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Good Bad Attitude 653

teidou writes "Paul Graham has posted a new essay titled 'Good Bad Attitude' talking about the hacker attitude toward rules and government regulation of Intellectual Property. Choice quote: "(Hackers) can sense totalitarianism approaching from a distance, as animals can sense an approaching thunderstorm.""
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Good Bad Attitude

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  • Except... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @08:00PM (#10571258)
    The (hackers), in most cases, cannot avoid the coming "storm."
    • by turnstyle ( 588788 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @08:37PM (#10571475) Homepage
      It's also interesting to observe some of the differences between old-school hackers and new-school hackers.

      I'd say that, generally, old-school hackers are more respectful of intellectual property than new-school hackers. (yes, that was a generality)

      For example, most grey-beards that I know don't really favor the idea of p2p being used to share files against the wishes of the author.

      • by networkBoy ( 774728 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @08:53PM (#10571557) Journal
        I'd add to that:
        Grey-beards and those who are gainfully employed in the non-IT segment of high tech.

        I work with a couple of fellow hackers and we always get miffed with our co-workers wo e-mule this and kazza that . . .
        I'm only 28 and yet I find myself in a position which is very conservative when compared to my peers.
        On the IT note, I don't know quite why it is but those who are in IT positions vs. those like myself who may perform the occasional IT function as part of a larger job scope tend to have remarkably different attitudes. . . good or bad I don't know, but different, yes.

        -nB
        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @10:13PM (#10572097)
          The distinction seems fairly clear to me.

          IT folks are consumers of software. Fairly empowered consumers, but still consumers at heart. Whereas the guys with the "larger job scope" are likely to be, at some level or another, producers as well.

          Stealing software suddenly seems alot less cool when it might be your software that's being stolen.
        • by harikiri ( 211017 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @10:29PM (#10572187)
          I have several workmates who are heavily into downloading movies via bittorrent and morpheus. They also ask to borrow my DVD's so they can burn themselves copies.

          I used to share their mindset, but that was when I couldn't afford to purchase those items on my own. Now I can, and it's simply more convenient to purchase a DVD than it is to wait a day or so for it to download via bittorrent, while maxxing my cable connection and being unable to do much else.

          The only exception to this is when something is unavailable and doesn't appear likely to become available for a while. An example is Ghost in the Shell 2. I haven't seen any announcements for its cinematic (let alone DVD) release in Australia, so I willingly grabbed it off a friend. However, as soon as it comes out in Australia on DVD, I will be buying a copy.

          People who willingly pirate for the sake of it, not because they can't afford it, are the epitome of leeches.
          • Exactly (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Mark_MF-WN ( 678030 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2004 @05:09AM (#10573773)
            You hit the nail on the head there. I remember the last time I was able to work, I purchased quite a number of albums, and more than a few video games.

            When I'm a student, or too sick to do anything, I certainly can't afford to buy DVDs or CDs. I still buy the odd used game, but $10 for a game that will provide twenty to fifty hours of entertainment is within ANY budget.

            But whenever I have dinner with my aunt and uncle, he regales me with stories of all the free software he downloads. It kind of disgusts me since he can obviously afford to purchase it legit. I switched to Linux precisely to get away from having to pirate software. I always encourage people to switch, so that they can benefit from truly a free operating system and office suite. I've gotten quite a few people to switch to OpenOffice.

          • It's more greed than anything else. I doubt it has anything to do with a hacker's mindset. I mean there are people who have literally weeks of music on their computer, I garantee it that they haven't listen to everything they own. They just pirate for the sake of having it. I recently ripped all my CDs to my computer and realized that I have over a week worth of music. I have listened to every single one of these records at least a dozen of times. That's the difference, when you pay for something you gene
          • "An example is Ghost in the Shell 2. I haven't seen any announcements for its cinematic (let alone DVD) release in Australia,",

            Region 1 DVD Release: Dec 28, 2004. Source: Main page of AnimeOnDVD [animeondvd.com]. It was announced a couple of days ago. Though I do agree that there has been no Australian release date set.

      • Well, I'm one of the younger generations of hackers, but I have thought KaZaA to be amoral from the first time I saw it. I admit that not all people my age agree with me, but don't put us all in boxes that say "for illegal p2p" and "against illegal p2p" by age.
        • by ArbitraryConstant ( 763964 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @11:28PM (#10572501) Homepage
          There's a distinction here no one else seems to see.

