Dado que las expresiones del autor varian radicalmente al ser traducidas, he decidido su publicación en el idioma de origien, en pos de conservar la gramática, sintaxis y potencialidad expresiva de sus palabras y construcción ideomáticas. Sepan disfrutarlo.
Publicó para RECONSTRUYENDO EL PENSAMIENTO por Darío Yancán
This interview was conducted with First Monday’s Chief Editor Ed Valauskas, stimulated in part by A Hacker Manifesto.
First Monday (FM): In A Hacker Manifesto you write "Education is slavery. Education enchains the mind and makes it a resource for class power." If that is true, then as a professor at the New School University, should I really identify you as an "enslaver"? How do you envision your role as an "educator"?
McKenzie Wark (MW): I draw a distinction between education and knowledge. Knowledge is the practice of creating relatively stable islands of useful or interesting information, and it’s my belief that these should be available for everybody, and that everybody can work on creating and refining them.
Education is the term I use for turning the practice of knowledge into something that can be administered and commodified. I argue that turning knowledge into education by making it a product is a bad idea. It makes a process into a thing.
Of course, as a teacher in a private college I’m living the contradiction. Students are always caught between buying school as a product and experiencing the pleasures of the free creation of knowledge.
The New School, where I work, was founded by John Dewey (among others), who were very much alive to this tension, I think. The New School started as adult education in New York’s East village. Another part of its story is the University in Exile, which saved Hannah Arendt and many others from the Nazis. So I’ve landed in an institution that is all about thinking and working in this tension between the process of knowledge as free creation and external powers of market and state that distort it in their own own image.
FM: There are repeated references in A Hacker Manifesto to "crypto–Marxists." In one your footnotes you call Marx a "crypto–Marxist." Can you explain "crypto–Marxism"? Is A Hacker Manifesto a crypto–Marxist work? If so, are true hackers "crypto–Marxists"?
One can take Marx as the source–code for a kind of "ruthless criticism of all that exists," as he put it. But of course you have to turn this critical code against Marxists as well. I think the interesting writers who try to take on the whole world are doing this — using Marx against himself. Guy Debord, Felix Guattari, or Toni Negri for example. I use them in the book too. And of course I try to turn them against themselves as well.
I wanted to find a way of writing that took its distance from consensus reality in a critical way, but I didn’t want it to be about "resistance" to the emerging neo–liberal world order, where all information is privatized. I wanted an affirmative book that offered a new kind of social imagination. I think it’s useful to be able to imagine the world otherwise. Readers may not like my particular alternative world, but I hope the book can lead you toward your own acts of speculative thought.
Would you agree?
Each stage is an enclosure of the commons in favor of a private property right. Intellectual property grows out of patent, trademark, and copyright but changes them from a kind of social compromise to a private property right.
Each stage produces a class who own the means of production in the form of private property, and a class dispossessed of what it produces in the first place. Thus we get farmers versus landlords, workers versus capitalists, and as I would put it, a new level of class conflict, between hackers and what I call vectoralists — those who own intellectual property and the vectors which are the means of realizing its value.
I see the formation of a hacker sensibility and ethic as an expression of this new level of conflict over the enclosure of the commons and the subordination of free productivity to the commodity form. So I see Gisle Hannemyr’s story as part of a bigger picture. Intellectual property makes all kinds of creativity equivalent in the eyes of the marketplace. So x amount of your patents are worth y amount of my copyrights.
So while writers, programmers, biologists, or musicians tend to see themselves as separate cultures with specialized ways of thinking, I think there is an over–arching class interest there as well. An interest in preserving the autonomy of the way we labor that farmers and workers have already lost. We are the new front line in a very long struggle.
It was instructive to see how the U.S. Supreme Court responded to Professor Lessig’s brief about the constitutional limits to copyright. He seems to think that the courts can act as a neutral arbiter in the interests of the common good. I take the view that the courts represent the ruling interests.
And those ruling interests are changing. The capitalist ruling class was not so concerned with turning information into an absolute property right, as it was incidental to their interests. So research, education, and culture could be left to the state and managed in the interests of the economy as a whole.
But the emerging vectoralist class is not interested in the power of the machine, in manufacturing. It’s quite happy to outsource all that to a mass of competitive bidders in the developing world. It controls the production process by controlling information as property — and demands more and more that the state police this right.
I think we need to confront this emerging power with a range of tactics, of which Creative Commons is one, the Free Software movement is another. The struggle over generic drugs, particularly for the developing world is yet another front. Tools for free knowledge and communication sharing — nettime, First Monday — that’s also part of it.
Another part is the rampant file swapping that ordinary people have initiated. I think that’s a whole social movement. And just as it took the threat of communism to get social democracy, I think it will take the threat of a radical experiment in free information to arrive at some negotiated settlement of a "commons."
So while Creative Commons might be a model of the goal, it is one tactic among many.
And so: "information wants to be free" (Stewart Brand) ... "but is everywhere in chains" (Jean–Jacques Rousseau). We have to put the politics back into thinking about the information economy.
