded one. But I don’t agree with you on the rest of your points, or paragraphs or whatever those are. The manifesto is not outdated, and yes it is anti-establishment, most hackers still are, or at least if they’re self aware, they should be. Otherwise why would they code or make things instead of buying them off the shelves? The whole idea is to try to tweak things to ones own needs and desires, not to be happy with what pablum has been presented to you. Open source existed then as well, maybe you should read up a bit more on the subject, I recommend Steve Levy’s hackers or John Markoffs What the Dormouse Said, or even Rolling Stones first mention of the term in 1972 by Stewart Brand: http://www.wheels.org/spacewar/stone/rolling_stone.html

    Hackers do not need to do anything different, they are fine as they are. If society does not understand them, that is not a hacker’s role to subvert, society needs to evolve and get with the program. Be it the purist of the turing machine and symbolic representation systems, or tinkering with some code, or finding an exploit, perhaps not even malicious in nature, but a way to shave some instructions off that were unnecessary as in the study of kolmogorov complexity (now formalized, but real hackers did this without a term ascribed to it).

    I get the sense that in your desire for accountability, you fall into the realm not of the hacker, but in the realm of those who fear hackers and their purported capabilities. You are misunderstanding their curiosity, which as the manifesto says, is the only crime any of us have ever been guilty of.

    If you weren’t around then, and it sounds like you weren’t then you should probably hold your tongue. Open source did exist then; and real villainy in the scene was when a corporate entity took from it without giving back (such as Microsoft’s plundering of public domain BASIC and then decrying copies of MS-BASIC as stolen, or Microsoft’s illicit pilfering of Digital Researches CP/M [later known as DR-DOS] through the tenuous middle man of QR-DOS; or Cisco’s under the noses sneaking startup despite Bill Yeager writing the real codebase). GNU was founded in 1984, but hackers predate that by decades at least, and the source was shared freely; which is about as idealistic as you can get from such “privileged” brilliance. To a true hacker, ownership of code is as non-sensical as saying someone owns the function that 2+2=4, but the deep hacker understands that 2+2 can equal whatever you want it to, but it is nice to have standards so as not to confuse people too drastically. ;)

    • dynamodan says:

      “But I don’t agree with you on the rest of your points, or paragraphs or whatever those are. The manifesto is not…”

      These are my answers to the 3 questions that Josh Marsh staged about the manifesto, up toward the top of this page. Where are yours?

      “If you weren’t around then, and it sounds like you weren’t then you should probably hold your tongue. Open source did exist then; and real villainy in the scene was when a corporate entity took from it without giving back…”

      I was around then, and knew a variety of the BASICs that existed then including C64, Tandy and GW-BASIC and some others. Yes you’re right open source existed, but without enough teeth (i.e. authority, establishment) to hold Microsoft and others accountable for their actions.

      “I get the sense that in your desire for accountability, you fall into the realm not of the hacker, but in the realm of those who fear hackers and their purported capabilities. ”

      Lots of people want a corrupt establishment to be held accountable, even you do. You just showed your desire to hold Microsoft accountable for their villany. I don’t fear hackers at all, I applaud much of what goes on here at hackaday. I don’t know for sure if I am a hacker, it’s a confusing term that stirs creative, ambitious people into the same pot with criminals. I would make a lousy criminal.

      “but the deep hacker understands that 2+2 can equal whatever you want it to”

      That is so silly. It’s one of the ideals (or lack thereof) that has the public school in the trouble that it’s in now. It’s a philosophy that allows students to get straight A’s that haven’t been properly served an education. The so called Third world countries are going to start [maybe already are] eating our lunch, if we keep that philosophy.

      It’s such a lesson in human nature, how people want to define their own truth when it’s in their favor, but boy oh boy they know it when it’s them on the short end of the stick. Nobody wants to be lied to, cheated, stolen from by someone else, but let the excuses and philosophies and reasonings flow when justifying one’s own behaviour. [/sarcasm]

  7. Talon§ says:

    Mentor’s Manifesto certainly does resonate. I knew the man, by nym only, before his arrest. We played in the same ballparks, so to speak. His arrest was a real wake-up call for me. I also got a visit from the men-in-shiney-shoes, but my experience was quite different. For that I am grateful. It has been many years now that I have been coloring within the lines for the most part.

    My early experience in school mirrored his. Public schools, and I was the kid that ended up organizing the closets and running notes for the teachers or reading books in class. Today I have kids in school who are the same way. I try and teach them to keep their heads down and not attract attention inside of the system. It is a real waste of potential, but is safer. And within that safety they can explore the fringes of knowledge and the width of the road, rather than the sterilized, narrow path that is taught in school. I believe that every public school teacher/administrator/janitor should have to memorize Hacker’s Manifesto before they can pull their first paycheck.

    The schools here in the mountain west USA always talk about money for “special needs” kids. That designation includes both ends of the bell-curve, but the bottom end is easier to identify, so that is where the money goes. It is a real shame that “no-child-left-behind” means no child gets ahead. An investment in the top of the bell curve would be an investment in society, but money going to the bottom end is an expense. It is not the fault of the teachers, we have many very good teachers, it is the fault of the bureaucracy, both local as well as state and federal. By the time that the teacher has dealt with all of the mandated curriculum coming down from the state and fed, and dealt with all the political correctness and sex ed and required gym classes testing and evaluations etc. they are left with less than an hour a day to teach core material at the grade school level. If you don’t believe that, spend a day in a classroom with a stop watch. Middle/high school isn’t much better.

    TALON §

    • Josh Marsh says:

      I’m happy to read a response from another teacher in the public education system. Your experiences largely mirror my own. It occurs to me that a Manifesto from the perspective of the teacher who is aware of these students would be equally interesting to read.

      What subject do you teach?

      • Talon§ says:

        I find it interesting that those of us that are old enough to remember how to blow a 2600, or how to cut a 5.25 floppy, or how to stack trunks for fun, or how to listen for the right program on a tape are still around somewhere. Most are either furry toothed and exiled to a dark room inside a corporate dungeon, or have built a facade of “normal” so that we can hide in plain sight within society, or become history teachers.

        TALON §

    • dan says:

      you profess to be really intelligent, and you profess to have kids who show great intelligence.

      but your best advice to your kids is keep your head down and don’t attract attention?

      Why not teach your kids that they can have intelligent hobbies, why not teach then that rather than just playing games that other people made that they can make their own?
      Why bother furnishing their rooms with Ikea stuff, if they appear to have fantastic spacial awareness then how about teaching them how to build their own furniture.

      you think that all the money goes to the under achievers and it sounds like you want your kids to become under achievers so that they get some “teacher time”…

      if you don’t actively assist in the teaching of your kids, then it’s you that is failing your kids not the school. -what I see is the part of this manifesto that you identify with is the undertone that says, “I’m more clever than you, so I should be able to take what I want, and I don’t have to take responsibility for my actions”

      note assisting in the teaching of kids doesn’t mean teaching a whole new curriculum, (for young kids this means reading at home etc) for older kids thinking up things as activities that are perhaps don’t look like a planned lesson, but do teach (example making a table will teach art/design/material science/wood work/ measuring/ counting etc.)

      • Talon§ says:

        You obviously missed the part about exploring the wider road. Comprehension is a learned skill. Please re-read.

        TALON §

        • Dan says:

          I didn’t miss it, I just misunderstood it.

          The reason I misunderstood it was because of the earlier part of the post that talked about your youth how you ran in “hacker” circles and got a visit from “the men in shiney shoes”

          I understood that to mean that you can’t teach your kids that there are holes in programs or you can’t teach them about overruns and exploits, because they’ll end up getting their own visit from the shiney shoes blue men, which is a false premise. Especially in today’s world where you can actually get a paying job at the very equipment manufacturers doing what you did as a child researching and finding exploits.

          I don’t see why the entire width of the road in terms if hacker skill set can’t be taught, unless of course you fail to teach some morality and responsibility with that. (Like don’t use these skills to steal or trespass etc.) -note I said morality to mean teaching stealing is wrong, not necessarily that baby Jesus cries when you steal, you don’t have to be religious to understand that stealing is wrong. I’m not and I know this.

          Consider the analogy that every child knows if you throw a rock at a window it’ll break, but every child also knows that they should not break other peoples windows, and certainly shouldn’t break a window in order to get into a place so that they can steal stuff… (E.g taught fact glass is brittle, taught responsibility be careful with stones, taught morality don’t deliberately break other people stuff or steal.)

          I said in a different comment that the education system has to be broad and not all of it will interest every child. They’ll get basic tuition in all areas, if you feel that your child has a specialist gift for sports it’s not unusual to sign them up for outside of school sports clubs, if they love reading it’s not unusual to provide access to books (even books that they can’t have in school or books intended for a different age range).)

          If a child (your child) shows aptitude for art/design/craft then you should be making stuff with them, if they show aptitude for computers then you should be encouraging that skill out of school. In whatever way you can that engages them and furthers them.

          It’s easy to say that school was better when I went there because the system was better, but home life was better too, for example how many people old enough to remember the 2600 also remember fishing with their grand father or father? Being taught patience, being taught how to tie knots, how many people here try to teach their own kids patience or how to tie knots, then blame the school system when their kids haven’t learned these things and can’t learn new skills because they don’t have the patience.
          My mother works in a school, what I’d say is the biggest issue with learning is the lack of engagement outside of school, the parents who let their kids misbehave, and then take issue with the school tries to discipline them or refuse to believe their tiny angel could do any wrong.