          I think the actual use of P2P software to upload or download files might be unethical, but the phenomenon of file sharing in general is nothing more and nothing less than the invisible hand attempting to correct the price of the media being distributed. It's no more unethical than the phenomenon of male Lions killing cubs when they take over a pride. It might be nasty when each individual does it, but the practice has helped Lions survive as a species.

          The simple fact is that the market is hardwired into humans. Trade is in our nature. We may argue with actions people take, but there's very little that can be done to stop anything completely. We can no more stop file sharing than we can the drug trade or prostitution. There's demand, there's supply, the market takes care of the rest whether we like it or not.

          The problem with those trying to stop it is that they're fighting human nature. Human nature won't change. It's not that the **AA is wrong (or at least, exclusively wrong), it's that their goal is not achievable. They will either continue to fight, capitulate, or compromise. My money's on compromise, but no bets on when.

          The price of the media in question is higher than the market is willing to bear. I'm not saying it is or is not a fair price, only that it's higher than people are willing to pay. As a result, there were a lot of people that wanted the media but didn't want to pay for it. To the tune of several times the total volume of legitimate sales.

          Napster was growing 15% a day for several months. And I've got news for you, Napster sucked. That just doesn't happen unless there's a huge unmet demand.

          It's the **AA's fault for ignoring the market. While I might consider the actions of the file traders themselves to be unethical, I recognize that they're following human nature.
      • by eric.t.f.bat ( 102290 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @09:32PM (#10571826)
        It's not so much the greyness of the beards; the real reason, I think, is that the older hackers have had more time to produce something they want to protect, so they care more about the idea of protection. It doesn't have to mean conventional copyright, tho. Me, I write songs and poetry; I'm happy to let people read and perform them if they wish, but they need to credit me as the author. I don't charge for the privilege, but if you take my stuff without even "paying" me in that simple way, then you're dishonourable and you deserve a thumping. If I create something of value, I expect to have the right to say how it's used. It's not fascism, it's just simple courtesy. No amount of argument will convince me that you have more right than me to decide how my work is used!
      • by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @11:20PM (#10572444) Homepage
        I think I'd say that, generally, old-school hackers are more respectful of intellectual property than new-school hackers. For example, most grey-beards that I know don't really favor the idea of p2p being used to share files against the wishes of the author.
        I think what you're seeing is the way a person changes with age. If you go back 20 or 30 years, those same grey-beards might have had different attitudes.

        Consider the picture at the top of Graham's essay. It shows two guys who are now grey-bearded hackers (Jobs and Wozniak) messing with a blue box (a device for making free phone calls, illegally).

        When I was a college student in the 80's, I routinely taped my roommates' albums if I liked them. Now I'm older, I have a real job, and I can afford to buy my music, so naturally I disapprove of my students when they trade MP3's :-)

        There's also something about having kids that makes you become a lot more cautious...

        If you control for age, I think there might be a trend in the opposite direction of what you're suggesting, toward radicalism. The open-source movement has caused some hackers to reconsider some of the basic institutions of our society (like property laws), and organize to resist them. Hacking as a critique of society didn't even exist 20 years ago.

    • Re:Except... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SYFer ( 617415 )
      I'm not so sure I accept the premise at all (although you did say "in most cases"). I'd even suggest that the zeal, determination and industriousness of the hacker community is directly proportional to the magnitude of the "storm."

      Hackers have many advantages over the animals. They have linksys routers running open source, they have thumb drives, they have coding skills. Even if a new dark ages were to come, there still would be guys using old TiVos, discarded mobile phone LCD screens and coat hangers t
  • by angedinoir ( 699322 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @08:00PM (#10571260)
    Hmm, batman, my spider sense must be out of whack. I thought it was an oligarchy approaching.
    • by xsupergr0verx ( 758121 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @08:20PM (#10571376)
      Yeah, I can smell hackers coming out of the way, but my senses are nothing special.
      • Re:Spider Sense (Score:4, Insightful)

        by javaman235 ( 461502 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @08:52PM (#10571551) Homepage
        Ha! stereotypes. Some of us actually do bathe, amongst other unexpected things. From the article:

        Hacking predates computers. When he was working on the Manhattan Project, Richard Feynman used to amuse himself by breaking into safes containing secret documents.


