“The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these,” Jesus said of little children. But computer hackers might give the kids some competition, 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 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.
(Thanks to Richard Gibson)