          • Talon§ says:

            Firstly, I agree with most of what you have said throughout. The problem, as I see it, in your thought process is that teachers are only allowed to teach the narrow path. This is due to both regulations and time constraints. We only have a short time with each class and a large pool of information we need to pass onto the students, things that are “required” by law and are tested for. We either do not have the time to get off of the narrow path, or we are forbidden by regulation. For example, what do you suppose the ramifications would be if I taught about DaVinci’s sexual proclivities and how they related to his art? Or the fact that there were several dynasties greater that the Mediterranean empires we are required to teach, or that the Crusades knocked science back 300 years. These are facts, but are not on the evaluations and tests, they are off of the narrow path.

            Students are in “the system”, whether they know it or not. They need to learn how to satisfy the requirements of the system first, then they can expand their sight. A straight A student has more freedom within the system then a failing student. Knowing how to keep their head down and not attract attention from the system allows them freedom to explore. This same idea pertains to both school and life in general.

            Morality is something that is very difficult to teach is a public school. As you mentioned, most parents will not support any shade of morality that does not mirror their own. Morality can not be legislated either, but that is a topic for another thread. Our American systems (legal and otherwise) can only see actions, not causes of actions. Morality, and ethics as well, comes before the action. Again, this topic is for another thread, and probably another forum as well.

            Teach youth not just how to find answers, but more importantly how to ask the right questions.

            Don’t show them only proper scientific and experimental methods, but teach them how to stay safe while using them.

            Teach them not only how to explore their world, but how to stay safe from the system while doing it.

            Enough rambling, the system calls. . .

            TALON §

  8. vreinel says:

    Its all about the challenge. If someone invents a copier a hacker will try to make dollars on it. I once worked at a large aircraft co. that allowed the use of facilities to “hack” cable TV systems, often times making a better product. It encouraged critical thinking, planning, learning new equipment skills and depleting the surplus parts bins. I remember one guy wanted to design an anti radar unit using old klystron tubes to override the law enforcement radar transmitters, a very ambitious effort at best. I have spent the last 30 years hacking legally for various agency’s. Tapping a phone line is easy, fiber optic is hard. Its all about the challenge, not what I can do with it, but can it be done? We once tried using hot/cold water pipes to charge equipment batteries on concealed equipment. Innovation and imagination can’t be taught but if one has it can be squashed. Everybody thinks differently, some people look at things and see a paragraph or words, others see a picture (in color) of an idea.

    • Analog says:

      I have to agree with this. It’s my experience that breaking something can lead to knowledge as well as improve the overall product. I recall my high-school computer-lab teacher allowing me to bypass the firewall and surf-watcher as much as i wanted so long as i told him how I did it so that he could improve and fix it. This became a fun way to improve the school’s security for me, and I came up with some whacky methods- one of which involved loading restricted remote pages for editing/viewing in frontpage express as the surfwatch/netnanny/whatever it was didn’t filter content outside of the browser (something it took me a while to figure out) and then when I did the breakthrough in understanding that soon followed lead to a whole new way of looking at things. The challenge was exciting, and the environment fostered both understanding and creativity. Mind you I wasn’t doing terrible things like viewing pornography on school computers (porn isn’t the only thing blocked) but i was bypassing security- and I was being permitted to do so under supervision with a couple rules (I’d previously been banned from using the school’s computers for a year for a prank i pulled- but was given these privileges back as the comp lab teacher was out and i was needed to fix a school computer in the administrative offices which i was pulled out of class to do). My point is that stifling creativity and exploration is bad as a whole, and there are ways to nurture it and make it productive rather than purely destructive and harmful. Some people get it, others don’t. I wish more did.

  9. Analog says:

    There is so much on this topic that I’d love to discuss, as the article in question meant a lot to me personally, and shared many of my own views. I didn’t stumble on to it until the early 90’s when I started visiting phrack myself. I grew up on bbs systems, faxing my homework via a fax modem (at least until the third grade when i stopped doing homework entirely)

    Personally I don’t consider myself as having a hat. I’ve done bad things (giving myself admin on cissp’s website via a sql injection vulnerability, and then doing the same for my sun microsystems instructor and pointing out the flaw, it’s irony, and how one should always sanitize database inputs)

    good things (deleting pornographic content from a defaced website and informing the owner that i had done so and why, who had defaced it in the first place, and how to secure the site from further attack)

    questionable things (obtaining an attackers personal information and calling him on his home phone to give him a scare)

    and over the years i’ve made countless things.

    I don’t have any real alignment per-se. But none-the-less what was written by Blankenship rang true then, a decade later, and even now. Details might not be the same, and the internet as a whole has changed. Anonymity is becoming less and less. Subcultures have sprung up left and right- segmenting the internet. Users can now be categorized by things other than access times and privileges. (Timecounts have long been forgotten, along with most bbs systems not preserved by synchronet and ancient shell services like lonestar)

    The internet having grown so large plays host to racial, religious, and political groups- while in it’s infancy such things were unheard of- and it was largely a place for idea-sharing, exploration, education, and socialization. Now the internet is many different things to many different people. Children these days have been spoiled- most don’t know or need to know how things work, and if they want to do something- don’t have the patience and self motivation to learn it. Case in point, i was recently approached my someone to do some simple lua scripting and file manipulation that i knew already existed online in tutorial format. Instead of doing this for them I tried to convince them to learn it for themselves so as not to be hindered by the need for someone else to perform such basic tasks for them. This is a person i’d previously taught some php and javascript to, so i knew they weren’t without the capacity to learn and grow. They just didn’t have the drive and patience to do it themselves.

    I have to wonder if learning has fundamentally changed over the years. I know more advanced topics are being covered now than when I was in school- (we didn’t have such a thing as a genetics class when I was growing up.

    Usenet feels forgotten and IRC just isn’t what it once was. Time passes, things change- this is natural, but I worry that what was once a thriving culture of exploration, education, and entertainment has changed. What attracted me to the hacker culture years ago seems gone from it- (or maybe it’s me that has moved on?) Those same things that drew me in now exist in the maker culture that has sprung up.

    Instead of ‘Hey man, check this out- i figured out this really cool way to get into this system, or hey man look at this awesome ascii art.’ it’s become ‘where do you get your warez’ and ‘can you crack this for me’ and ‘this guy pissed me off, can you trash his computer?’ in the maker community it’s ‘hey man, check out how this guy figured out how this works and interfaced this with that do this really cool thing here’

    The hacker community has segmented like everything else on the internet, i don’t even know where to go for intelligent conversation anymore. Instead I spend more and more time lurking around maker communities like hack-a-day. that generally share the same mentality that the hacker community once had, one of nurturing learning and working together to understand things and do cool things with that knowledge.

    In this day and age it feels as though The Mentor’s manifesto applies more towards the maker community than the hacker community, though they are both intertwined in a way. And unfortunately- all three of them are being demonized by the media. Hackers and Crackers have been for a long time, with the recent issues in the media about 3d printers and guns (as absurd as the media’s arguments are) i fear the maker community as a whole will come under the same misunderstandings and eventually draw in the wrong sorts of people- who will then fracture and ultimately segment it. I’d hate to see the maker community become about counterfit GI Joes and Hotweels instead of learning, evolving, and seeing what cool and interesting stuff other makers have done, and learning how to do those things yourself, and incorporating that knowledge gained into your own projects.

    Unfortunately, this super-long rambling post seems to have become more about the hacker and maker communities past and future rather than the manifesto… but i do still feel it relates. The mentality The Mentor expressed was not at all uncommon back then, but it is now. That same mentality however- seems to exist in the maker community now, will that change?

    These are just my views though, what are yours?

    • dynamodan says:

      @Analog this is so cool:
      “Instead of doing this for them I tried to convince them to learn it for themselves so as not to be hindered by the need for someone else to perform such basic tasks for them”

      If anything resonates with me, it’s that! I think one of the virtues of true hacking is the d.i.y. and really, l.i.y or Learn-It-Yourself. I’m reminded of the “Teach Yourself Perl in 21 Days” book I had, one of a whole range of “Teach Yourself … ” books back in the 2000’s (they’re probably still around). I have this same experience, sometimes even refuse to do things for people that they are perfectly capable of themselves, if they just tried a few times.

      • Quin says:

        If someone needed something done just once, like replacing the head gasket on a car or a simple lua script, why does the hacker/maker community usually reply with “why don’t you learn it?” There seems to be the same devaluation of skill on both sides of a conversation. Take Analog’s lua script. Why not just tell a person “You can google this, and do it yourself for free, or I’ll do it for $X or Y cases of my favorite drink.”? Some people learn to program as at the language level and not at the concept level; so what they want to do javascript won’t allow but learning lua isn’t just picking up a new language syntax. For them, it’s a whole set of concepts. So why do we insist that everyone must learn everything?

