Language: EN


Hacker Attitude

You know I like to share little stories and texts about Hacker philosophy, understood not as the movement we all know related to computer security and reverse engineering, but as a way of thinking.

Remember that the Hacker movement originates by identifying people with a special type of personality, based on creation, passion for learning, and a clear attraction to difficult challenges. That is, a particular attitude towards life.

Logically, many of today’s Hackers are attracted to electronics and computers, and that is where this movement comes from. But the Hacker movement does not focus exclusively on the field of computing.

On the contrary, there are Hackers in many fields, from art to cooking. In fact, there were Hackers long before there was computing, not even engineering (or, at least, as we know it now).

Today I want to share an excerpt from the text “How To Become a Hacker,” written by Eric Steven Raymond in 2001, translated into multiple languages, including Spanish by Miquel Vidal.

Here is the link to the original text from 2001 by Eric S. Raymond and the link to the translated text by Miquel Vidal from which this excerpt is taken

Hacker Attitude

Hackers solve problems and build things, and believe in freedom and voluntary mutual help. To be accepted as a hacker, you have to behave as if you have this attitude inside you. And to behave as if you have this attitude, you have to truly believe in that attitude.

But if you think of cultivating hacker attitudes only as a way to gain acceptance in this culture, you are mistaken. Becoming the kind of person who believes these things is important for you - to help you learn and stay motivated. As in all creative arts, the most effective way to become a master is to imitate the mindset of the masters - not only intellectually, but also emotionally.

Or as the following modern Zen poem says:

To follow the path: look to the master, follow the master, walk with the master, see through the master, become the master.

So, if you want to be a hacker, repeat the following until you believe what you are saying:

The world is full of fascinating problems waiting to be solved

It’s a lot of fun to be a hacker, but it’s the kind of fun that requires a lot of effort. Effort requires motivation. Winning athletes get their motivation from a type of physical pleasure that comes from working their body, from pushing themselves beyond their own physical limits. Similarly, to be a hacker you must feel a primitive thrill when solving problems, honing your skills, and exercising your intelligence.

If you are not the kind of person naturally inclined toward these things, you will need to be able to experience them to become a hacker. Otherwise, you will find that your energy for “hacking” will be drained by other distractions like sex, money, or social approval.

You must also develop a certain faith in your own ability to learn - the belief that, even if you may not know everything you need to solve a problem, if you take a part of it and learn from there, you will learn enough to solve the next part, and so on, until you have it solved completely.

No problem should be solved twice

Creative brains are a valuable and limited resource. They should not be wasted reinventing the wheel when there are so many fascinating new problems waiting out there.

To behave like a hacker, you must believe that the thinking time other hackers use is precious - so much so that it is almost a moral obligation for you to share information, solve problems, and then expose the solution in a way that other hackers can solve new problems, rather than perpetually dealing with the old ones.

You don’t have to think that you are obligated to give away all your creative product, although those hackers who do so are the ones who get the most respect from other hackers. It is consistent with a hacker’s values to sell enough to pay for food, rent, and computers. It is also okay to use these hacker skills to support the family, or even get rich, as long as you don’t forget loyalty to your art and your fellow hackers while doing so.

Boredom and drudgery are evil

Hackers (and creative people in general) should never be subject to stupidly repetitive jobs, because when this happens it means they are not doing the only thing they are capable of doing: solving new problems. This waste of talent harms everyone. Therefore, routine, repetitive, and boring tasks are not only unpleasant, but inherently perverse.

To behave like a hacker, you must believe this enough to automate routine tasks as much as possible, not only for yourself, but for the benefit of everyone else (especially other hackers).

There is an apparent exception to this rule. Hackers sometimes do things that may seem repetitive or boring to an observer, but are an exercise to achieve mental clarity or to acquire a certain skill or gain a certain kind of experience that could not be achieved otherwise. But this is a choice - no thinking being should ever be forced into a situation that bores them.

Freedom is good

Hackers are anti-authoritarian by nature. Anyone who can give you orders can make you stop solving that problem that is fascinating you - and, given the way authoritarian minds work, they will find some awfully stupid reason to do so. Therefore, authoritarian attitudes must be fought wherever they are found, because if left unchecked, they will suffocate you, as well as other hackers.

This is not the same as fighting all authority. Children need guidance, and criminals need restrictions. A hacker may agree to accept some kind of authority in order to get something he desires more than the time he spends following orders. But this is a limited, conscious pact; the kind of submission that authoritarians want is not on offer.

Authoritarians thrive on censorship and secrecy. And they distrust voluntary cooperation and the exchange of information - they only like the cooperation they have under their control. So, to behave like a hacker, you must develop an instinctive hostility toward censorship, secrecy, and the use of force or fraud to subdue responsible adults. And you must be prepared to act accordingly.

Attitude is no substitute for competence

To be a hacker, you must develop some of these attitudes. But having only the attitude will not transform you into a hacker, just as it cannot turn you into a champion athlete or a rock star. To become a hacker, you will need intelligence, practice, dedication, and hard work.

Therefore, you must learn to be suspicious of the attitude and respect competence in all its forms. No hacker likes to waste time with those who adopt the hacker pose, but venerates competence - especially competence in hacking, but competence in any field is fine. Particularly good is the competition in demanding skills that few people master, and the best is the competition in demanding skills that require mental acuity, dexterity, and concentration.

If you respect competence, you will enjoy developing it in yourself - hard work and dedication will become a kind of intense game, and not a routine. That attitude is vital to becoming a hacker.

Style matters

Again, to be a hacker, you must develop the hacker mindset. There are some things you can do when you are without a computer that can help you. These things are not a substitute for the activity of hacking (nothing is) but many hackers do them, and feel that in some primitive way they connect with the essence of hacking activity.

  • Learn to write correctly in your language. Despite the stereotype that programmers cannot write, a surprising number of hackers (including the best ones I know) are competent writers.
  • Read science fiction. Go to science fiction meetings (it’s a good way to meet hackers and proto-hackers).
  • Study Zen, and/or practice martial arts. (Mental discipline is similar in both cases.)
  • Develop an analytical ear for music. Learn to appreciate peculiar classes of music. Learn to correctly play a musical instrument, or sing.
  • Develop a penchant for double meanings and puns.

The more of these things you have done, the more likely you are to possess natural hacker material. Why these particular things and not others is something that is not entirely clear, but they are all connected with a mix of your left and right brain skills, which seems to be an important thing; hackers are able to reason logically as well as take steps outside the apparent logic of a problem at any given moment.

Work as intensely as you play and play as intensely as you work. For true hackers, the difference between “game,” “work,” “science,” and “art” tends to disappear, or blend into a high level of creativity.

Also, do not be satisfied with having a narrow range of skills. Although most hackers describe themselves as programmers, they are usually more than competent in various activities - system administration, web design, and hardware troubleshooting are common -

A hacker who, on the one hand, is a system administrator, is also skilled in script programming and web design. Hackers do not do things by halves; if they get fully into a subject, they tend to be very good at it.