        I love the recognition here that hacking is a bigger thing than computers and geeks, its all about aquiring knowledge.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @08:01PM (#10571266)
    Hackers are as likely to be wrong as they are to be right. In their case it isn't an accute sense, but chronic pessimism.
    • pessimism doesn't exist. people who are labeled pessimistic simply know they way the world works and tell others about it.

      • by el-spectre ( 668104 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @08:24PM (#10571409) Journal
        An observation: People often resort to 'reality' when they don't have a better argument.

        This isn't an attack on you by any means, just something I've noticed in most people. When they are beaten in a debate, or the issue is not provable (see religions / politics / whatever) they fall back to:

        "Sure, but the truth is...X"
        "Yeah, but in the REAL world, X"
        "You have to admit X"

        Where X is their (unproved) position. Interesting.

        Alternately, they fall back to arguing 'common sense', which is extremely subjective, despite an OBJECTIVE name.

        People are odd :)
    • This is my response to your claim that it is chronic pessimisim:
      "The skill of accurate perception is called cynicism by those who don't posses it" - Alan Millar
    • by BiggerIsBetter ( 682164 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @08:19PM (#10571372)
      I'm not so sure about that.

      I'm a hacker, and I'm a little idealistic and somewhat optimistic. But I'm also rather good at seeing structures, and getting a feel for emerging patterns. That's a large part of what hacking is about.

      If the patterns (in this case government and corporate policy changes and actions) are negative despite what I'm being told via the media, I notice. Just like many people didn't when the whole Nazi thing was going on in the beginning.
      • by SwellJoe ( 100612 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @09:36PM (#10571860) Homepage
        I'm a hacker...

        ...Just like many people didn't when the whole Nazi thing was going on in the beginning.


        Hacker's know Godwin's Law [wikipedia.org].

      • by QuantumFTL ( 197300 ) <justin,wick&gmail,com> on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @10:11PM (#10572087)
        I'm a hacker, and I'm a little idealistic and somewhat optimistic. But I'm also rather good at seeing structures, and getting a feel for emerging patterns. That's a large part of what hacking is about.

        That's exactly the problem, though - humans are so good at detecting patterns that we often detect patterns when they don't exist. The need to rationalize the often irrational world around us is one of the reasons that I feel that a lot of otherwise intelligent people tend to gather at the conspiracy/tinfoil hat fringe - because to them it's better to have an explaination (even a scary one) than to feel that they can't understand all of the crazy stuff going on around them. Random sequences often don't look random, and with the sheer number of events happenning in the world every day, strange coincidences are to be expected. And hey, isn't it nice to have something/one ("the Man"/Ashcroft/whatever) to blame for the woes of society?

        I'm not saying that there isn't trouble brewing or that hackers aren't necessarily better at seeing this than others, its just like all the hackers that predicted the death of the internet for the last few decades... They saw change and picked up a pattern that turned out not to be there.

        I'm a little concerned by the attitude on slashdot that the sky is falling when in reality, we're dealing with the same kinds of political problems we've always had - presidents being elected without a popular majority and decided by someone other than the people (1824 election), our rights being eroded/Patriot act (Sedition Act, McCarthyism during Red Scare), and a general distrust of politicians (even our founding fathers distrusted politicians!) I really don't think any of this is new, or that we're doomed. This country has had our dark moments and our bright ones, but has survived many things and will continue to survive. Maybe it will not be the same, but this "slippery slope" falicy that so many people call upon when they look at the compramises that are made in our name will not be our end. As long as we're alive, there's hope that things will get better, and there is always something we can do, even if it's small, to make the world a better place.

        Now, of course that might be just a bit optimistic on my part, but I feel that those who have power tend to want to keep things nice and stable so they can keep it, and part of that means keeping the masses happy, so we're probably OK.

        Cheers,
        Justin
        • by TTK Ciar ( 698795 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2004 @02:05AM (#10573252) Homepage Journal

          Maybe it will not be the same, but this "slippery slope" falicy that so many people call upon when they look at the compramises that are made in our name will not be our end. As long as we're alive, there's hope that things will get better, and there is always something we can do, even if it's small, to make the world a better place.

          I think you've put your finger right on it. If we value freedom, if we love liberty, then every year should see more freedoms, less restriction on our liberty, than every year preceeding it. There is far too much oppression in our society as it is. We aren't on a "slippery slope", we're already here! The situation is intolerable right now, and has been for some time!

          And yet we are regressing! Despite our hopes for improvement, life in America is worse than it was last year, and worse still than the year before that! Compromises? That is putting all too pleasant a face on the degeneration that has afflicted our lives. The politicians are leading us to hell by our noses, and all we do is try to be polite about it.