        • Analog says:

          The person in question was- as I mentioned- already fluent in php and javascript, lua was- in fact- simply another syntax for them to learn. Telling people to learn things on their own instead of doing it for them teaches them a skill, among them is learning to google search in the process of learning that skill. To learn from others, and to learn by doing as opposed to learning by being told. Have you ever had to walk a severely computer illiterate person through setting up and checking their e-mail? Or other basic task? The way they learn it is by following a set routine, such as click this, then this, then that. and they often can’t remember on their own (without notes) or apply aspects that routine to other tasks. Learning by doing helps with both information retention and the understanding of underlying concepts. You’re not simply clicking a picture on the screen- that picture suddenly represents something more. The old proverb ‘give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime’ certainly applies here, and is one of the reasons the hacker and maker communities often use the method. I knew for a fact he’d have to do this particular task repeatedly with slight variations for other sub-projects in the near future, which is one of the main reasons i suggested he learn to do it himself rather than simply do it for him. It’s unfair to me to have to do these basics tasks for him every single time, and unfair to him to have to wait for me to get around to doing it- which is why i suggested he learn to do so himself. I’m most certainly not against doing simple tasks for money or trade, but i am against the idea of being frequently pestered for what i consider menial tasks that serve only to usurp my time from more important projects.

          • Quin says:

            I checked early on the 6th, and didn’t see anymore posts, so I hadn’t come back to continue the discussion. My apologies.

            I don’t know the person you know. I don’t know if they learned ‘programming as a language’ or ‘programming as a concept and language independent’. The second type of person, yes, should be able to pick up lue or enough regex to do basic file manipulation, even if they just need to ask to find out what terms to search for. The first type of person would not. That was my point.

            As for ‘fishing and feeding’ . . . it’s a great Utopian ideal that everyone has time to pick up a skill to do all the things they need to survive. It just doesn’t happen. It’s why we have grocery stores (do you* slaughter your own meat, or even know how to field dress wild game?) There are plenty of other things, like technology, that take away from my time (and injury that take away from ability) to go out and hunt for my own complete protein sources. Same for repairing a car, or building my own house, or . . . the list could go on forever, really. Whether we as programmers and technology literate people think everyone has time to learn a little of our skill, some of them don’t. The same way anyone with a back yard garden or small farm think people have time and space to do the same. The same way a garage mechanic thinks the same about cars/motorcycles/etc. The only people I’ve met who do everything for themselves, from field to stomach and back, building their shelter and furnishings by hand and so on, don’t have time to use a computer and are often functionally illiterate in programming or even scripting. And they usually read books they didn’t write themselves, too. We all put limits on our education, hopefully because of time constraints and not because of laziness. So those things you consider menial may be beyond the skill of others. I, personally, couldn’t keep a backyard garden; my cousin with 3 kids and similar back pain does it in her free time and I occasionally get some nice veggies in return for menial computer work.

            *generic you, in all cases. As I said, I don’t know you or your friend, and am discussion the philosophy aspect. Eating is something we all do, but seldom do we take part in every step from field to stomach. And that’s without getting into the tragedy of commons if all game were free from hunting/fishing restrictions so we could all effectively feed ourselves if we all had to hunt for game.

          • Analog says:

            @ Quin, No worries regarding the reply. I hadn’t checked a whole lot either.

            I certainly see and agree with your point. Nobody is a master of everything, and it’s unreasonable to expect anyone to be. The situation was most certainly a ‘let-me-google-that-for-you moment (at least for me) Knowing the person already had the capacity to do so and that several tutorials for the exact task already existed. The case in particular aside, if someone has a hobby (something they do in their spare time and are interested in) It’s reasonable to expect them to do some level of research on their own to learn more.

            For example, lets take an artist, as art is a common hobby. Many artists these days will look for tutorials or at other art to try and figure out how a certain effect was achieved and gain a greater understanding while improving their own skills.

            To further illustrate what I’m trying to point out- and the reasoning (or at least my reasoning) behind when i choose to tell someone to figure it out or when i choose to help them with something, we’ll take two hypothetical scenarios:

            Scenario A: Bob says to Jill that he is working on The Project(no this isn’t a farbrausch reference), and he’s hit a wall. He has this code and he knows that function 42() just isn’t returning the results he wants.

            Scenario B: Adam, whom has never used an oven before, or baked anything- says to Dana that he wants a two layer chocolate cake with mint filling and sprinkles on top.

            In scenario A Bob has a specific problem he’s trying to overcome and believes Jill can help. In this case presuming Jill knows the answer and wants to help, would ideally examine the code of function 42() and offer suggested changes in addition to explaining why Bob’s code wasn’t working the way he expected as well as why Jill’s own code works the way it does, thus aiding bob both with the problem at hand, and helping him learn and grow from his mistakes.

            In scenario B, presuming Dana doesn’t want to be bothered making a cake (for free, or for pay) Dana is likely to tell bob to go to a store and buy one, or find a recipe and make it himself.

            There are several factors one often takes into account, like their desire to help vs the effort involved.

            If someone who barely knows how to send an e-mail comes to me and asks ‘teach me how to hack into computers’ I’m not likely to respond with anything favorable, but if someone’s got a specific problem they’ve tried to solve or work out- and are having trouble with- by all means I tend to help when and where I can. By the same token though, if someone wants to accomplish an easy task for a hobby of theirs that is well within their existing skill-set, and only needs a small amount of additional knowledge that can be easily gained through a quick google search, I’m going to suggest they google it- so that they can figure it out themselves and learn from it.

            Promoting the growth of others through both assisted and self-guided learning is something I’m all for. It’s something that has existed in many forms for a long time, it existed in the old hacker culture, it still exists in software development, and it definitely exists in the maker culture. People tend to draw these distinctions for themselves when deciding whether they want to help or not, and often it’s based on the way the person presents what it is they want to learn or want done.

            Again, here’s another example:

            Q: I want to learn to hack into computer systems
            A: Good luck

            Q: I want to learn to write sockets so i can make a keylogger
            A: here’s a link to a tutorial on writing sockets
            Q2: I tried the tutorial and it worked but i made some changes and I’m having a problem, some of the data i’m trying to use isn’t being read from the recv buffer, but i verified on the other end that it was sent- so it’s being dropped somewhere i’ve tried this, this, and this, but it’s not working- can you help?
            A2: After looking at your code it seems that you’re calling the flush method in this function which discards the data in the send/recv buffers- which is why it’s not making it to this other function you wanted to use the data in. A better way to clear the buffer would be to use the read method until it returns -1, more info can be found at this knowledge-base here at this link.

            Obviously the first question was vague and required too much effort/time to help with, but the second set of questions was more specific, a tutorial was given and resulted in the person learning through both direct assistance and self-guided learning (reading and following a tutorial, then expanding on what was learned from the tutorial)

            The morality of keyloggers aside, I personally view this approach as a good one to have, as it promotes learning and growth in those that really and truly want to do it as opposed to those that just want something done for them or something that would take an unreasonable amount of time and effort from someone else.

            Again though Quin, you make a great point that nobody can possibly be a master of everything, it would take far too much time and effort- and life is short. In the last example the person in question could also have gone and purchased or downloaded a keylogger, or paid someone to make it for them, and surely that was an option, I just wanted to communicate the reasoning behind the decisions, and why this method is often applied.

            We all pay others for services in our daily lives, Your grocery store example was an excellent illustration of that- but when working on a project as a hobby- i personally feel it’s best to learn everything you can that would assist you with that hobby.

    • Josh Marsh says:

      Analog:

      Yours is such an excellent response that it registers on an emotional level: the the maker community is on the verge of being recontextualized as “just as evil” as the hacker movement is a terrible reality.

      I taught high school and currently teach college and gifted high school students, and in many cases you’re right on about the complete apathy toward learning. There are still a number of students desperate and eager to push the limits of their education.

      What can the maker community do to avoid the same fate suffered by the hackers?

      • Analog says:

        @Josh Marsh, Thank you. As far as the maker community avoiding the same fate- It’s sad, but I don’t think the media’s demonizing is something that can be controlled. One can only hope common uncommon sense and the individual’s desire to find their own truths for themselves will prevail. The community could police itself, but then you have to wonder where to draw the line. Cool things can sometimes be very dangerous things But if you take out all of the dangerous things you lose out. (3d printed tools, flame-throwing pumpkins, musical tesla coils, musical plasma, sam barrow’s powerlabs, magic markers that unlock hotel room doors, jet engines making tea, etc.) Being too strict can segment the community, but being too lenient can turn it into a wasteland of trolls, and abusive behavior. Obviously HaD is going to have different rules and policies than other communities. Which means the Maker Community as a whole may segment all on it’s own. In one of my other posts in this thread i discussed a high-school teacher who took a misbehaving student (me) and redirected the behavior into something productive. It’s great people like that who can really make a difference. Not everyone can be saved though- as they say- you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. Drawing that line and enforcing it gracefully is perhaps the only way to prevent the past from repeating itself, Having creative/intuitive people to draw and enforce those lines is what I think will make the difference in how the community as a whole is perceived- since most groups are judged as a sum of their parts. The maker community and the hacker community are not far apart, and share many elements. But- only time will tell if the same fate awaits the maker community.

    • fusil says:

      Gosh you are bringing back some amazing memories. I have done things that were out in the open in the 90’s. Making things better and learning a massive amount along the way. Now I am afraid to post any of it at all for fear of a misunderstanding, intentional or not.

