Edward Snowden and Daniel Ellsberg speak truth to power at HOPE X http://t.co/DjnGq4kpsB #hopex pic.twitter.com/fGHDG9FgPw— PPI (@ppinternational) July 22, 2014
Recent tweets from Hacker Of Planet Earth HOPEX conference, with popular meme 'speaking truth to power.'
I was a bit disturbed that so shortly after the MH17 was shot down using Russian supplied weapons that a self proclaimed Hackers conference, Hackers of Planet Earth no less, would carry out a massive love feast for Snowden. I was surprised by such bad taste.
This failure to deal with, or even understand, the political clumsiness of giving Putin's guest a platform at such a time underlines serious issues with hackers, and why hacker activism is not going to give us freedom anytime soon.
Here are the key reasons I hackers are essentially useless as political and social agents for change:
- Hackers are elitists. In the communities hackers create they have shown themselves not able to create equality of either gender or race. Hackers quickly become members of the elite programmer community, and thus are vested in the system as is no matter what they may say
- Hackers have terrible mental health. We all know this terrible ugly generalisation is sadly pretty true. From Impostor Syndrome to Aspergers much of what makes a hacker a talented technologist is purchased at the cost of mental health. Skills of obsession, mass amounts of time to concentrate on a project and necessary isolation from social activities to do the work do not come with mental health.
- Hackers are cowards. Taking on power takes courage. Hackers like to talk about how much courage their leaders and members have but in reality on the ground metal and valour are pretty rare. Not to mention any names, but a political movement where the shinning stars kill themselves when facing a few months in jail, run to embassies to hide when accused of rape, or flee to dictatorships rather than face the power directly is not going anywhere. Try to image a resistance to Fascism of Communism which involved running, hiding or killing oneself at the threat of prison time. When you look at leaders who did change the world, for good or bad, like Che, Mao, Martin Luther King, Mandela, and others you see a willingness to face long prison terms and sacrifice their lives. Nothing like this exists in the hacker activist community, which will go to great length to avoid any persecution at all. Cowards never changed history. (for the record I am a coward as well, but I don't present myself as a leader speaking truth to power)
- Hackers cannot be trusted. Hackers have a long history of selling out to power, and a large number of hackers have ended up working for state entities to avoid prison time. I would go as far as to say that anyone who is certain that Snowden is not helping the FSB must be a fool.
- A hack is not a solution. Hackers mistake specific technical skill learned via hands on playing around with wisdom gained through reading, thinking and discourse. Rather hackers rely on re-usable often copied solutions to fudge or work around a problem. Hacks promote short term shallow thinking. A world view composed of hacks creates an isolated view of items without connections, histories or meanings. Rather the world is a collection of hacks, short solutions or work arounds that exist by themselves.
- Hackers are not social. This one is so obvious one wonders why it is not mentioned more often. Hackers tend not to know very much about what other people are thinking and writing who are not hackers. Hackers tend to lack breath to concentrate on insane levels of depth, understanding a technical discipline and something about popular culture to extreme extents.
- Hackers are shallow. Hackers rarely know much about larger political, economic and social issues. Educational system that producers programmers, or self taught programming, has not given the grounding to political discourse. Hackers tend to be more interested in popular culture and technology, and often treat the entire world of history, sociology and economics as empty planes. Kevin Kelly is an amazing example of this, he and the other Whole Earth Catalogue crowd in California have a long history of writing on social issues as if they were the first person in history to even notice that issues existed. Many nerd types are today writing on issues of society, which they confuse for social networks, as if no human in history had ever noticed society existed.