Computer Crime Research Center


2009: Year of the Hacker

Date: December 26, 2008
Source: Computer Crime Research Center

In thinking about what an economically bleak 2009 will mean for the Internet, I kept coming back to something Chris Anderson wrote a few months ago, back before the tech world awoke to the full impact of the credit crunch.

Anderson (disclosure: he edits Wired, a publication for which I sometimes write) talked in October of a “gift economy.” Riffing on Clay Shirky’s notion of a “cognitive surplus,” he imagined this excess ability expanding as unemployed workers engage in labors of love for free, if only to do something valuable with their time and/or advertise their skills.

As a result I think you’ll see a boom in creativity and sharing online as people take matters into their own hands. Today, if you’re in-between jobs you can still be productive, and the reputational currency you earn may pay dividends in the form of a better job when the economy recovers.

I don’t mean to downplay how hard it is to be unemployed. But with tens of thousands of skilled tech workers being kicked into a hostile job market, the effects could prove to be positive for the Internet and its community over the long term.

Of course, employed engineers and other creative workers already apply their skills — in the service of their employers. Many are bored by the stifling grind. Not long ago on Hacker News, a developer complained how, as much as he loves coding, he just doesn’t like work.

Yeah, the million-dollar question from ‘Office Space’, find a way to make a career of whatever you’d do if you didn’t have to have a career. It’s possible, but it’s the “career” part I hate. I fail to understand the Protestant Work Ethic. I don’t see any reward in work, just lost time.

The notion that being creative in thrall to an employer results in as much “lost time” as watching a “Gilligan’s Island” marathon is a seditious one — and naturally it resonated with other developers. The post and the 188 comments are a great read. Many said they could have written it themselves, and it wasn’t very long before someone quoted Einstein:

The thought of having to expend my creative energy on things that make practical everyday life more refined, with a bleak capital gain as the goal, was unbearable to me.

I wonder what kind of creativity could be unleashed by workers who, though deprived of a steady paycheck, are freed from such tedious tasks. Some could come up with new ideas that help vault the web to a more advanced stage. Others may make micro-contributions that are equally powerful in aggregate. Such creativity could then foster an entirely new generation of startups, which would eventually lure away some of those who had remained at steady jobs all along.

Or as Shirky put it, in distilling his notion of cognitive surplus into a general principle: “It’s better to do something than to do nothing.”
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2009-01-21 20:12:10 - pleace................... wahyu_alfa_robby
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