          The best thing we can do to make the world a better place is strike their hand from our face, turn around, and walk the other way into a better future.

          -- TTK

  • by BizidyDizidy ( 689383 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @08:03PM (#10571271)
    totalitariansim coming a mile away"

    Is it just me or is this one of the more ridiculous sounding things you've heard in a while? Let's see what other deep sounding vacuous statements we can come up with:

    There is no group with such an ability for singleminded devotion to the pursuit of universal betterance than the New York Cab Drivers association.

    More than any other group formed since the first descent of man from the trees, Sanitation Engineers are able to ensure the future of democracy in our nation.

    I bet I have more support for either of these than he's got for his hackers. Too bad there's no taxidot.org or cleandot.org so I could get an article posted too.
    • Quite possibly the most saintly of any human organization, the members of the National Chimney Sweeps of America have defended our nation and its democratic heritage from the evil denizens of corrupt political machinery.

      American taxidermists have always championed feminist principles, often protecting innocent would-be victims of alley rape with their uncanny intuitive abilities and superhuman strength.

    • It's You (Score:5, Interesting)

      by serutan ( 259622 ) <(snoopdoug) (at) (geekazon.com)> on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @08:38PM (#10571483) Homepage
      Is it just me or is this one of the more ridiculous sounding things you've heard in a while?

      It's you. I thought the thunderstorm was a nice metaphor. Here's another good line:

      "A society in which people can do and say what they want will also tend to be one in which the most efficient solutions win, rather than those sponsored by the most influential people."

      But here in the Rush Limbaugh era, we place as much value on making fun of something as on making an actual point. Oh well, too bad for us.
      • Re:It's You (Score:3, Insightful)

        It's not just him. While the thunderstorm might be a nice metaphor, the false granting of some superior political/social sense to a bunch of kiddies who can't seem to relate in any meaningful way with other humans is the part that was stretched beyond believablility.

        • Re:It's You (Score:3, Interesting)

          by NichG ( 62224 )
          Well, I could justify that with other analogies, but it wouldn't really be a good argument.

          Instead, I'll propose that perhaps what happens is that people who interact meaningfully with humans come to equilibrium with the rest of society much more quickly. So if there's some process by which people are being made to believe that certain infractions of their rights are okay, or even desireable, people who interact strongly with society will be more susceptible to picking up the same reasoning than people who
      • by mekkab ( 133181 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @10:29PM (#10572189) Homepage Journal
        "A society in which people can do and say what they want will also tend to be one in which the most efficient solutions win, rather than those sponsored by the most influential people."


        You are so dead in third period dodge ball, nerd!
    • by el-spectre ( 668104 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @08:38PM (#10571486) Journal
      Can't agree with ya on this one. The fact that hackers come from so many different countries / economies / beliefs tends to instill in them a respect for freedom (of speech, thought, etc). As a group, we're probably much more alert to challenges to that freedom.

      To be fair, however... we're also much more aware of whether Han shot first...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @08:03PM (#10571275)
    self congratulatory bullshit.
  • 6th sense (Score:3, Insightful)

    by amichalo ( 132545 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @08:04PM (#10571277)
    Choice quote: "(Hackers) can sense totalitarianism approaching from a distance, as animals can sense an approaching thunderstorm."

    I sense an approaching bad essay [paulgraham.com].
  • by Cryofan ( 194126 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @08:05PM (#10571283) Journal
    Too bad that so many hackers understand well all about how to use tools (e.g., computers), but do not understand how to use the government as a tool for themselves and other ordinary people just like themselves. Instead, many hackers reject government totally. That attitude is akin to Luddism. Government is a tool that can be hacked to work for you, just as a computer can be hacked to work for you.

    One problem is that young people seem to think that the wealth and the power is on THEIR side. They seem not to see that the the upper 10% of America owns most of the wealth.
    • by NardofDoom ( 821951 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @08:22PM (#10571396)
      If voting worked it would be illegal.
    • by billbaggins ( 156118 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @08:25PM (#10571411)
      Government is a tool that can be hacked to work for you, just as a computer can be hacked to work for you.
      There's just one problem with your analogy - I hack my computer to make it work for me, but most other people would find it more or less unusable. That's fine, because they have their own computers. A government, we have to share. And we don't have root on it. So while we're trying, in our small ways, to hack the gov't to do X, other people are working, oftentimes much harder, to make it do not-X.

