Hacker Ethics and Christian Vision

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Italian original in: http://www.laciviltacattolica.it/it

English summary: http://www.networkworld.com/news/2011/040511-vatican-publication-rehabilitates.html?page=2


Summary

"The Jesuit priest, a literary critic and technology expert, also cited Tom Pittman, a member of California’s Homebrew Computer Club, as an example of someone seeking a creative fusion of Christianity and technology.


“I as a Christian thought I could feel something of the satisfaction that God must have felt when He created the world,” Pittman wrote of his work. Christian hackers, Spadaro said, viewed their work as “a form of participation in the ‘work’ of God in creation.”


Hacker mentality implies a joyful application of intelligence to problem solving, rejecting the concept of work as repetitive, burdensome and stupid, Spadaro wrote. Hacker ethics rejected a capitalistic, profit-oriented approach to work, eschewing idleness but favoring a flexible, creative approach that was respectful of the human dimension and natural rhythms, he said.


“Under fire are control, competition, property. It’s a vision that is … of a clear theological origin,” Spadaro observed." (http://www.networkworld.com/news/2011/040511-vatican-publication-rehabilitates.html?page=2)


Discussion

"According to Antonio Spadaro, an Italian Jesuit priest, ..., in an article published earlier this year in La Civiltà Cattolica, a fortnightly magazine backed by the Vatican, entitled “Hacker ethics and Christian vision”, he (Jesus) did not merely praise hackers, but held up their approach to life as in some ways divine. Mr Spadaro argued that hacking is a form of participation in God’s work of creation. (He uses the word hacking in its traditional, noble sense within computing circles, to refer to building or tinkering with code, rather than breaking into websites. Such nefarious activities are instead known as “malicious hacking” or “cracking”.)

Mr Spadaro says he became interested in the subject when he noticed that hackers and students of hacker culture used “the language of theological value” when writing about creativity and coding, so he decided to examine the idea more deeply. The hacker ethic forged on America’s west coast in the 1970s and 1980s was playful, open to sharing, and ready to challenge models of proprietary control, competition and even private property. Hackers were the origin of the “open source” movement which creates and distributes software that is free in two senses: it costs nothing and its underlying code can be modified by anyone to fit their needs. “In a world devoted to the logic of profit,” wrote Mr Spadaro, hackers and Christians have “much to give each other” as they promote a more positive vision of work, sharing and creativity.


He is not the only person to see an affinity between the open-source hacker ethos and Christianity. Catholic open-source advocates have founded a group called Elèutheros to encourage the church to endorse such software. Its manifesto refers to “strong ideal affinities between Christianity, the philosophy of free software, and the adoption of open formats and protocols”. Marco Fioretti, co-founder of the group, says open-source software teaches the “practical dimension of community and service to others that is already in the church message”. There are also legal motivations. Commercial software such as Microsoft Word is widely pirated in many parts of the world, by Catholics as well as others. Mr Fioretti advocates the use of open-source software instead, because he doesn’t want people “to violate a law without any real reason, just to open a church document”. (http://www.economist.com/node/21527031/)


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