Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Back in the days when I was working in the professional software domain, the term "hacking" was employed regularly in a perfectly respectable context. This metaphor evoked an axe.

Anybody who has tried to remove shrubbery, say, by hacking away at it by means of a small axe such as this knows that it can be a messy and strenuous operation, particularly if you're intent upon getting rid of the roots. In the software domain, the term "hacking" designates a trial-and-error approach to a fuzzy problem or challenge.

One of my earliest hacking tasks was carried out back in the early '80s for the French company that was starting to market Apple computers. I was given an Apple II floppy disk containing a demonstration of Microsoft's Multiplan spreadsheet application, and my task consisted of trying to transform it, as far as possible, into a French-language version. I was not provided with any explicit technical information concerning the way in which this demo disk might have been created, and how its data was structured. So, I had to work out from scratch what it was all about, and invent ways of substituting French terms for the English. It was as if I were a Sherlock Holmes investigating a crime committed in England, with the ultimate responsibility of telling French authorities what had apparently happened.

A hacking context is quite different to the standard environment in which professionals develop software. Compared with hackers, the latter folk are armed with chainsaws, which are designed to slice effortlessly through every obstacle they encounter. The gist of what I'm trying to say is that, once upon a time, the term "hacker" was used to designate a particularly bright and imaginative computer-language expert. Today, this is surely still true in the case of an exceptionally gifted guy such as Julian Assange.

And what about the individuals who operate clandestinely in the context of mysterious associations such as Anonymous and Lulzsec (which are said to be collaborating)?

Are they too exceptional individuals… in spite of their being branded as irresponsible delinquents? Personally, I have every reason to believe that they are indeed smart folk, who are perfectly aware of what they're doing, and why they're doing it. I don't believe that they're simply a bunch of dumb assholes intent upon stirring up shit. As Shakespeare put it, there's method in their madness. They're not merely breaking rules for the fun of it. They're attempting to invent new rules for societies that have discovered the immense power of computers and communication networks. For the moment, though, they are generally misunderstood by their elders, who are often still surviving in an era of antediluvian moral principles and political thinking.

Click the following photo to access an informative interview aired by ZDF Mediathek concerning the birth of political awareness back in Assange's adventurous hacking days:


  1. Thank you the link - I listened to the first minute or two and am looking forward to more of it later.

  2. Merisi: You will have understood that my compatriot Assange is a kind of hero for me. I've heard that some of Julian's own heros, back at the time he started hacking in Australia, were the scientists and philosophers of the Vienna Circle.

  3. Oh yes, I understand.
    Will have to wait until Sunday to listen to the entire interview.
    I did not know about his interest in the Vienna Circle.
    I am not surprised.