      After a certain date it seems like nobody wants highly effective people around anymore. All my old contacts just stopped doing things, got normal jobs, and tried to keep their heads down. Unless you were born in sunny silicon valley, it is really hard to do anything productive with this mentality of constant improvement and creation. When once it was easy to get a good admin job on talent and skill, now requires much, much more paperwork, connections, and luck while passionate intent and strong abilities being looked at as dangerous traits. With such an environment it is not so surprising that apathy towards learning and doing has set in.

  10. pedersenit says:

    Outdated and Resonating are not mutually exclusive. I was eight years old, writing my own databases on an old Apple back when this was written. I didn’t read it until a few years ago, but it is still relevant. It is a great look at the motivation of the hacker. I had similar challenges in school and channeled my frustrations into the Apple. I was able to learn a lot from that, and if I had a modem at the time, I probably would have gotten myself in trouble quickly. There is an innocent curiosity inside of most of us, and many people strip away the innocence when they feel someone is doing something wrong, even if it is a child who really didn’t know better. Unfortunately, it is difficult to identify intentions.

    Education works only when managed properly. I could not have succeeded in school if it weren’t for the entertaining breaks between monotonous classes. In an attempt to fit more time in to “cover the requirements” the public education system has taken those “Extras” out and made school even more boring. To fix that does require more money and I do believe that money is a major speed bump in trying to improve the system. The better source of education should be the parents. As a parent who should take my own advice, I think parents should teach children responsible use of technology. You don’t give a child a loaded gun without teaching them the proper handling and giving them a good respect for the danger it poses to themselves and everyone around them. Teenagers can’t drive until they have been trained and can demonstrate their capability to handle the vehicle. I don’t mean to suggest official regulation, but parental direction and influence goes a long way.

  11. 1) When I first read this particular work, I was a freshman in high school, and almost single-handedly tasked with the maintenance with my fairly-small school’s library computers. So at the time, it did resonate with me. Quite a lot.

    2) I think it’s safe to say that every generation needs more from its school than its school is willing to give. Public schools, and almost certainly private schools, as well, are tasked with handing to students the information that the governing bodies deem valuable. Most schools fail at this task, and most schools also offer far more useful and practical information by way of teacher discretion.

    3) As of when I graduated in 2008? No, they haven’t. The attitude is that schools need to teach for the lowest common denominator. If they tried to accommodate those of us whose minds were numbed by the public schooling system, as I wager many of us here have, both in the US and abroad, that would require a considerable amount of effort, and while the teachers quite often do care and try their best, I’ve met a great many administrators, both while in school and since I graduated, and very few of actually care about anything more than a paycheck and prestige.

    And yes, the situation is really that dire. It’s only gotten worse in the years since the 2002 interview.

  12. dan says:

    to respond to the analysis rather than the comments as I have above:

    I don’t see the comment that if you screw up the computer tells you as a way of taking responsibility, rather that it shows that the author sees their failings in every other part of life as someone else’s fault.
    the obvious example, is when you have a question that says, reduce this expression and show your working.

    showing your working is usually three of the four marks, if you don’t show your working you fail the task because you don’t complete the task.
    Basically if you don’t complete the work then you fail. take responsibility for your actions! -clearly the author doesn’t, they feel that others in their life have a personal grudge, (and say as much, computers are logic rather than because it feels threatened.

    >>>Technology as liberator: “a door opened to a world…” vs. Technology as oppressor: he’s arrested for hacking / technology was certainly used to identify and capture him.

    I find this an interesting point. because I often see technology as a liberator, technology probably saved a lot of us from being bored, making little programs etc. but if you do something wrong, then it’s not technologies fault if you’re caught doing something wrong. and you need to take responsibility for that.

    >>>Technology as a form of personal expression: “This is our world now… / the beauty of the baud.” vs. Technology as restricted, institutionalized: authority figures dictate what can and cannot be done with computers

    this is no different than me saying your house is beautiful and I’ll decide to break in and sleep in your bed because it’s more comfortable than mine. the author was arrested for breaking the law, and the manifesto is nothing if not a clumsiness worded way of shirking responsibility and saying that the world just doesn’t understand you. there was plenty of Legal things that he could have been doing with his time. He chose a path and was punished for that.

    >>>Technology as impartial: “We exist without skin color, without nationality, without religious bias…” vs. Technology as Concealed Prejudice

    The third is probably the most interesting in terms of hackadays audience,
    I can’t remember if the clean comments policy is still in force. but it was certainly the case that a while back there was quite a large commotion about what happens in the comments here and on project site comments when projects by women are put up.
    technology is impartial, the program doesn’t care if the coder is male or female, the program doesn’t care if you’re black of white, it’ll run just the same. it doesn’t care for your creed, colour, ethnicity, parentage, and to a large extend a program doesn’t care if you own the computer or just stole it from someone… a double click will launch a program…

    To that extent, technology can, eliminate prejudice, but only of those with access.
    the point is I don’t care if you’re a unemployed poor black woman typing a response to this on a shared computer in a town library, or if you’re a rich white university educated white man working in a company with access to a load of computers, (and the technology doesn’t care either) the difference is, I have access to my own computer and therefore have 24×7 access to information, if you are poor you only have access to the information of the internet at lunch time, or weekends, perhaps only for 1 hour at a time in a local library.

    Whilst the technology doesn’t care for your social standing or wealth in that respect, (programs run and sites load for anyone) access to technology is clearly a massive advantage that those who do not have access to technology cannot share. as such technology widens social divides.

    as for the discussion points,
    the manifesto resonated with me and I would have wanted to align myself with it when I first read it almost 2 decades ago, but that’s because I was young and stupid, and like the manifestos writer had no concept of actions having consequence. it’s not so much that it’s outdated now, it’ll still resonate really well with the “advanced and mature 12 year old” bored in class right up to socially inept and immature people 15 years senior to that.
    the advanced student identifies with the idea that they are above their teachers, whilst the person who ends up being arrested for breaking pretty basic laws continues to grumble that the reason that they have a job serving fries in that they system failed them because they were misunderstood, it’s the idea that society needs to bend to you, rather than you bending to society. most grow out of the mentality in which “the manifesto” was written in.

    It’s nothing to do with God or morality, but not trespassing on property, (either physical or virtual) is a law, and if the writer were as clever as they believed that they were then they should have understood that.

    I don’t necessarily think that computers swoop in and rescue, at least in no more or less ways than a good book could or would have to someone who enjoys literature, or any more than a knife to whittle something could have to someone from a different generation.
    a challenge is a challenge whatever form it comes in, it’s easy for this community to see making stuff as a release, that will help kids, but that’s just as backwards as the politicians. (most of who will have read history or literature for example) saying that what kids really need is a good education surrounding the workings of the Ottoman empire, or Aztec civilisation. what works for one does not work for all…

    which sadly is where the last argument falls over.
    schools need more money to buy more computers, a computer on every desk, where kids can play on the internet all day is what’s needed.
    and then we need more teachers so that we can have classes small enough to supervise whilst doing “practical subjects” again.
    and then we need more metal shops and more lathes to teach that you can make stuff.
    and then we need CNC machines for every school because that’s the future right?
    and we need more and larger Home studies/cookery labs, because everyone needs to know how to eat right?
    and bigger better sports fields because we’re facing an obesity epidemic, and some athlete told us that doing sports really helped him in school, or that his sporting achievements helped to separate him from his friends who all ended up on drugs and in jail for stealing stuff… -so investing in sports means less healthcare burden, and less crime?
    then as I said earlier, what about the people who see the beauty of art, what about more museum trips to see pictures and sculptures etc. the people who dis this or that and it saved them from some terrible life…?

    I imagine that if “the mentor” were to read that above he’d maybe say, yes, more computers, and I can see how CNC machines are needed.

    others here might say, why need cookery classes I can order takeaway just fine but definitely manual lathes and mills, because I could have learned really easily, I would have been interested in that, and I would have stayed engaged and excelled.

    then everyone has a friend who feels that school failed because they weren’t exposed to culture, so they are going to want the funding for the arts…

    Yes, schools probably do need more money. but there is no magic bullet or definitely “invest in this or that” way of spending it.

    the real problem isn’t so much that the lessons are too basic, or not taught well or that there is no passion.
    the real problem is with a large class not everyone can get a say. when you’ve accepted 5 questions from the class, child 6 is going to need to put their hand down because you have to move on.

    And you have to move on because you have a whole load of other stuff to teach.

    I made the point above that there is some obesity epidemic? is it any wonder when physical education lessons are squeezed so that there is barely time for a full game of whatever here, or when doing timed events there is only enough time for each person to run a 300m dash once in a whole lesson. and then at the other end, you can’t possibly teach cookery any more because it takes longer than an hour for something to bake?
    and we can’t devote long lessons to these things because there isn’t time any more…

    so we pull bits, out. we say, we won’t teach about God (if that’s your buzz subject) because teaching IT is more important. and we can’t have a 2 hour sports lesson, because how will kids not learn to repeat the mistakes of the past if they don’t learn xyz history here, (and remember that history keeps happening).
    we decided that teaching IT is important, but we can’t teach anything more than basic word processing because we determine that chemistry is important also. but there is no time to teach anything but simplified models because as it turns out biology is important too. and so on and so forth…

    If we want to improve the state of education we need more funding, but it doesn’t need to go to a specific subject. It needs to pay for lights and heat (and teachers) for an extra hour (or more) each day in order that we can afford to teach more than just the very basics in each subject. so that minds can be engaged and stretched. we need to invest in teachers to shrink class sizes so that practical, (and possibly dangerous) subjects can be properly supervised again. so that every child can have their concerns answered.