      Which is not to say that we shouldn't try to make it better, because we should. Just that it's going to be many many orders of magnitude harder to get anything useful accomplished.

      • >A government, we have to share. And we don't have root on it. So while we're trying, in our small ways, to hack the gov't to do X, other people are working, oftentimes much harder, to make it do not-X.

        Great! So now you've defined what to hack and its unique problems. Sort of like getting your PC and its strange sound card to work with Linux AND have it dual boot so other members of your family can use it too.

        Nothing you have pointed out makes it impossible to hack. Is it hard to hack? Sure, but no
    • by the_meager ( 686660 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @08:26PM (#10571420)
      You completely neglected to mention the FACT that the wealthy use government to deter competition and maintain their control.

      Limited government and free markets undermine that entire system.

      (And seriously... if you're going to say that we should use tools to get back at the wealthy, why stop at government? Why not expand into physical coercion with guns, like government seems to?)
      • You finally said something that had an inkling of truth to it!

        you wrote:

        You completely neglected to mention the FACT that the wealthy use government to deter competition and maintain their control.


        I COMPLETELY AGREE! At least that is the case here in America. And that tactic has a LOOOONNNGGG history!

        Now go over to Sweden, Finland, Norway, or Denmark (or study them over the Net), and tell me if you think that also applies to the same degee with those countries...


        Limited government and free markets
    • by metlin ( 258108 ) * on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @08:27PM (#10571424) Journal
      In several ways, perhaps it is not that bad a thing after all - there needs to be a mix of both the kinds - hacker and non-hacker.

      The problem with the intellectual elite is just that - they are the intellectual elite. Often times, smart solutions on paper is not the same as applying them in the real world - socialism/communism is a classic example of this.

      You can see this at work in real life, when you notice that geeks make bad business men. True, some of what the businesses needs is some amount of bullshitting capability, but that's not always true - it's not enough if you can just code up a smart hack. You need to be able to market it and sell it, if you want to be able to sell it to the _layman_. Hackers miss that vital element - they are almost quite incapable of thinking like the common man.

      The common man does not care about the things that hackers care about, his needs are simpler - get the food on the table, buy the new SUV and get a holiday week off to some tropical island.

      The problem is that the other side (corporate/government) is extremely anti-liberal, while hackers are most often extremely liberal. Both of these are bad, and a balance needs to be stuck.

      We need that - a balance between the two. But entire control of America under hackers may not be a good idea.
    • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) * on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @08:36PM (#10571472)
      People who hack the government are called Lawyers. Think about it, Lawyers do the same things that hackers do but use the rigidness or the openness of laws to get what they want done.
      Ex.
      If person has signed paperwork then it is legally binding. So if there is a contract with general information and small print or using uncommon vocabulary and the person signs it they are still legally contracted. So the rigidity of that law allows the lawyers to hack the system and scam people and government to do things that are not nessarly right.

      Or if there is a law that is vague. Lets say a zoning law about that says your house needs to be in good repair. So if there is a house that could be borderline the lawyer could push the case any way he needs it to be done.

      Lawyers generally hack the laws to get things done for their clients most of the time they do it to help out the people in the community but there are a lot of them who use the laws beyond their intent.

  • by potus98 ( 741836 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @08:05PM (#10571284) Journal

    "(Hackers) can sense totalitarianism approaching from a distance, as animals can sense an approaching thunderstorm.""

    I think it's less sixth sense and more the fact that some people just pay attention instead of shuffling around in a fog all day looking at their feet while they stroll (or follow other lemmings) right off the proverbial cliff.

  • Evidence (Score:4, Funny)

    by NardofDoom ( 821951 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @08:06PM (#10571290)
    That girl in Jurassic Park was a hacker, and she was always the first to freak out about an approaching dinosaur.

    "This is a despotic system. I know this."

  • by MyLongNickName ( 822545 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @08:06PM (#10571292) Journal
    The author argues that the amunt of civil liberties afforded to the population is proportional to GNP. He may be right. However, it can also be argues that the amount of protection of the individual's right to personal property (intellectual and physical) is also proportional. While the article was well written, we need to keep both halves of the equation balanced. If either of the two sides gets out of whack, they both come tumbling down.
    • However, it can also be argues that the amount of protection of the individual's right to personal property (intellectual and physical) is also proportional

      You're working on the assumption that intellectual "property" (copyright and patnet monopolies) are a property right. That's like saying slavey was a property right - no it wasn't! It was a form of controll over other people, and so is this.

