The first thought to enter people’s minds when you say “hacker” is chain smoking Russians trying to steal your credit card information, or maladjusted teenagers breaking into government systems. The word is shocking, disturbing, and a sexy seller in the media.
Fact of the matter is hackers are rule breakers sure, but in the sense of doing something, or using something for other than it’s intended use. If you’ve ever used a butter knife as a screwdriver, you’re a hacker. If you’ve ever taken something apart to see how it works (my brother cut open my Mrs. Beasley to see where the voice came from) you’re a hacker.
Hackers are our tinkerers, our innovators, our dreamers and imaginers. Deeply curious, they will try anything, just to see what might happen, and generally smart enough to do it without getting themselves killed. They take the the tools of our time and see what else they can do with them, and yeah, they’ll often try to break them, ’cause that’s part of learning how it works.
In our ever growing online world, we need hackers. They are on the cutting edge of it, pushing the boundaries, seeing what something is, how it works, where it’s weaknesses lie. Chain smoking criminals excluded, our hackers are our heroes and our advocates as us “newbs” get more and more involved in the online world. They are the ones who know when our privacy is at risk, who speak up for rights we didn’t even know we were signing away with the click of a button (ahem… *facebook*). They are the ones who’ll go in and break something just to show the world it doesn’t work. And they’re also the ones who’ll dig in there and make it better.
Offline, hacking flies in the face of our blatant consumerism: buy a product to solve a problem. Why do that when you can MacGyver it yourself, isn’t that more fun anyway? I took apart my hairdryer to cut a wire to the heating element ’cause I thought it was too hot on high. I could have bought another hairdryer (and thrown the other one away), but where’s the fun in that? 100 years ago we needed hacking to survive, you made do with what you had. Most farmers were hackers – you had a problem, you solved it with what you had on hand, you didn’t go to Walmart (but boy, we *heart* Canadian Tire, and Princess Auto…swoon).
In a society where we’re spoon fed entertainment, hacking goes back to when you could make your own fun. Did you know you could make a balloon that goes into the stratosphere and takes pictures of space? You can! I’ve met a guy who did. How cool is that? Or make your own machine that does…nothing (it’s ironic and hilarious! You can get and build one at Protospace – I’ll even teach you how to solder!).
We can buy any sort of entertainment we want, but exercising our minds is a completely different thing from just hitting them with some stimulation for a few hours. Who’s bored? Uninspired? You need to hack something!
And if you’re new to it, you need a hacker to help get you started. Hackerspaces are places for people to come together to hack, to learn how, to get help with that bit you don’t know. To work, to learn, to share – tools, ideas, resources. Any maybe you just need somebody to say: that would be awesome! DO IT!
Innovation comes from exploring, trying, breaking, trying again. Hackerspaces encourage that, they’re the places we answer the question What if?…
What if?… propels us forwards, protects us now. We need the what if’ers in this world. We need to foster that, encourage it, appreciate it. Hug a Hacker! For everything they do.
What if?… you were a hacker too?