    (funnily enough that increase in funding could probably be mostly paid for by increased tax receipts from longer working hours for all those parents who need to be part time to go and collect kids from school etc)

    an additional benefit of longer school hours is you can tackle, (and teach critical thinking) about complex problems. -like the idea that a longer school day = more time worked by parents = higher income = higher tax receipts = quite a lot of the money to pay for that extra hour in school!!

    to just say get more computers is just as foolish as saying get more Shakespeare, literary minded people will respond to the Shakespeare, (people not like me), whilst technically minded people will respond to more computers, (people more like me).

    • Macon says:

      I’m glad I read all the way to the bottom to catch Dan’s comment. Perhaps a solution might be to let kids choose all their own classes once they get to high-school. Yes, some kids will never find out that women DON’T have equal rights under the law. Some will never appreciate draw the parallels between optimizing a mathematical or economic system and optimizing a social or moral system. But if those concepts are forced down their throats, they wouldn’t have appreciated them anyway. Choosing their own classes is one small step to preserving the natural curiosity all children have. I finished my engineering degree a few years ago, and am only now rediscovering my childhood love of making and crude programming.
      TED talks have a lot to do with that, and they have become an addiction of mine. I highly recommend watching one of Sugata Mitra’s TED talks. He discovered that learning is a self-organizing process, and that ~4 kids clustered around a computer can and will eagerly teach themselves ANYTHING under the right circumstances.

      • Quin says:

        I can not agree with that. High school needs to get a basic education to everyone; that’s the purpose. What I see as more valuable would be a system where those who wanted the challenge could get more than a basic education, even at the grade school level. There is a huge advantage to “Everyone was taught at least this much” that a choose your own education, even like undergrad degrees in college, suffer from. It’s possible to go through an engineering degree without taking a single art or humanities course, which results in a very segmented populous that has no way of communicating ideas from one field to another.

        I was one of those kids who finished math homework while waiting for the bus home. I could have skipped a good bit if the option had been there, but instead I sat through 8th grade algebra after the 5/6/7th grade teacher had already taught us the same thing. But if I had a choice, I’d have never taken a single language class, even English, and would have been stuck with the vocabulary of a 7th grader. That, alone, would have made reading technical documents nearly impossible.

        • Analog says:

          I vividly recall one teacher scolding me ‘well if you already know all of this why don’t you teach the class?’ at which time being the snarky child I was, I got up and proceeded to do just that as the teacher sat slack-jawed at my desk, occasionally tossing me questions I had all the right answers for until the period and lesson was over. I saw it as a small victory and was quite proud of myself, but it didn’t excuse me from having to sit through his boring- and in my eyes entirely remedial class the rest of the year.

          There is plenty of testing done in schools, i personally tested out of having to take state tests in my youth. (If you score high enough on a test in a subject, you never have to take the test again, so the next time it rolls around you get a period or two to goof off and do whatever while most everyone else is taking the state aptitude tests) In retrospect it would have been better if i were then given the option to take a course in something else instead of still having to sit through the courses I’d already tested out of by showing an aptitude greater than that which is available for lessons.

          Personally I think a better solution would be to regroup students according to aptitudes. As an example those better at math would then take more advanced math classes during their math period, and the next period for the teacher would then be a group of lower aptitude students who have a less advanced curriculum to work on. There wouldn’t be only two classes at two different levels of course, instead several different levels as there are several periods in the day. This would mean scheduling leveled classes accordingly- In theory this would allow students to progress further in the fields they accel at while continuing normal progression in the other areas they don’t grasp quite as well. This means the yearly aptitude tests would be used as a basis for determining what level in each subject each student currently has, a high enough score would progress them to the next level the following year, (as opposed to just determining the overall level of the school) Ensuring that students get a decent education but aren’t stuck sitting through repetitive/boring classes that only cover things they already know all too well, offering a somewhat more tailored approach to education. Advancing past what is available in a class should then allow them to select an elective course in a subject they are interested in.to take instead of the class they had previously. Surely something similar to this already exists as I was one of only a small handful of students in an advanced calculus class in high-school, and it was the only match class i enjoyed because it was new to me at the time and not the same old regurgitated addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, decimals, algebra, trig, etc. that I’d dealt with in most other math classes. Could the system not be tailored a little more to help alleviate the issues of boredom in class and promote individual advancement?

          • Marc says:

            I vividly recall one teacher scolding me ‘well if you already know all of this why don’t you teach the class?’ at which time being the snarky child I was, I got up and proceeded to do just that as the teacher sat slack-jawed at my desk, occasionally tossing me questions I had all the right answers for until the period and lesson was over. I saw it as a small victory and was quite proud of myself, but it didn’t excuse me from having to sit through his boring- and in my eyes entirely remedial class the rest of the year.

            I had this exact experience in High School Algebra in 1967.

  13. Hi guys! I’m Loyd, I wrote this (see bottom of blankenship.com for ID verification), and am a daily visitor to Hack A Day (I can often be found at the AS220 Labs hackerspace in Providence). I appreciate all the thoughtful responses about this. As I’ve said many times, when I wrote this I was simply venting. The fact that it has continued to resonate with people for this long has been a very pleasant surprise.

    I still believe public education is the biggest crisis we face as a nation (and I say that as someone whose wife spent almost 20 years as a high school teacher). I think the Maker movement is a powerful force that can help solve some aspects of this crisis.

    • Mike Szczys says:

      “I think the Maker movement is a powerful force that can help solve some aspects of this crisis.”

      You hit the nail on the head. From visiting and reading about hackerspaces, the over-arching virtue I see is self-guided learning based on individual interest. This is compounded by the habit of hackerspace members to become teachers just to help out their fellow members.

      Advice to parents — get your kids to some hackerspace meetings and see if that ends up being one of their interests.

    • Josh Marsh says:

      Hey Loyd!
      It’s a real honor to see this response, but even more so that you’re a Hackaday regular.

      A lot of comments above seem to encourage / favor the maker movement’s mentality, but I think you’re the first to really bring up the line of thought about the maker community actually providing a potential solution. That’s something we haven’t discussed at length yet, but I feel it’s an important point: the heart of the maker community seems to be the desire to educate and to celebrate that education.

      I’ll admit, I always thought things like the Adafruit skill badges were a little silly. When I think about them in the context of a failing public education system, however, they (and the motivation behind providing the instruction, etc) make a lot more sense.

    • Quin says:

      I read your manafesto way back when I finally got dialup (90s, maybe) and printed it and kept it on my desk through my first years of a CS degree. Even with the flaws, which I’ll dedicate another post to, it still manages to encapsulate the “if it doesn’t do what I tell it, I don’t own it” part of the maker, console mod chip, and the modern white/grey hat movements. Since this may be the only place we’ve cross paths, you have my sincerest thanks.

    • J. "Dorian" L. says:

      Loyd:

      Too much positive or interpretive I would say was covered in other comments and wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve ceased checking in. Being said, I had just a few things on my mind that may be worth sharing with the class, so to speak.

      I hesitate to encourage people to take the raw rage of injustice at being spoonfed the same lesson over and over and over again… To take that rage and manifest it as a refusal to listen to a source of information is a dangerous prospect indeed. A solid example exists in myself – too much of my rage at the busywork of mathematics post-middle school found me lazy in the field and by the time I attended college even baseline courses found me struggling to put forth that effort, focus, and sense of engagement to learn (catch up with?) the material. Whether a burn for everyone to tolerate from prior frustration and boredom or a mark of my own ignorance when I was tutoring senior students my freshman year for computer science is an effort left to the interpretations of others; I later ate crow and sent an apology to my mathematics professor post-graduation when attempting to dissect a physics engine. (There’s a broader point about how contemporary mathematics is taught to be had here, too – I only cared again once it intersected my life and had application, and not before.)

      I chiefly view The Conscience of a Hacker as the darker side of really any hacker, independent of “hat”. Far too generally, we have unbounded curiosity in a world that seeks boundaries and find ourselves at the gunpoint of whatever may regulate it. Sometimes that’s justified – the simple fact is that the modern era finds digital possessions often as important (or more) than physical possessions – and other times its not – like the panic attacks I would have to stare down when I would calmly open a Linux machine terminal in a lab where most students were using Windows.

      The idea – then or now – that we are all alike is I think simultaneously correct and misleading. Mens rea is one requirement of a conviction for a reason, after all, and we split off our ethics listings into three “hats” based upon this for a reason… Yes, hackers share unbounded wonder and a drive to learn and explore, but the bigger questions fall in on things like whether we do things for good intentions, no specific intentions, or worse intentions. While a distracting conversation from the main and common points of curiosity and exploration and advancement, it unfortunately is one of the most important ones viewed through a social lens on the situation – people care less about our feelings and more about our end effect on their established structures and systems.

