Hackers – Retaking the Brand
For many years now, the term “hacker” has had a negative connotation. The term has implied code breakers working for, or in cahoots with, foreign intelligence agencies. Hackers have been accused of stealing corporate data including intellectual property, illegally transferring financial information assets, breaking into private email systems, and meddling in the democratic process of other countries. All this may be true – for a small minority of hackers.
The majority of hackers, however, are just intelligent and innovative people who solve challenging and pressing business and social problems by applying technology. They develop algorithms to facilitate solutions to better our world. In short, most hackers choose to use their superpowers for good.
Sure, some hackers reside on the dark web, engaging in criminal behavior, laundering money for arms, drug and human traffickers and hiding ill-gotten gains for Eastern European nogoodniks. There is also a dedicated community ready to move the Internet toward a place it was always meant to be – not a marketplace controlled by a few gigantic media quasi-cartels that commodify our personal information without a lick of concern for privacy and without sharing any of the proceeds with those who provide that data in the first place.
The blockchain should change all that. An era of digital sovereignty awaits us as distributed ledgers empower us with control over what information we share with big media conglomerates and social media intermediaries. And that is not all that the blockchain promises. Over the years, “hackathons” have developed a number of leading edge decentralized applications. Dorahacks, the largest hacking community in China, recently created a decentralized smart lock for the shared economy on the blockchain. Now, tenants can pay their rent through smart contracts to unlock their rooms, ensuring trust between landlords and tenants and avoiding the ugliness of late rent payments and eviction notices.
Also in China, hackers have used blockchain technology to create permanent imprints of love, becoming the digital version of “Darry Ring”. Each man can only create one digital diamond ring in his lifetime, so that his promise of love is exclusive and witnessed by people around him. Divorce lawyers should be worried. Really worried. Working with a team at Oxford in the U.K. hackers have found a way to integrate Artificial Intelligence (AI) into analysis of archaeological sites so items discovered can be quickly classified using object detection algorithms. With this solution, chemical compounds can be more efficiently recognized. And archaeological sites more efficiently catalogued.
In the U.S. hackers created an insurance platform for avocado harvest using blockchain and AI technology, to benefit producers around the world. Late last month, a hackathon in San Francisco found new commercial decentralized applications to make business, small and large, integrate solutions for customers without the need for intermediaries and lethargic institutions. One hacker in particular created a Dapp to facilitate philanthropy and encourage the best in us.
In short, hackers are helping to make business more efficient, renegotiate the social contract, extend mechanisms for people to be connected to one another, and expand the use of the Internet into a true peer-to-peer network based on mutual trust, shared respect, and community self-interest. And proof of work of course.
So hacking can be a good thing. For too long the word “collaboration” connoted the wartime Vichy government that cooperated with the Nazi occupation of France. For years, no one wanted to “collaborate” because of the baggage that came with that word. So too must the term “hacking” must be rebranded. Hackers are not all Eastern Europeans meddling in election processes. Nor are hackers all Romanian computer enthusiasts working to steal your credit information to sell it on the dark web. Hackers are not all North Korean coders trying to shut down electrical grids in the West, nor Chinese companies trying to steal your company’s industrial designs so they can go into competition against you. Hackers are actually a group of inspired technicians from around the globe, forging the Internet 3.0 to assist the world in solving major problems and improving everyone’s economic future as business becomes transnational, efficient, transparent, and sustainable.
James Cooper is a Professor of Law at California Western School of Law in San Diego, U.S.A. He is an advisor to Truechain, a global blockchain company, and Dorahacks, a sister company, both based in Beijing.
Author： James Cooper
Executive editor： Nino