Ethics is the study of values and customs: right and wrong, good and evil, and the concept of responsibility. We each have our own personal values and customs, based on our own personal experiences, that tell us the moral value of our actions. Society also has values and customs that they use to value people and ideas, as if we could denounce them good or evil and right or wrong without any shades of gray.
Hacking, as seen by society, is always identified by the media as "wrong" and "evil." It's too bad that they don't understand what it really means to me or probably any of us. It's too bad that lack of understanding breeds fear. It's too bad they think that hackers are all black hats who want to spread destruction and theft by completely controlling their most valuable assets over computer networks.
It's too bad really.
Because I wonder how different our society would be if hacking wasn't seen that way, if it were seen in a different ethical light.
I know that a hacking culture is part of who I am, even if it doesn't involve a computer. I know that I love to learn, because a life without learning would be ritualistic, mechanical and dead; I know that I am a curious person, because a life without 'I wonder' would be devoid of discovery; and I know that I want to make a difference in this world, and that I want to make a positive difference.
I see us, personally, as explorers on a vast network of information, and all we want to do is better understand our world and help others better understand it too, like on this site, we are all a community of people working together to help others learn and to share what we know. We are a community that thrives on information itself, and lucky for us, we will never run out of it.
I know there are people out there who attack the ignorant for their own benefit, and I know they do so by hacking, by phishing, or whatever. It's morally deplorable to go out there and destroy a person's life by subjecting them to credit card fraud for example. You might as well shoot them with a gun and charge them the same monetary value in medical bills. It'll have the same effect.
Hacking is a tool, for both good and evil, and people stand on high moral precipices using it. I know that if I attack and maliciously destroy someone's website or steal their credit card information, I would be responsible for violating some of the values I hold dear to myself. I would be infringing on someone's freedom of speech, someone's right to privacy, someone's right to the pursuit of happiness, etc.
I wonder if even exploring constitutes a violation of privacy sometimes, in some circumstances.
But I know that I will use what I know for the purposes of good, and that's just who I am. I still walk out my door and try to teach people what they don't know. I talk openly to my friends and strangers how they can learn more. I talk about hacking and what it really means to me and what I think it really is. And someday I hope that we can have a world that understands the value of learning, and that understands the nature of hacking, and that understands the value of information, and that understands the value of their rights.
I wonder then how people would react to the newly passed executive order that allows the United States government to block the property of people who "undermine the Sovereignty of Lebanon or its democratic processes and institutions." I wonder then how people would go about facing the problems this world faces right now.
I wonder if how the world would be if these lines from "The Hacker's Manifesto" didn't hold true:
"We explore…and you call us criminals.
"We exist without skin color, without nationality, without religious bias… and you call us criminals.
"You build atomic bombs, you wage wars, you murder, cheat, and lie to us and try to make us believe it's for our own good, and you call us criminals.
"Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of curiosity."
What if we were not criminals for being curious explorers?
I wonder if it would be a better place with different ethics.
Just a thought.
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