      I could write a novel’s worth of correspondence on so many related and tangential topics; I am, however, not interested in wasting your time with the blathering and I’d imagine idiotic sounding tones of a 22-year old punk that I presume you are grateful you left behind in yourself in too many ways too many years ago. So I’ll end this on the note that thank you, for my younger years – for giving me some solace in what I was doing and the assurance that emotionally – even if I had to reach into history – I was not alone in my hurt or misunderstood nature.

  14. Anon says:
  15. Quin says:

    Alright, now that I’ve said my thanks, let me offer a view on the flaws at Josh pointed out. As a 70s baby and 80’s kid, I couldn’t get an interrnet connection. We lived in the boondocks, and there were no local BBS or any computer clubs. My first computer use was as part of a pilot program in grade school, about 3rd grade, where they took the ‘overly smart, unchallenged kids’ and gave us an every other week class with a teacher who had just learned to turn on the computers and had a few books on writing Apple Basic (I met with her again just a few years ago, she admitted she didn’t even learn to program, she just followed the books as our class went along. Us kids never knew). My family, being middle class (but having to spend way too much on hospital bills) got a Laser 128 (apple ][ clone) from a yard sale else in the . . . hmm, I was in 5th grade or so at the time, so late 80s early 90s. That was the best computer we could afford. It wasn’t until a few years later, until my parents saw what my sibling and I could do with an admitted piece of junk that they sprung for a very dated 486 Tandy. Still, no local BBS or dial up, if I wanted to learn anything I had to find rare books. One trip to NYC to visit family and get some culture (for being poor at times, my family insisted on museum visits) I managed to find some computer books at a street vendor and got dad to buy an old Slackware book, Internet guide (it even mentioned gopher and archie), and a few others for about $30. Much cheaper than any bookstores in our BFE part of Appalachia. I couldn’t get him to let me install Linux til we got a Pentium (60or 66MHz, on sale after the 100MHz had been released) and only then on the older 486. About that time, AOL finally opened a local dialup number, and the world was open to us, but not on Linux. I had to sneaker net files in my own basement. And that’s how I read the Manifesto for the first time: the mid 90s.

    Now, other distant parts of my family, those working at DEC or HP back then, they didn’t mind dialing up long distance to get on BBS or early Prodigy or Compuserve. Us, we had to wait til a local number opened and we could get unlimited access. Was there a large gulf between us kids? Not as much as one would think, since we had waited so long for a way to chat with the outside world we were more prepared to search for information and ask instead of expecting a local teacher or mentor to guide us.

    So that digital divide between the rich and poor? It still existed, very pronounced, even into the 90s. The local highschool was still using 386s by the time I got there, and had gotten a grant and lab full of ‘brand new’ Pentium P5 (not the late branches) by the time I graduated. Even when I got back and visit the town now, the number of people without computers outnumbers those who do. The available internet connections are still shiat, I don’t think the cable company (a local, not a major brand) offers anything more than a few Mb with a low as hell cap for over $100 a month, and the dsl is . . . pitiful (dialup was faster) unless you pay through the nose. And the families that still work in the rail yard (that’s closing slowly) or the coal mines (further away) don’t have the money for a phone or tv some times, much less an always on internet connection.

    Then there is the gender, and “late to the party” divide. The later first, since we didn’t get an internet connection til ‘late’ by the feel of the early days, when us kids would try to learn something, we’d hit a brick wall of not very friendly people. I tried asking around SMAUG groups for resources on how to tweak the source and got “read it and try it out”. Not very helpful without knowing C, and when asked about that, the other brick wall of “You can’t program? then you’ll never get this. Go back to school or something.” There simply weren’t places to learn those skills at that time, there were no computer clubs, and the nearest L&*nix UG was over an hour away, not accessible to kids who weren’t old enough to drive. There might have been, and probably were online references; I know that by the time someone pointed me to the GCC reference I devoured it and started learning C very quickly, but the tight knit groups of specific hobbies were very tight lipped about passing that knowledge on.

    As to the former, the gender divide, my experience was quite different than later years, and one of the reasons I developed plenty of pseudonyms. On an early Jane’s/EA flight sim, I had a fairly feminine call sign. When I joined the online MP games, the calls of queer/fag/gay were as bad as they can be now; luckily it was text only at that time. On finding out a girl might be behind the keys, the slurs stopped and the ‘oh, girls can’t fly planes’ started. The same occurred on message boards, forums, mailing lists, every place where communication occurred. It’s less prevalent in the maker movement today, which I tend to thank the famous makers like LadyAda and Quinn Dunki for (along with many others that I can’t recall right now); without them and others showing that women could lead the way in the maker movement, I still think many girls would attempt something with an FPGA or ASM on ARM and still be told to ‘go back to sew-able Lilypad stuff’. Which does occur, along with the “pics or gtfo” phenomenon (not here, that I’ve seen. thankfully). Now days, there are obvious safer places to be female or even gender queer (plenty of feminist discussion blogs, and /r/ainbow jumps to mind for the later); those safe places didn’t exist openly back in the early days (maybe on usenet and IRC, which aol discouraged). But when you look at lists of famous phone phreaking and other early hacking, the number of women in the list is disturbingly slim to none.

    Culturally, I got lucky in attending a school that, even if it was in the train and coal Appalachia area, recognized the value of pushing students. Other students, even in much more funded school districts, don’t have that. Not to mention the typical ‘urban school district’ where the poor and under poverty line families have their kids while the rich white families sent their kids to boarding school and avoid paying much in taxes. I don’t want to specifically say “black or other minority” because there are white school districts that are the same, and the story of being a minority isn’t mine to tell. I can say that there was one or two darker skinned kid in our 3rd grade “aspire” program, but they left before 5th grade if memory serves. The rest of us were white, mostly from better off families compared to the county average. Even with that advantage, we still had to deal with the ‘poor hick town’ mentality that tries to beat down every ‘geek and nerd’ even to this day. When every family you know works in the trains, mines, lumber yard, or if they were lucky at the paper plant, even with the early internet we still faced the stigma of “typing with a southern accent”. Or worse, trying to join a development mailing listserv with a @aol.com email address; which was pretty much the same thing at the time. “You are on aol, what could you contribute?” was not an uncommon phrase at the time, even if it was the only fixed price, unlimited hours available. Add to that the extra phone line (not cheap, local monopoly at the time) that I’ve only in recent years learned to appreciate how much my parents sacrificed to give my sibling and I that early internet connection.

    And it frightens me, to read in the comments, about how “anyone can learn, teach your own kids and get them a private eduacation.” It’s laughable, to me, that people who have that privilege think that it is something that everyone can afford to do. “Move to a different state and pay less taxes” is not possible if the job you have is in a mine, which is not a very mobile thing, and are barely holding on to the roof over your head. Moving to save money? Completely absurd, disgusting, and insulting! To claim that public education “shouldn’t need to teach these things” is just as bizarre and disturbing; it shows that the people who have the privilege of learning technology on their own are still content to hold on to that, even if they justify the world-view with sayings like “but the information is available to everyone!”. Sure, the information might be there, but can the bright kid from a poor family who only gets internet access at a public library for half an hour after school absorb that information before they have to do whatever homework the teachers gave that assumes they have access to the internet at home? No? Then it’s not really available information, is it.

    All of that contributes to how I read the Manifesto today. In ’86, it was a well-off white guy writing about well-off white guy problems. The internet seemed to remove the culture divide, because it connected different cultures of well-off white folks; and you were not sure that the other people were white. Maybe they were well-off college aged black or asian kids, you couldn’t know unless someone spoke up. So it looked color-blind because we were still wearing blinders and not looking at the problems. I hate to use the dreaded word ‘privilege’ but it fits here too. The blinders of privilege made the internet of the 80’s look homogeneous, when it was anything but.

    And to address the illegality of the stuff discussed, and how the early grey and black hat hacker ethics “don’t apply to the makers today,” just think about the 3d printer that was confiscated for printing what the police thought was a trigger and magazine for a gun. Two parts that look just like those used in a MakerBot. The 3d printing and home machining revolution is going to kick up more of these, including trademark infringement, just like the music and movie sharing did with copyright. And geohotz and other mod-chip and copy-protection removing devices have for consoles. The list of modern hackers brushing up against laws that haven’t kept up compare very easily with mid-80’s arrests of “hackers” who were just viewing what a server with no firewall was making visible. Telnetting or ftp in to a server that had no username or password, and looking around was “criminal” at the time; now days if a company tried to say that viewing their public server in a terminal was criminal, we’d all be laughing out asses off. But the “crime” of doing something that “just looks criminal” still exists today, even in the no-criminal-intent world of printing CC licensed parts of a printer.

    • Josh Marsh says:

      I’m really floored by the number of excellent responses in the comments this week, and I’m grateful that you’ve shared your experiences (and that someone else wanted to talk about the digital divide). You’re absolutely right to bring up gender, too; when we get around to Douglas Thomas’s Hacker Culture, there will be plenty to say about boy culture.

      I hope more people read this comment and respond to it.