Do hackers and their activities represent a response to these "planetary business giants"? Will hackers be "impotent" eventually in this struggle, if indeed there is a struggle?
There are qualitative differences, however, in how the commodity economy works in different stages. I think there’s a real, slow motion revolution that spills out from the invention of the telegraph and culminates in the so–called "new economy." The telegraph, or what I call telesthesia — perception at a distance — makes information move faster than people or things. You can produce a kind of doubling of the world. You create a space of information in which to manage and direct the movement of things.
From the telegraph to the telephone to television to today’s emerging digital media vectors, what gets produced is a "third nature." The built environment, with its roads and buildings, its factories and farms is a second nature, a transformation of nature by collective labor into something more habitable. But this second nature produces its own internal contradictions. And so a third nature arises through which to try and resolve those contradictions. Each is a more abstract phase of development than the last.
And as history pursues this strategy of abstraction, it becomes more and more dependent on hackers — creators of new forms of abstraction — to push further and further towards a third nature of information flow that maps and monitors and transforms the world.
Third nature has utopian possibilities, but it could end up being subordinated to merely reproducing and expanding the commodity economy. This would be the attempt to solve the contradictions of the commodity economy by making more of the same. or, it could be a step towards new forms of organization in which information plays a new role.
The thing about information is that it really does want to be free. It knows no "natural" scarcity. It can escape the commodity economy, at least in part. That’s where hacking — in every sense of the word — has a unique role to play. It’s creating the possibility that something — even if it is only information — can be freed from scarcity and hence from the commodity economy.
The challenge is to think the coming of the digital — computing broadly conceived — as revolutionary. But to think it as not just a technology, but a whole social transformation, and to pay attention to its uneven development, and to local cultural specificities.
One way to go is to deal only with the local and get it really right. There’s a role for that kind of specialized scholarship. But I think there is also a role for trying to synthesize that work into a worldview.
A good work of scholarship is going to strongly true about a limited world. A good work of theory is going to be slightly true about a very big chunk of the world. In A Hacker Manifesto I’m trying to do the latter. Readers can choose to measure it against their local experience however they want. Like any good theory it is refutable. I just hope it would be a productive contribution to knowledge even if people refuted everything in it. Maybe that’s a way to create a better worldview.
We may never approach "maximal knowledge" of the entire contents of the Internet, with some eight billion Web pages in existence, or an average of 1.25 Web pages per person on the planet. Or will we?
My interest is in praxis — in the relationship of knowledge to action. I wrote A Hacker Manifesto as a synethsis of everything I’ve learned about the free creation and sharing of knowledge, from some 10 years of trying to practice it in various digital gift economies on the Internet. So it doesn’t try to "cover" everything. Knowledge for me is subtractive. It’s about what you leave out. It’s about compressing it down to the smallest file size that is still useful. Life is too short for long books.
John McDermott wrote in the New York Review of Books [
"If religion was formerly the opiate of the masses, then surely technology is the opiate of the educated public today, or at least its favorite authors. No other single subject is so universally invested with high hopes for the improvement of mankind generally and of Americans in particular."
So if technology is the opiate, what role do hackers play for the "masses"?
I think we have to change the discourse a bit, and lock onto the commodification of technology, the exploitation of technology as ways of making money rather than as ways of building new possibilities for being human. That’s why I write that "OpiumTM is the religion of the people," refering to a line of designer perfume. Commodification is no longer about things, it’s about signs. The material aspect of the commodity is being hollowed out. Now it’s just a support for the brand.
But hackers can also free information from any particular material form. That’s the genius of digital technology. It provides a platform where information has an arbitrary relation to the material. You could copy this interview onto your hard disk and 999 times out of 1000 you will have exactly the same thing. That’s a tremendously liberating potential. It can free information from scarcity — were it not for a commodity system that keeps trying to stuff it back into material things by legal or technical means. You can be damned sure the next generation DVDs will be much harder to rip than the last, for example. and that’s a backward step, trapping information rather than freeing it.
I argue that the term "hackers," in the broad sense, includes anyone who is a custodian of the virtual, anyone who works on charting the virtual and bringing things into existence, ranging from science to poetry. I think all of us who try to live up to that goal have a shared sense that it is — or can be — a good thing.
I don’t offer a program so much as an orientation: think about what you have as a common interest with other producers of information, and beyond that with other producers in general. Think beyond the property form. Imagine new worlds where information not only wants to be free, but is free. I think that’s a whole new horizon for thinking about what justice is, for what the just society could be.
1. See http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue4_2/gisle/.
2. At http://mondediplo.com/1998/06/01leader.
4. E. Schrodinger, 1935. "Die gegenwartige Situation in der Quantenmechanik," Naturwissenschaftern, volume 23, pp. 807–812; pp. 823–823; and, pp. 844–849; English translation by John D. Trimmer in 1980 in the Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, volume 124, pp. 323–338.