What is and why does the 1986 “Hacker Manifesto” matter?

"My crime is to be smarter, something for which you will never forget me." With that line, as forceful as it is petulant, the hacker Loyd Blakenship finished off the Hacker Manifesto ( The Conscience of a Hacker ), a short essaypublished on January 8, 1986 and which to this day remains one of the ideological pillars of hacking.

Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is curiosity ", justifies the text written by Blakenship – known in the world of hackers as " The Mentor " -, which, incidentally, was written in captivity after he was arrested by the police in 1986 for his misunderstanding curiosity.

Image to represent the hacker group Anonymous

The text, which today is easy to find on the internet , was born on request. The Mentor says that, after being arrested, the editor of the fanzine Phrack (an online publication aimed at hackers ) asked him for a contribution for the next issue. Arrested and without access to a computer, Blakenship killed time in the confinement by reading. " I was reading The Moon is a Cruel Lover [Robert A. Heinlein, 1965], which talks about the idea of revolution," he noted .

The result was little more than two pages with short, but forceful sentences. "I'm in high school. I have heard teachers explain for the fifteenth time how to reduce a fraction. I understand it. No, Ms. Smith, I'm not going to show you my work, I did it in my mind… Damn boy. He probably copied it. All are equal".

"We make use of a service that already exists without paying for what could be cheap as air, if it weren't in the hands of gluttonous capitalists, and you call us criminals."

Nine years after its publication, the Hacker Manifesto reached popular culture through the movie Hackers (Softley, 1995), in which a legendary hacker becomes involved in a corporate scam hunted by the FBI. It was the 1990s and the concept of the hacker was still new, so much so that in Softley's film they were portrayed as misunderstood heroes ethically guided by the Blakenship text.

Well into the 21st century, the Hacker Manifesto also made an appearance, albeit discreet, on The Social Network (Fincher, 2010), where the story behind Facebook is portrayed. In one of the scenes, a poster is seen in which the manifesto is consigned in the bedroom of Mark Zuckerberg, who started a digital empire that could well be considered the antithesis of what Blakenship defended.

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