      Just because a bunch of people scream very loudly that something is a right doesn't mean that it is. Just b

  • ... when a server can sense a Slashdoting approaching from over 4 hops away.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @08:09PM (#10571307)
    "Why everything I write gets posted on Slashdot"
  • by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @08:09PM (#10571315)
    This showed up at the bottom of the page while reading this thread...

    We question most of the mantras around here periodically, in case you hadn't noticed. :-) -- Larry Wall in

    I think that sums this one up.
  • by Jay9333 ( 749797 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @08:10PM (#10571323)
    Another quote, "...Authoritarian countries become corrupt; corrupt countries become poor; and poor countries are weak."

    True... but the fact is the animals (in the headlined quote from story) are much more keen and aware then many "hackers" out there. The problem is that many people posing as hackers are really just cheap and are trying to deprive legitimate and earnest copyright holders of the money due them. Hack all you damn want, just don't break copyright or patent law, that's what I say.

    This country has been so innovative because of its encouragement through patents and copyright law. I'm not saying our patent system doesn't need reform... it most certainly does. But I'm tired of people who want to throw the baby out with the bathwater... who actually are just cheap bastards in disguise.

    jay
  • by slimyrubber ( 791109 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @08:11PM (#10571331)
    someone who can make a computer do what he wants-- whether the computer wants to or not.
    I'hv had it with you, you dumb box. Get me a girl friend and a bottle of beer, right now! i comM@nD j00!!!
  • by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) ( 613870 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @08:11PM (#10571333) Journal
    ...but it seems to me that hackers like to fantasize that somehow they are on the forefront of the battle to defend people's rights. I guess it's not just hackers, any group likes to think that what they do is more important than just the tiny niche they have influence over. But it's particularly entertaining reading the post hoc rationalizations that are made by hackers.

    I've cracked copy protection and digital rights management code a few times in my life. I did it because it was an interesting challenge for a few days (though it's rarely been much of an intellectual challenge, more mindless stepping through routines with a debugger). I don't pontificate about how I'm helping to preserve the freedom of people everywhere.

  • Choice quote? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @08:21PM (#10571385) Homepage Journal
    "(Hackers) can sense totalitarianism approaching from a distance, as animals can sense an approaching thunderstorm."

    Perhaps that should be:

    "Hackers can cause totalitarianism to approach from a distance, as a protective father approaches when a juvenile delinquent ventures a hand under a daughter's dress."

    In other words, if the less-than-clever members of the population would refrain from stealing, no one would be copy protecting anything. Copy protection costs money, time and must constantly be reworked to have any effect upon the bottom line. The only reason that publishers of stuff bother with it is because they are trying to keep the intellectual rights they have loosed within the bounds they defined for that loosing in the face of a society that, by and large, winks at the thieves that bedevil them.

    There's nothing honorable about being a hacker in the "I will invade your stuff for whatever reason" sense of the word. Speaking as a hacker in the "I am curious about everything but I completely respect the limits you put on your property" sense of the word.

    Personally, I blame the parents.

    • Eeewwww (Score:4, Insightful)

      by poptones ( 653660 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @09:16PM (#10571694) Journal
      "Hackers can cause totalitarianism to approach from a distance, as a protective father approaches when a juvenile delinquent ventures a hand under a daughter's dress."

      Dude... a daughter's dress? In a discussion of IP matters? Nice to see you're one of those illuminated parents who doesn't consider one's feminine children property... or, uh, anything like that.

      • Re:Eeewwww (Score:3, Funny)

        by fyngyrz ( 762201 )
        Apparently, you don't understand the concept of "guardian."

        That's just fine. However, stay away from my daughter. I mean it.

    • by MacDork ( 560499 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @09:24PM (#10571763) Journal

      Personally, I blame the parents.

      Personally, I blame 100+ year copyrights and a system that made silence into private property in 1952.

  • Dumb ass metaphor (Score:2, Informative)

    by Lord Kano ( 13027 )
    (Hackers) can sense totalitarianism approaching from a distance, as animals can sense an approaching thunderstorm.

    People can sense approaching thunderstorms too, all you have to do is look around. Watch the leaves on trees. Smell the air. If that fails, look for dark clouds in the sky.