      • Quin says:

        It helps that, in college for a CS degree, I took a few cyber art classes with the art department. A very intelligent second/third wave feminist professor (who got me a job programming and got my code and art into a big museum opening) really made me question the roots of my computer skills. Without her, I probably would still be thinking that “I learned to code, we were not well off and I managed, so anyone could.” But she really drilled the meaning of privilege both in courses and when just chatting (and she was always hanging out after class to just chat), and made sure to skip over “privilege means guilt” which too many people get hung up on. There is a huge introspective advantage in a discussion of being able to see what I had in addition to what I lacked. If I had gotten hung up on that, I’d still be thinking that “any kid from the middle of no where with a 8 year out of date computer could still manage to code a whole OS from scratch, after all, I did it. And wrote a basic computer vision system. And , , ,” which I was saddened to see others posting here. Hence why I shared more of a story than I would normally think to (So, Dr. Simone, if you see this, then yes that “Quin”, Thank you!)

        I fear that introspection is still too often viewed as guilt-trips by people who have the privilege of being white, male, and/or well off, or anything other than the same background as a comment’s author, even if it is just introspection. As Mr. Scalzi saw and addressed in his post “straight white male: the lowest difficulty setting there is” (and the responses to it) there is a fear of the word “privilege” that is irrational and vitriolic and very defensive, so much so that I tried my best to avoid the word while still getting the points across. I had to use it eventually, there was no other word in my dictionary. You might consider that article for discussion as well (after seeing some comments here, though it’s not addressed towards the hacking/maker culture, but towards the internet in general).

        • Josh Marsh says:

          I sat staring at “privilege” after I’d typed it and wondered whether readers would infer too much negativity, but I kept it and I’m glad I did.

          Scalzi’s “Lowest Difficulty Setting” is a great read, and a really clever metaphor. I encourage people to check it out. (It’s also mildly sad..funny? that, in almost direct illustration, humans in WoW have the racial ability of “diplomacy” which makes reputation gains significantly easier, and arguably the most useful racial ability for PVP “Every Man for Himself,” but there’s not near enough room here to delve into the minefield of cultural insensitivity presented in that game, so I won’t.)

          I very selfishly want to bring more people to this conversation: like you and/or your professor, because I haven’t had the opportunity to discuss these issues as they relate to technology and hacker culture as often as I would have liked.

          • Quin says:

            When the conversation devolves into a discussion of morality, all because it’s easier to moralize and judge the author rather than the words and to couch those judgments as opinions on society or the educational system, I think the discussion is doomed. Hopefully the next article will be discussed on it’s merits, instead; but some of the opinions voiced aloud in other posts today make me hesitant.

            I’ll wait till the next one to see whether I want to recommend these articles to my former professors or friends. If I sent them today’s, my chances of continuing to get recommendations from them would probably decrease substantially.

            As for warcraft, look further back at everquest. humans somehow divided into three races, so while a human could be a mage, the better mages were ‘erudites’….black. Humans, as a race, couldn’t be black. It was as if someone thought the magical negro trope was a great idea. To use any ‘primitive magic’, they had to be a ‘barbarian’ race. There is a whole discussion waiting on ‘modern culture expressed in video game world building’, but I can’t think of a good paper about it. And I don’t think it would count for much inside the computer science field, even if I could get it published.

          • Josh Marsh says:

            RE: Quin (seems we’ve reached the limit to direct replies)

            Sadly, I’ve come across a number of tremendously uninformed dissertations that either horribly misrepresent the gameplay or exponentially inflate the avatar-promotes-diversity argument or worse, fall back onto the internet-as-utopian perspective. There are some exceptions, but I cannot recall them at the moment.

            As for sharing these articles: I completely understand (and agree). Any suggestions on how to better steer future conversations from the outset? Could I have better phrased the questions / used different ones to keep things on track?

          • Quin says:

            @Josh
            I sent this reply as an email, because I wanted to deal with specifics and didn’t want to call out anyone by name or perceived infraction when discussing how to steer the conversation. Since it seems this discussion is still on-going, I’ll post it slightly edited and expanded:

            I think (you can read that as hope) that the moralizing was due to the nature of the author. Loyd’s black hat activity made the article an easy target, add to that the on-going, out-side, real-world, non-hacker debate about religion in schools and it became too easy a target to avoid. Add in Loyd’s dislike/frustration/anger at, and with, the educational system of the 80’s, and it is a firestorm waiting to flash. Unfortunately, from experience in running guilds and forums for said in online games, it becomes very hard to limit conversation of those topics without a heavy hammer and a desire to swing it. Black hat hacking is still seen, just view the forums occasionally (and the “what posts are allowed, what is banned” agreement), as something that the hacker/make community need to avoid dealing with; either for moral, ethical, or legal reasons. Legal reasons probably weigh the most heavy on the HaD staff, but even users don’t like discussing black hat or red team type stuff; myself included.

            And I’m not sure it would help much in articles that are meant to be open discussions. If the whole conversation were moderated for wildly off-in-the-weeds posts, a lot of work, you would have avoided some pointed insight from other teachers who responded to them. Once you delve into philosophy then the personal philosophy of religion is going to pop up in someone’s mind. And that, by nature, requires bringing it up and further moralizing.

            The best I can suggest is a rule that has served my current guild well for years, and though I didn’t come up with it I don’t think the person who did will mind. “Only one rule: Be respectful.” You can extrapolate that to mean “no assigning words or thoughts to other people” and “don’t insult each other” or “don’t generalize. anecdotes are fine but if you have numbers than bring references” or anything else. I don’t know if WordPress allows locking threads to prevent replies, but a staff post of “this is too far, all replies to it will be removed” would probably just have people creating new threads to address it using the old @ notation. I think it may just be a problem that either requires a moderated live discussion, which comments and the time spread of the posts aren’t conducive to, or heavy moderation, or just accepting and picking articles that are less influenced by modern events and less likely to draw ire towards the author of the articles. Not that that will always be possible, but putting a line in the sand that says “Discussing the activities of the author as they pertain to the article and the debate is fine. Hurling insults, or presuming to know the author’s motivations, thoughts, and/or guilt are not.” might be all you can do. And then hope that the community listens. But for real discussions, very little beats live discussions; twitter don’t have the space for content, long comment threads space out replies over time, and emails or blog posts assume the audience knows each other already.

            Finally, I really can’t believe that people have forgotten that just probing an IP address and finding an open FTP or HTTP port, and visiting it, could get you a visit from the cops back in the early days. What we now consider an open internet was at the time a “presume our IP is secret, and sue anyone who finds it through public tools.” place without firewalls and without much or any authentication on even dial-up services. Then it was downloading music. Now it’s 3d printed weapons. Soon it might be 3d prints of trademarked items (like $30 dollar ‘brand named purses and sunglasses’ Oaky, Guci, Versachi, and Louwi Viton, to name a few already infringing on trademarks). Or maybe the machine shops hitting patents on, well the 1911 is out of patent but other items may not be; certain pieces of wheels or eccentric gear combos (the self reversing used gears in the pacman wall game story a few years ago, or the screw gears that all turn in the same direction) might be patented. Even DIY resin printers skirted the patents on some of the patents; close enough that the patent holders might have gotten a bit upset.

          • Analog says:

            Posting rules are a good place to start, many forums make a point to be clear that religion and politics are to be kept out of their forums to avoid the heated flamewars such topics often cause. I do like that you’d rather redirect a conversation than swing a ban-hammer, but at the same time- there’s a point at which you simply have to start removing/moderating posts.

  16. nuizvini says:

    A bit offtop about “hacking-as-illegal or the hacker/maker”. Use of the same tools and knowledges with the different purposes. Sometimes – opposite.

    Captain Obvious will file a lawsuit against me for a copyright.

    • Quin says:

      Not off topic at all. I’ve used black hat tools to fuzz my own websites looking for flaws in the php that may lead to SQLi or XSS problems. Same tool, different purpose. Or the good guys finding problems in pacemakers that bad guys could use to change the unsecured settings on wireless update-able medical devices. Scary stuff, but the device makers need to know the flaws before someone dies from it.

      A hammer can hit a nail, or kill a zombie, or hurt/kill a person. One tool, a range of options.

  17. Atomic says:

    I have responded to many peoples comments regarding the failings of the educational system in regard to how it treats students that exceed the limitations of the system.

    However I have my own thoughts on the Mentors Manifesto.

    Basically he was angry. He didn’t feel entitlement. He felt betrayed not in the way that someone is annoyed or cross about something. He felt a long standing sense of betrayal. I would assume he likely first felt betrayed by his parents after he started exhibiting the ability to understand concepts that they found challenging and for him were basic. His parents

    Next still seeking a person or establishment to help him understand the world he finds himself betrayed by the gross indifference of an flawed educational system that only rewards the gifted who know things without being taught.

    Then he finds a refuge. A place where he can learn. No-one can tell him that he cant learn. A place where his limitations are his own.

    Then he finds himself again betrayed, but this time he perceives the betrayal committed by society as a whole when laws are created to make his intellectual refuge illegal. People whose previous indifference to the needs of his existence was barely tolerable were suddenly, active persecuting him for activities that were suddenly and arbitrarily declared crimes.

    What I take from this is that the only things I should expect from my government and government institutions are corruption and betrayal. I am willing to be pleasantly surprised when it doesn’t happen but I shouldn’t be shocked when it does.

    As a hacker or maker I don’t see the problems the educational system his with gifted students as a problem that can’t be solved. I do see it as a problem that simply cant be solved by the educational system run by the government.

