Meetings and Events

Down With the Corporate Ethos, Up With the Sunrise: Inspiring a New Generation of Hackers, Josh Natis
2023-06-14 @ 18:45 EDT (22:45 UTC) - Five Mile Stone, 1640 2nd Ave (northeat corner of 2nd Ave and 85th St, 2nd Floor). Please note the stairs to the second floor are on the north wall as you enter from 2nd Ave. +
Notice: Location Change

I. Students

As a student, it's easy to feel useless in the current state of the world's software ecosystem. At times, it seems like everything has been invented already. For the most part, we're only able to program "toy" projects, and if we do decide to be amicable and share them with the world, our code falls upon deaf ears – there is no positive reinforcement for our feedback loop, our programs do not seem to help anybody. Software forges like GitHub are brimming with programs, why should anybody be concerned with ours? Projects we care about are so complex that we can hardly grok their code, let alone offer any meaningful help. Looking far into the past, the picture seems less bleak. Programmers were a scarce resource. There was no Internet, and thus no gigantic repository of programs to render yours obsolete. If you wrote a program, you were contributing to your community's infrastructure, building it up with more and more utilities over time. Every program you wrote bettered the system, extending the capabilities of whomever you were sharing your system with. Systems themselves were simpler, built from primitives one could reasonably wrap their head around, so adding an impactful change was possible. This endows programming with a sliver of humanity – you are doing a favor to your community by doing this work. In modern day, this is often replaced by an appeal to capitalism – you are improving your resume by programming this, it will help you get a job. This leaves us hollow.

II. Computing Industry, Western Society

The world of computer science students is representative of a general trend within the computing industry, which itself is a microcosm of society as a whole. The pure information overload of the Global Village, the wealth and power amassed and deployed by technofeudal corporations, the fading away of our warm, caring human nature and trust in one another, the slow cancellation of the future as we train our children to be automatons. Where have all the hackers gone? I think this is deeply connected to the gaping hole left by the departure of myth, spirit, and religion from our society, replaced by a cold calculated rationalism and commodification of everything, even human nature and identity. The Soviet Union tried to fill this hole through "God-building". What should we do?

We will look to the past to once again discover the warm stream of computing, the free-flowing camaraderie of the hacker ethic. We'll consider the freedom of constraints, the altruistic nature of humans, the tradeoffs between the departing software Wild West and the global coordination enabled by standards / governing bodies, best practices, and a convergence on a shared corpus of open source software. With the flame in your heart kindled, we will debate how to improve the state of affairs -- should we go bottom up? Become teachers, mentors, poets, artists, creators of evocative media, inspiring the new generation of hackers? Or should we go top down, using whatever means necessary to change the way we live in our society on a macro level -- economic and political systems, states.

Things can be different -- Down With the Corporate Ethos, Up With the Sunrise.


Josh Natis is a Unix herder searching for unknown unknowns, hopelessly stuck in a dialectic between Luddism and technological utopia. Loves having a cappuccino at night. Longs for mornings but is never awake for them. Happy to be here.

Offsite Participation: We plan to stream via NYC*BUG Website unless the speaker requests otherwise. Q&A will be via IRC on channel #nycbug - Please preface your questions with '[Q]'.