When you write books about science, you don't expect to make the news. On Monday, though, I did. Jake Davis carried my latest book into court, waving it at journalists waiting at the entrance. Davis is accused of taking part in various hacking conspiracies, including an attack that caused the Serious Organised Crime Agency's website to collapse, Apparently it was his reading of choice while awaiting trial.
Cue a string of journalists wanting to know what I think of that, if I have a message for Davis and whether I endorse his (alleged) activities.
Well, I'm not endorsing illegal behaviour (unless perhaps it relates to climate change - see here for details ). No, I don't have a message for Davis that's different from the message I'd give to any reader: thanks, and hope you find it thought-provoking. What do I think of him reading it? Well, somehow, I'm not surprised.
I think the message of the book - that scientists are creative but lawless, anarchic types, without regard for authority and willing to do whatever it takes to get where they want to go - must chime with someone who probably sees himself as cut from the same cloth.
Also, I seem to have something of a cult following among techno-anarchists. My previous book 13 Things That Don't Make Sense was in the top ten stolen books on The Pirate Bay. That book was about questions that scientists haven't yet solved. Many of the stories behind those unsolved questions were tales of misbehaviour, overcoming resistance from the establishment and taking risks. All things that would resonate with those interested in subverting the establishment, sticking it to the man, disregarding authority and - above all - not paying for digital content.
One thing I would add. Scientists like to propagate the myth that they do their work for the good of humanity. Maybe some do, but most are driven by an insatiable curiosity, a drive to be the first to make sense of things. I think there are probably parallels in the hacking community. As a whole, they probably see themselves as a public service (albeit one that the public mostly didn't know it needed). On an individual basis, though, hackers are more likely driven by a desire to be the best, most revered, most audacious hacker, just as most scientists want to be the best and most revered of their colleagues. Whether hackers or scientists, they're only human.
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