By now, nearly everybody who would read this blog has probably heard about Aaron Swartz’s suicide. I didn’t know Aaron, though I wish I could have. Many people whom I respect and admire have written eloquently about his life and legacy: Philip Greenspun, Lawrence Lessig, and Tim Berners-Lee. This has left me a lot to think about, from depression (a subject with which I have more personal and intimate familiarity than almost anyone knows) to programming to prosecutorial discretion.
I’ve been thinking for some time on “hacktivism 3.0″, which is a somewhat-misleading term because none of this has truly developed linearly. But if hacktivism has (d)evolved from cDc’s original declaration to Anonymous-style DDOS, it has also grown into full-blown activism “using our powers for good”, changing the world through code and a deep understanding of the technologies that now connect us and define so much of our lives (and not just in the First World). That might mean anything from volunteering at the computer lab at your local library or school to moderating online support communities to running a Tor relay to working with organizations like Citizen Lab.
The need for us – and by us, I mean all hackers – to get involved in making the world a better place is not directly political nor religious and certainly not partisan. I have a deeply ingrained belief that everyone should use their talents, skills, and abilities to try to help people around them. For some, that could mean getting involved in politics or religion, certainly, but for others, it could mean something else.
So don’t wait. Brew a pot of coffee and get to work. If you’ve been considering getting involved with a project, do it. If you already have a cause that matters to you, start doing something you can do. The world needs us right now.