    LK
  • Choice quote? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by porkchop_d_clown ( 39923 ) <mwheinz@@@me...com> on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @08:26PM (#10571421) Homepage
    "(Hackers) can sense totalitarianism approaching from a distance, as animals can sense an approaching thunderstorm."

    that's more apt than you realize. After all, how many times have I gone jogging down the forest trail and seen every small furry critter flee in a blind panic because I happened to pass near by.

    In other words - for every time a rabbit correctly "senses danger" they over-react to 99 completely benign events.
    • Re:Choice quote? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by euxneks ( 516538 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @08:50PM (#10571540)
      That keeps them alive, doesn't it?

      If you think about it, a rabbit is quite an apt analogy... They may overreact to a lot of things, but that prevents them from getting dinged from some of the real threats.
    • Re:Choice quote? (Score:3, Insightful)

      "After all, how many times have I gone jogging down the forest trail and seen every small furry critter flee in a blind panic because I happened to pass near by."

      Well, if you there was some race of creatures that were ten times bigger than humans that would occasionally eat one of our kind then wouldn't you flee in a blind panic if they happened by?

  • by crawdaddy ( 344241 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @08:35PM (#10571458)
    I don't know about the rest of you guys, but I started crying out like an animal sensing a thunderstorm shortly after November 2000.
  • by gustgr ( 695173 ) <rondina AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @08:52PM (#10571554) Homepage
    There are some intelligent and smart quotes in this essay, but I wouldn't say it is really good. The main reason it is too US centred. This article gives us the impression that all greatest hackers (or even most of brilliant minds) are from US and always will be.
    • by argoff ( 142580 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @11:11PM (#10572401)

      In all fairness, the US is like the last frontier.

      As a US citizen, I can't stand how intrusive our government is with civil liberties and with taxes, and especially frivolous tickets and things like zoneing and sue-happyness .... but I've studied the stats of countries all over the world, and the simple truth is that there is a very very tiny number of countries that even have marginal improvement. I wish there was a "really" better, but there isn't and that's just the way it is.

      I own property in a desert area just north of the border, and hundreds of people have died arround that area in the last 10 years just trying to get in - you can't say that about very many places. oh yeah, the border patrol - another dislike, I really don't have faith in their ability to protect us from terrorists, and I resent being "protected" from fruit pickers and others who just want to make an honest living.

      Anyhow, I don't think it's too US centered - it's just that the information age and all it's problems happened here first. I can only hope someday that there will be a better frontier of freedom. Perhaps vast cities on the ocean, perhaps in space. But right now it seems here physically and cyberspace for everything else.

      IMHO, For now the biggest issue is copyrights. They are effectively dead even if noone wants to admit it - God help us. You can just tell the shit is about to hit the fan and when it does all hell will break loose.

  • Graham's Essays (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cthlptlk ( 210435 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @09:27PM (#10571788)
    By now, I should know better than to read the Paul Graham essays when they're posted on slashdot, but I can't help myself. I think it's my sick obsession with lisp.

    Now that I've read a few in the space of a few weeks, I think I'm able to pin down what bothers me. Graham is really good at a certain rhetorical style: he talks at length about a topic that really isn't the topic at hand, until you start to wonder if you're really reading the essay that you thought you were reading, and suddenly the focus shifts to the target. "Maori customs are really a metaphor/synedoche for the perl philosophy!" or whatever. The change is so dizzying (because it is unexpected but not completly random) and such changes come so fast that the reader doesn't stop to evaluate the correctness of Graham's assertions or the depth of what he's saying. It's like a cheesy magic show...the magician distracts you by waving the wand around, so that you don't see that he's actually pulling the rabbit out of his sleeve, rather than out of the hat. To his credit, I think Graham does this trick really well, and it's hard to do.

    The thing is, I can appreciate cheesy-magic-show writing, but at some point, I would like to take away an actual idea from what I'm reading. And what are Graham's ideas? Lisp is really l33t! Hackers are really l33t! Graham's ideas are really that simple; they're not refinements or unexpected corrollaries of ideas that were first trotted out ten or twenty years ago. After a few essays, it becomes apparent that all of these ideas really reduce to I, Paul Graham, am really l33t because I like this l33t stuff! I don't fault Graham in the slightest for thinking this, or even about writing it, but since I'm not Paul Graham, it's not a very interesting idea to me.
    • Re:Graham's Essays (Score:3, Interesting)

      by zsau ( 266209 )
      Actually, I've started reading it as: These things are leet because I like them, which makes me leet...