    The easy fix is for hackerspaces to have classes for middle school and high school age students. There are plenty of hackerspaces with members that are university and grad students with technical backgrounds that can offer a learning environment beyond what parents and schools can provide.

    The Mentors Manifesto does infer one thing that should be taken seriously. Once he was given the opportunity to learn things that interested him he required no syllabus or curriculum. All he required was an interesting educational challenge and no one to stand in his way.

    • Spot on, other than the parents bit. I was only mad that them for moving me out of Austin to a much-less-cool small town. My Dad is a brilliant man who instilled a lifelong love of books and learning in me; my Mom was an artist who built a darkroom in our bathroom and taught me photography skills that led to a newspaper reporting/photography gig at 15, and so on.

      We were comfortably middle class, but by no means upper. They sacrificed a lot to get me that first computer because they knew how much I was into them.

      • Damn you lack of edit button. I should have said Mom “is”. As of this morning, she was still kicking…

      • Dan says:

        Spot on?

        Except your refuge of learning wasn’t illegal. Nobody made gaining knowledge illegal (until recently*)
        What you did with your learned knowledge was illegal, and that’s why you were arrested.
        Still saying nearly 30 years later that you felt betrayed by the state that they made your fun illegal?

        Pretty much what I said earlier, Josh’s analysis is wrong, you broke the law you didn’t take responsibility for it then and you still don’t now instead blaming your lack of respect for the property of others on the school system and teachers?

        *i can’t think of a time when you could get arrested. For obtaining a book, but just try** downloading a terrorist manual now.
        **don’t actually try.

        • Spot on that it was written from a place of anger, rather than a sense of entitlement.

        • Analog says:

          @Dan
          “i can’t think of a time when you could get arrested. For obtaining a book,”
          As I recall, there was a time people were put on a watch-list for obtaining copies of the anarchist’s cookbook, and rumor has it subscribing to a publication called High Times had a similar watch list also run by one more three-letter agencies. This was a decade or two ago though. While it’s not quite being arrested for obtaining a book- it’s still very disturbing.

          @Loyd
          While for the most part I agree with Dan, the fact that many of the feelings expressed still resonate with people nearly two and a half decades later is both astounding and saddening. If you don’t mind me asking, how have your views changed- if at all- in the time since you initially wrote the manifesto, aside of course- from the education system still desperately needing change- which I think most of us can still agree with.

          • Loyd Blankenship says:

            I think every word of it is still true today, except maybe the annoyingly alliterative “beauty of the baud” bit.

            “Views,” however, covers a wide range of sins. The fifty year old me has, at best, a 20% overlap in opinions shared with the twenty year old me. Thirty years of life will do that to you…

            Is there a specific thing you’re curious about? I’m always interested to see what viewpoint of mine folks extrapolate from it. I wish I still had a copy, a guy at Brown did a textual analysis of it from a race, class and gender viewpoint (similar to the arguments of privilege above) for an English class. I agreed with most things he got out of it, but there were a couple that surprised me. Sometimes a cigar is a cigar…

          • Dan says:

            Really? Because I got that book, and it’s never hampered me doing anything. Never stopped me getting any job requiring security clearance.

            It’s never stopped friends I have working at gchq, and it’s never stopped the progression of my family in either the uk not us military.
            That whole scare about downloading the terrorists handbook, and the anarchists cookbook etc was pretty much an overhyped lie.

            If you’d ever read it you’d understand why, it’s mostly full of silly ideas derived from some basic principal that ignored reality!

            Anyway, a watch list isn’t the same as being arrested.

  18. Pusalieth says:

    My opinion on why education is terrible in the US,

    1. No room to fail, everything in life operates on a inverse curve, so the amount of degree to which you can fail, in equally proportional to the amount at which you can succeed. Teachers aren’t allowed to be fired, kids aren’t allowed to drop out, people aren’t allowed to starve, all of these things reinforce us to rely on energy expended for energy received, barely expend any energy and keep receiving everything needed. There is no motivation other than personal motivation for success, which is why hackers and makers are the sub-culture on the rise for success.

    2. Point 1 leads to point 2, Socialization of Success, When you set a standardized bar, this bar must be set based off of deterministic factors believe to be the correct choice of lowest acceptable standards. This leads to universalization of achievement, no longer is success personal, unique or dynamic, but rather a repeatable, robotic process executed by the system design. But ultimately the determination of future values/standards of choice for the individual, steals the individuals right to succeed.

    3. Point 2 leads to point 3, Morality, when the concept of morality is believed to be determinable, a state of nihilism is inevitable, you cannot prove in any way, right/wrong with mere natural finite standards, eternal, and universal standards only apply. So if you say the best things is put black kids here, or asian kids here, or smart kids here, blah blah blah, when in reality your determining judgment of morality, not achievement. Achievement is natural and humanistic therefore is deterministic and quantifiable. Every person is born with the same ability to make moral choices, but no one is born the same for achievement, operating on that assumption is wrong.

    Solution,

    Allow everyone to fail, without the ability to fail, there can be no growth, no positive change, nothing to stimulate success. Information is taught with morals, education is taught with humility, to many times the person with Ph. D can be as foolish, naive, and ignorant as a man flipping burgers at McDonald’s, but this fact is so important it must not be ignored but excepted and embraced, “Everyone is born with the same flaws.” It is those that realize them, accept them, and cope with them that have the true success, and advantage in life. When teachers are held accountable for they’re stated claim of what “they” say they can teach, and students are held accountable for the actions they take, and parents are held accountable for the ethically and morally wrong decisions they make, will there be true success. Yet remember, we all have the same flaws, perfection is not when things work perfectly, only perfection is the acceptance of failure, and the willingness to fix it.

    • Atomic says:

      You have somehow simultaneously over-thought and under-thought your points and their logical progression.

      Reading, Composition, Logic, and Maths are basic skills like using a fork or not crapping ones underpants. These are the BASIC building blocks that everyone should have forced down their throat. But these should not be confused with achievement. The flaws in the system have nothing to do with allowing everyone to fail. Once a student builds these skills they should be given the CHOICE of FAILing to learn anything new, or the choice to learn more advanced skills and abilities. The systematic flaw is a lack of CHOICE.

      The point of standardized education is to provide everyone with basic skills required to function within society. We confuse those basic skills with achievement. Not crapping ones pants is the societal standard but I doubt anyone between the age of 10 and 80 will claim its an achievement. The massive glaring flaw is that it fails to allow any student more talented to more beyond those still trying to understand the basics. It also fails to engage those with greater interest in a specific area. Students that want to learn more are not allowed. Students with greater vocational interest are lumped in with those who have greater academic interest. Students with greater academic interest are lumped in with those whose interests are vocational.

      Some districts in factory towns assume that all student educations need to be centered around a vocational because of the existence of the town is largely centered around some industry. Schools in some urban centres offer zero vocational options.

      Again I’ll restate that the massive glaring flaw is the a lack of choice.

      The solution is for the maker/hacker movement to offer students the ability to circumvent the overly reiterated defects in the education system.

      I would propose cities with Hackerspaces create a forums or wiki’s where people with knowledge can declare their area’s of knowledge and students with interest can declare their interests. In area’s where the two intersect a projects or learning experiments can be organized and interested parties can learn with guidance and supervision. Its like opensource learning.

      No child left behind is great. But it only addresses the problem of too many students not enough teachers.

      What is needed is “No gifted child’s mind left idle.” .

  19. Dianne Ravitch’s _The Life and Death of the Great American School System_ and Linda McNeil’s _ Contradictions of Scohol reform: Education Costs of Standardized Testing_ are both worth reading if you want an overview of some of the problems that have been legislated into schools.

    • einball says:

      Loyd .. Thank you! Although many have thanked you, I’ll do that to relieve myself right now ;)

      The manifesto you wrote led to tears the first time I read it. That was when I was 13 or 14 .. I can’t remember exactly. I’ve nor been arrested and I’m neither a “bad hacker”. But the fact that it applied to my situation in school back then just left me sitting there, speechless and kinda crying. I hate to see pupils and students forced to crawl when they could walk and jump.

      I’m always glad if it comes to helping others and I’m able to do so. Authorities can’t or don’t want to help, so we have to help each other.

      Finishing this comment with “Afterall we’re all alike” seems a bit odd, so I’ll just say “Thank you” one more time :)

  20. ExpectroRed says:

    Without the past, there is no present, no future no action of this! The manifesto is a bridge from the past that reflects this, if we do not learn from it, we will not know what is to be hacker.

    • dynamodan says:

      @Josh wrote: “In this week’s comments, let me know which of the above books you want to tackle next ”

      I’m looking forward to the discussion of the jargon file. As a software developer I’ve found it very amusing and in some ways inspiring. ANSI-standard pizza, yeah! I only know about the online version i.e. at catb, but I’ll see how I can get my hands on the print version you mentioned.

      • Analog says:

        I’ll second this one, the Jargon file has always been a source of ‘infotainment’, though making a discussion of it may be a little difficult.
        As a note: in addition to catb- jargondb.org and jargon-file.org are also useful.

      • Josh Marsh says:

        I’m late to reply (and I apologize) : I hadn’t settled on which Jargon file source was the best to consult (I think I talked about that somewhere in the first H&P article) and therefore jumped to Hacker Crackdown. Let me know which one we should be using, or if we can get away with referring to it occasionally.

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