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The Hacker Ethic [Hardcover]

Linus Torvalds , Pekka Himanen , Manuel Castells
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Feb 2001
Nearly a century ago, Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism articulated the animating spirit of the industrial age, the Protestant ethic. Now, Pekka Himanen-together with Linus Torvalds and Manuel Castells-articulates how hackers represent a new, opposing ethos for the information age. Underlying hackers' technical creations - such as the Internet and the personal computer, which have become symbols of our time - are the hacker values that produced them and that challenge us all. These values promote passionate and freely-rhythmed work; the belief that individuals can create great things by joining forces in imaginative ways; and the need to maintain our existing ethical ideals, such as privacy and equality, in our new, increasingly technologized society. The Hacker Ethic takes us on a journey through fundamental questions about life in the information age - a trip of constant surprises, after which our time and our lives can be seen from unexpected perspectives. *In the original meaning of the word, hackers are enthusiastic computer programmers who share their work with others, not computer criminals.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd (1 Feb 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0436205505
  • ISBN-13: 978-0436205507
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 13.6 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 772,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Despite the title The Hacker Ethic is a philosophical essay contrasting the Western capitalist world view with those of hackers. In this context, hackers are those passionate about any subject, not just computers.

The book starts with an essay by Linus Torvalds and finishes with a thoughtful 75-page essay by Manual Cassels called "Informationalism and the Network Society". At its heart though, is the paradox summed up on page 60, "Present capitalism is based on the exploitation of scientific communism". This simply means companies make money based on information provided by scientists for free. This results in an ethical quandary. Companies eagerly seize information freely provided by hackers yet withhold information discovered by themselves. An indefensible position.

Himamen claims hackers work because what they're doing interests them and disseminating what they learn brings the respect of their peers while others work for money and enjoy the envy of their peers. His arguments are well illustrated with ideas from Plato, through medieval village life, protestantism, academia, the industrial revolution and more. He concludes the information revolution makes work central to our lives, soaking up the time and energy necessary for play, for the pursuit of personal passions.

He isn't whistling "Dixie". Who do you know with a hobby? How many talk to their families? Most spend their free time watching actors pretend to be members of passionate families. This is essential reading for anyone who wonders what their life is about. Hackers don't need to read it. --Steve Patient

About the Author

Pekka Himanen earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Helsinki at the age of twenty. His ongoing mapping of the meaning of technological development has brought him into dialogue with academics, artists, ministers, and CEOs. Himanen works at the University of Helsinki and at the University of California at Berkeley. Linus Torvalds has become one of the most respected hackers within the computer community for creating the Linux operating system in 1991 while a student at the University of Helsinki. Since then, Linux has grown into a project involving thousands of programmers and millions of users worldwide. Manuel Castells is a professor of sociology at the University of California at Berkeley. He is the author of the highly-acclaimed trilogy The Information Age, The City and Grassroots (winner of the 1983 C. Wright Mills Award) and of more than twenty other books.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but simplified 22 Jan 2002
By A Customer
Interesting book. Personaly I thinik that Himanen's discourse of the hacker ethic is probably based on too few informants. Eric Raymond is used heavily, and he is an eccentric even among hackers. Being such a thin book it's also quite superficial I feel. But his points about work ethic does stand even so. Definitly worth a read, and if you ever speak to a sociologist that's interested in technology it's sure to give you something to talk about :-)
Getting to the epilogue by Castells I completely lost track. Castells kept pulling in more and more context until I overflowed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good philosophy, but preaches to the converted 26 May 2002
By J. Brand TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is great for the first six chapters. You'll come away from reading this knowing exactly why you should work on Sunday and play on Friday and why if your boss doesn't understand it's because he's still stuck in the 19th century. But after that it tries to overextend the analogies of corporate life and industrialisation. There's nothing wrong with the analogy but it didn't need to be pushed so far.
A great comparison of individualism and indutrialisation, creativity and the production line, morality and profit, (linux and microsoft?), intellectual honesty and trade secrets. Its comparisons of the two models are not investigated very deeply but if you have more than a passing familiarity with the two models you'll recognise why one wins over the other in all cases. Unfortunately I suspect that unless you have that understanding this wi ll do little to explain what the difference really is.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth a look 9 Feb 2003
If you expecting a book about the guys who created Linux or founded the open source movement then look elsewhere. What you get here is a discussion on ethics and the philosophy behind meaningful work which, to my mind, is much more interesting.
In particular, Himanen's comparison of the hacker ethic to the protestant work ethic struck me as apposite. There's lots of other good stuff in there too, including a great joke about God designing the earth by committee (well, it made me smile).
The introduction by Linus Torvalds is certainly worth a read, although I found the final chapter by Manuel Castells a little verbose - to me, it was stylistically quite different from either of the other authors and seemed out of place.
All in all though, I'd thoroughly recommend this book. It's a quick read and most people will get something out of it.
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