      Somewhen I think Graham said something like he and Stallman and so forth were great men because they weren't afraid to say they were great. I think Graham's gone a bit too far down that path; I still respect RMS.
    • Re:Graham's Essays (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bugbear ( 448726 )
      Lisp is really l33t! Hackers are really l33t! Graham's ideas are really that simple

      Really? It seems to me that I go into great detail. For example, in the third paragraph of this latest essay I explain the connection between the two senses of "hack." That's a substantial point, and new too, as far as I know. At least, it was news to me when I realized it.

      Other quite specific points: that hackers get in trouble because authorities don't understand one of their biggest motives (curiosity); that young h
  • by IBitOBear ( 410965 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @10:11PM (#10572085) Homepage Journal
    I'd relpace "hacker" with "artist" (particularly writer) and then accept that what is good about "hackers" is what has always been good about artists.

    This would, of course, inflame those who have invested ego in the idea that programming is "a science" instead of an art.

    They, in turn make bad scientists too, because good science is an art too.

    Basically, anybody who understands how much their daily work depends on the exchange of information will be drawn into odd persuits and will "sense totalitarianisim like animals sense an oncomming thunderstorm." (or whatever the quote was.)

    To lionize "hackers" over, say "sound techs" or "teachers" is huberous.

    The problem is that the world is full of machinests and sheep. Machinests want the world to conform to plans, and sheep want someone else to handle it. Between those two large groups, it is hard to get an artistic thought in edgewise.

    So South America or Aferica will "be the next America" and it is almost too late to do anything about that. Europe has learned to turn-on-a-dime and will hopefully maintian a stolid bullwork in the current first-world economic structure. America will be the new Africa (but with some good natural resources to totally exploit into garbage) whith increasingly "Bushist", "we cannot possibly be wrong" tendencies to ossification that will ride us deeply into hunta-styled default and decay.

    Then who knows?

    As a side note, wihout space, as in outer space, as a frontier, expansionisim cannot be sustained; and all we humans are expansionest. We have until the count of "no cheap fuel" to get off this planet, elsewise we will have to eat our own offspring and call it meet. So all this short term lionizing means little, and the real issues remain. Will the machinists hold us to the ground and kill us all, or will we escape?

    Screw the hackers, lets get the artists and the scientists moving again. If some of that art is computer programming, all the better.

    But I ramble... 8-)
  • by Almost-Retired ( 637760 ) on Tuesday October 19, 2004 @11:47PM (#10572626) Homepage
    I scanned on down the list to see what sort of replies I might find, thinking if someone has said it, why should I repeat and bore.

    Unforch, in about the first 75 or so posts, I didn't see a reply that even indicated the poster had actually read the article!

    Color me an old fool maybe, but Paul has hit the nail of the problem square on the head, and his essay should be required reading for every congress-critter on the face of the planet, the american ones in particular. They are not just stiffling innovation, the innovation that made america what it was in the first 2/3rds of the past century, they are choking it to death and will not be satisfied until even the reflexive heaving of the chest, long after the heart has stopped, has itself stopped. Only when it is well and truely inspected by the attending physician and declared dead will the likes of Jack Valanti be happy.

    I don't know how to make it any clearer to our senators and representatives, the damage they have done in the last 25 years, than to make Pauls essay required reading, and to have them say in public that they have read it and agree with Paul, and will work to revert these onerous laws, and do it before they get our votes on Nov 2nd. If they don't, then don't re-elect the incumbent, its that simple. We need a thorough house (senate too) cleaning that breaks the chain of $$$ command between hollywood, congress and yes, even the Supremes. If we don't do it now, by the next time election day rolls around, the disneys and the diebolds will have total control of the country, to rape and pillage as they please instead of undercover like they are doing now. Most of the Bill of Rights will either be ignored, or legislated out of existence. I give you the so-called Patriot Act as the worst example, but don't worry, they'll think up even worse ones given another 2, 4 or 6 years.

    When that day comes, and if I'm still around, you'll recognize the likes of me, we'll be the ancient ones saying "I told you so". We remember when america stood for freedom, freedom to go out and make a million if you had a better idea, not spend the rest of your life and all your income in court trying to prove prior art against some copycat. We'll also have plenty of ammo loaded for when it gets noisy, and if it gets noisy before the message is heard, it will be a lot noisier than the Boston Tea Party was. We were relatively few then, but not anymore.

    No Cheers this time, Gene

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