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Programming computers is, for practically everyone, something done far away in exotic software engineering facilities by a priesthood of ultra-specialized, half-mad obsessive-compulsives. This is as it should be, and it is where we get the software we use every day to do our online banking, send email, and get productive work done. Though few normal people have any experience of it, or know anyone who does it, there is another kind of programming performed outside this legitimate sphere, one that you probably assumed was illegal, but shockingly, is not.
This other kind of programming also affects us every day, but negatively, as a continuous series of massive disruptions to the worldwide economy in the form of viruses, in the form of important and useful computer services being sabotaged with denial-of-service, in the form of defacement attacks, and in the form of substantially higher prices for all sorts of intellectual property such as software, DVD movies and music on CD, all due to piracy. I'm talking about "hacking" of course. It is the evil dark side to all the good that computers have brought us, and we are all sick of it. The time has come to put a stop to "hacking", because we can no longer tolerate the damage "hackers" cause, and the potential risk of terrorism when, not if, "hackers" go to work for such forces of mayhem as have begun an onslaught of terror against not just the United States, but Western Civilization's freedom to be loose and decadent in general.
For a time, our society tolerated "hackers" because they promised that something useful would come of their shady and secretive tinkering. Yet we have had nothing but a harvest of bitter fruit from "hackers", and it is now time to pull the plug. It is time to ban all unlicensed computer programming, and take steps to ensure that no one outside of government, select universities, and state-sanctioned private-sector corporate software engineering facilities is given the knowledge, skills, or means to write or compile computer code of any kind. Amateur or hobbyist computer programming has grown from a minor annoyance to a major social disease, and it simply can no longer be tolerated.
Although ordinary decent people will find this suggestion to be obvious to the point of banality -- in fact, I'm sure many of you are surprised that amateur computer programming was ever legal! -- many of those who associate themselves with the "hacker community" will bridle at the suggestion. Strictly as an exercise, it would perhaps be diverting to entertain some of their more obvious objections.
The first cry in defense of hobbyists toying with this dangerous technology is that hackers have already proven their worth by producing a valuable piece of software -- namely, the Apache web server. Others would even claim that more than one useful program has been written in the garages and and lonely bedrooms of hobbyists. There are two delusions at work here.
One of these delusions is that any of the Open Source applications that have found some utility in business and industry were written by amateurs. The truth is that Apache began it's life as the work of professional coders employed by Amazon.com, and as any software engineer you want to ask can tell you, nothing of value was added by anyone but professionals. In truth, the work of the gainfully employed programmers on this project was often interrupted and even sabotaged by the ham-fisted meddling of the teenage wanna-be's and self-styled "gurus" who have accumulated around professional Open Source projects like so many leeches and barnacles. This episode alone demonstrates that if there is anything good to come out of Open Source methodology, it will only be helped along by the removal of dilettantes from the picture. Indeed, once the "hackers" have been outlawed, Open Source will very likely reach new heights of utility and quality, and perhaps even fulfill the promise of greatness that Open Source advocates have been making for years.
The other delusion, or I should say piece of misinformation, that has been perpetrated by "hackers" is that there are many other "tools" that have been created by hackers and gifted to a grateful world by our benevolent hobbyists. What about Emacs, for example? What about it? Emacs was originally created at MIT, a trusted part of the US military research establishment. Obviously, such facilities and their (suitably cleared) employees will never be banned. The time has come to ban the reckless tourists from the programming field, not legitimate university researchers. It is true that Emacs, and similar tools have subsequently been "enhanced" by "hackers". Generally, we have seen a pattern of mind-boggling feature creep and software bloat as a result of this. Emacs, for all its admirers, is the worst known example of this. In addition, all of the "functionality" that has been added to Emacs, or other "tools" touted by free software hackers such as Flex, Bison, gcc, etc. are hacker's tools. That means that they are like lock picks or zip guns. They have no inherent functionality that is not ultimately malevolent and illegal in its purpose. This is not utility or service. This is disservice.
The reason that hobbyists work so feverishly hard on creating this kind of tool is precisely because they are locked out of the world of the normal, decent software engineer, where professional-grade IDEs, debuggers, and similar tools are abundant. Those with ultimately criminal intent must cobble together their own weapons. There are dozens, even hundreds of these types of destructive programs in circulation, such as those mentioned, as well as the notorious "Back Orifice", or the hacker operating system, "Lunix". While a "hacker" could disingenuously and spuriously argue that each one of these various illegal programs has some redeeming social value, it is clear that taken as a whole, such "warez" do not in fact benefit anyone except "hackers" and other criminals.
Rather than waste any more time tediously demonstrating this fact for each of these "hacker's" tools, it would be best to move on to the other canard that "hackers" raise in defense of their "freedom" to "hack". And that would be freedom itself. Is there a right to "hack"? Well, of course there most certainly is not. Is there a right to build atomic bombs or breed anthrax bacilli in one's back yard? Is there a right to spy on your government and pass on that information to our foreign enemies, merely because you have chosen espionage as a "hobby"? Perhaps you could claim that your interest in espionage is driven by an innate curiosity, a desire to discover new things and understand how the world works. And so what? Such apologetics are amusing coming from children, but to hear an adult make such excuses is not funny at all. It is merely sad.
Few precocious adolescent "hackers" are capable of understanding why responsible nations must ban "hacking", but as adults we can all recognize that these apologetics for hobbyist "hacking" carry no weight at all, and so we must do what is right. If you style yourself a "hacker" and you really want to play around with dangerous toys, be it source code, fissionable material, or biotoxins, then you have only one route open to you: go to college and prove that you really have the mental horsepower to cut the mustard, and prove also that you are a loyal patriot who can be trusted with potentially deadly power. Then, and only then, will a decent society trust you with the secrets of our most awesome technology. Those too impatient to wait, too dull to get into a university, and too flaky to get security clearance due to low character, drug abuse, and trafficking with unsavory characters are simply out of luck. And it's a good thing too.
Is it practical to ban "hacking" now?
Absolutely. There is no better time than now. As we have seen by the recent mass murders by terrorists, computer technology is a mainstay of criminals, and they rely most on such "free" tools as text editors and military-grade encryption programs that "hackers" use simply because they think it is cute to play with such power. But the rest of society has lost patience with this childish diddling, and the civilized world has said unequivocally that we want strong legal safeguards enacted to put an end to "hacking" and terrorism. We most especially have no qualms about banning activities like playing with explosives or creating software when these so-called "hobbies" are restricted to a tiny fringe element who for whatever reason gets no pleasure from healthy pastimes like fly fishing or drinking alcohol at gentlemen's clubs.
Put simply, normal folks are not going to
let themselves get blown up because a tiny minority of freaks like to "hack".
If you aren't willing to code for Uncle Sam, then don't code at all.
Author's note: Since it is likely that many so-called g**ks or
"hackers" will read this article and will perhaps become angry about it,
and then, typically, lose control of their anger, I want to this opportunity to ask them to please
refrain from attacking Adequacy.org in retaliation. Though you might
disagree with an opinion that you read, that is no reason to launch a denial
of service attack against the medium. Please use your reason and,
if you feel strongly, engage in a polite dialogue, rather than acting out
your anger with illegal "hacking" attacks. Thank you for not attacking
this web site.