I find this quote to be incredibly interesting. The hacker culture of the time (in the 90’s I believe), he later discusses, had developed into a gift based culture. One where the sharing of knowledge and code increases your reputation. Such cultures can only exist when most basic needs have been met. Upon reflection, and thinking on many other aspects of modern culture, why are there not more gift based cultures? We have smaller aspects of them riddling American culture. For those that celebrate Christmas/Holiday season and share gifts with others do you not also feel that ‘better gifts = better reputation’? Or what about those who must buy things for others, like drinks and food. The giving is part of increasing your reputation, almost like giving your time for ‘worthy’ causes. Your friend who always buys you a beer, is it because they are your friend only, or is part of it because they know the rewards of providing those gifts for others. Not only does it make them feel better, but it also increases the gift culture reputation.
Why is it that so many folks in poverty are ashamed to let others help them. They fight it, and run from it. They want to do it on their own terms, because in some ways they feel a loss in reputation and personal worth when they can no longer provide for themselves. Think on it. If you buy a meal, someone who has money to purchase their own dinner anyways, you’re just doing them a favor. One they’ll likely return later down the line. If you buy a poor person a meal, they will feel they owe you, even if you’re just doing it because you want to and don’t expect anything back. They still have this intrinsic need to return the favor, despite lacking in ability to do so.
I would argue that the gift culture of ‘hackerdom’ specifies a group of people. As much as I hate to say this, and as much as I love the aspects and beliefs of open source culture, I know that so many of the intrinsic values of this culture come from people who have had all basic needs met. These needs have been met so much, that they have the time and space to learn to program. How many people in severe poverty have the time to sit and learn to program? How many have the mental capacity, based on life stresses that might be making it more difficult?
By this I mean mental capacity in a way most favorable only. Those in severely impoverished situations tend to have many things stressing them, not just their finances. They are just as intellectually capable as the next to learn to do these things, but if you do not have the time to allow yourself to be stressed more by learning than other life aspects, then it will always be an incredibly difficult thing to accomplish. In other words, the hacker culture will almost always be rife with those who come from well-off enough families that they were able to spend time teaching/learning to do these things, writing code. Hackers are a culture in their own. Not many can touch them. They are dedicated, driven individuals. Intelligent and with strong abilities to decipher. I am definitely not one of the culture. And by my statements I do not wish to insinuate aspirations of being one. I am happy as I am. However in consideration with the abilities of today’s youth, it begins to show even more the true extent of the riches of certain parts of the world. A large population of hacker culture indicates a large population of well off individuals with time enough to fix other peoples (and their own) technical problems. It makes me think that unless a person has these stresses removed, that their education will always have less potential value which make it less possible to reach their full potential. If you want to allow those from impoverished situations the same possibilities in life as those from more well to-do families, then we need to find a way to remove the stresses from their lives, and that while the student is pursuing their education all basic living needs must be met.
Please note that my statements are entirely of my own opinion.