Here’s that bit from The Cuckoo’s Egg that I was thinking of in my last post. It comes near the end of the book.
I learned what our networks are. I had thought of them as a complicated technical device, a tangle of wires and circuits. But they’re much more than that– a fragile community of people, bonded by trust and cooperation. If that trust is borken, the community will vanish forever.
Darren and other programmers sometimes expressed respect for hackers because they test the soundness of systems, reveal holes and weanesses. I could respect this view… but I could no longer agree with it. I saw the hacker not as a chess master, teaching us all valuable lessons by exploiting the weak points in our defenses, but as a vandal, sowing distrust and paranoia.
In a small town, where people never locked their doors, would we praise the first burglar for showing the townspeople how foolish it was to leave their houses open? After it happened, the town couldn’t ever go back to open doors….
There’s plenty of room for truly “creative anarchy” on the networks as they are– nobody is in charge of them, nobody makes the rules– they exist purely out of cooperative effort and they evolve freely at the whim of their users. A hacker’s abuse of this openness might mean the end of the casual, communal way the networks are won….
To have the networks as our playground, we have to preserve our sense of trust; to do that, we have to take it seriously when people break that trust. (313-314)
I ran across my heavily annotated, teaching copy of The Cuckoo’s Egg (I’ve used it in a couple classes; it’s good end-of-semester reading, since it’s very breezy but still raises some substantial issues) while looking for The Making of a Counter Culture, which I did NOT find, and which rather annoys me. I’m spending tomorrow in Berkeley, and am interviewing Theodore Roszak, so I wanted it with me. Grrrr.