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MIT President Tells Grads To 'Hack the World' 86

Posted by timothy
from the but-gently dept.
theodp writes "On Friday, MIT President L. Rafael Reif exhorted grads to 'hack the world until you make the world a little more like MIT'. A rather ironic choice of words, since 'hack the world' is precisely what others said Aaron Swartz was trying to do in his fateful run-in with MIT. President Reif presumably received an 'Incomplete' this semester for the promised time-is-of-the-essence review of MIT's involvement in the events that preceded Swartz's suicide last January. By the way, it wasn't so long ago that 2013 commencement speaker Drew Houston and Aaron Swartz were both welcome speakers at MIT."
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MIT President Tells Grads To 'Hack the World'

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  • sounds familiar... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tastecicles (1153671) on Saturday June 08, 2013 @06:09PM (#43948275)

    ...Line from "Hackers", repeated several times:

    "Hack the planet!"

    • They're TRASHING our rights, man! They're TRASHING the flow of data! They're TRASHING! TRASHING! TRASHING!
    • by Anonymous Coward

      what a nice, polite and subtle tribute so such grim events.

    • I think he loved that movie :) But MIT hackers are real...the movie was a sham.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Saturday June 08, 2013 @06:19PM (#43948321) Journal

    Go ahead and hack the world. If you get caught, I never said that and we've never heard of you.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Go ahead and hack the world. If you get caught, I never said that and we've never heard of you.

      1. The word 'hack' has several meanings. Maybe you picked the wrong one.

      2. We have good relations with the well known law school up the river. However Prof. Lessig is very busy, I'm afraid.

      3. Couldn't you settle for disrupting the Harvard-Yale football game?

      4. Or the kind of hacking that leads to an IPO, so you can live a life of luxury and MIT can hit you up to fund some new research labs.

    • Pesky Kids (Score:5, Funny)

      by sanman2 (928866) on Saturday June 08, 2013 @06:44PM (#43948439)

      ... I would've gotten away with it too, if it weren't for those pesky kids!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So can this guy share some blame when the law comes knocking?

    Cuz "hack the world" didn't work out so well for Aaron Swartz...

  • by Virtucon (127420) on Saturday June 08, 2013 @06:26PM (#43948363)

    For our materials that are paid for by US tax dollars and put behind systems to deliberately make you get at it through our multiple gates and measures or any other thing we make money on.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I think you misunderstood "more like MIT". The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a deeply traditional institution, not some revolutionary place. People go there to change the odds in their favor, not to make the world a better place.

  • MIT Hacks (Score:5, Informative)

    by e4liberty (537089) on Saturday June 08, 2013 @06:48PM (#43948449)
    At MIT, the word "hack" means something very specific, and not criminal or unethical. It is a impressive, creative, and clever achievement. From http://hacks.mit.edu/ [mit.edu] The word hack at MIT usually refers to a clever, benign, and "ethical" prank or practical joke, which is both challenging for the perpetrators and amusing to the MIT community (and sometimes even the rest of the world!). Note that this has nothing to do with computer (or phone) hacking (which we call "cracking").
    • Re:MIT Hacks (Score:4, Insightful)

      by divisionbyzero (300681) on Saturday June 08, 2013 @10:13PM (#43949557)

      At MIT, the word "hack" means something very specific, and not criminal or unethical. It is a impressive, creative, and clever achievement.

      From http://hacks.mit.edu/ [mit.edu]

      The word hack at MIT usually refers to a clever, benign, and "ethical" prank or practical joke, which is both challenging for the perpetrators and amusing to the MIT community (and sometimes even the rest of the world!). Note that this has nothing to do with computer (or phone) hacking (which we call "cracking").

      So, the president of MIT was urging MIT students to pull clever practical jokes? That's stupid or he meant something different. Presumably he meant "hack" in the same way that people who have been actually involved with computers understand it: exploring the possibilities of a system (often including some that the inventor never intended) for the sake of discovery and in some cases using those discoveries to create unique and innovative outcomes. I get that you are trying to make a distinction between "hacking" and "cracking" but "hacking" has a meaning that transcends the special case of practical jokes that are a part of MIT folklore and if the president of MIT did not have the broader meaning in mind, then his comments are almost comical.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        So, the president of MIT was urging MIT students to pull clever practical jokes?

        Umm, no.

        That's stupid or he meant something different. Presumably he meant "hack" in the same way that people who have been actually involved with computers understand it: exploring the possibilities of a system (often including some that the inventor never intended) for the sake of discovery and in some cases using those discoveries to create unique and innovative outcomes.

        Yep. That's actually what it means at MIT too, except the origin isn't necessarily only in computers. A "hacker" at MIT is one who explores in general -- often finding ways into the deep tunnels of the sub-basements in campus buildings or on the roofs and domes, seeking what goes on in the bowels and secret places of MIT.

        The famous "hacks" at MIT are merely a side-effect of that exploring culture. It's only because hackers have such intimate knowledge of the buildings and systems on campus that

    • You don't get to define hack. Culture does. Don't get me wrong. I'm a hacker in the original classic sense. However, Science, or even just Progress is about compression. Compression is the ability to Sense observation Decide the likely outcome based on prior observation, and Act with predictive powers given by the prior observation. If you and I have different dictionaries, we have less progress; More wasted time building a conversion table, clarifying the symbolics of communication. When faced wi

      • You don't get to define hack. Culture does.

        Absolutely. MIT doesn't get to define "hack" for the culture at large. However, MIT does have its own distinctive culture, and it has its own sets of terms, phrases, and special meanings (just like Slashdot).

        MIT does get to define what the term "hack" means when used on its own campus, as long as its own communal culture agrees on it.

        And thus, when an MIT president speaks to MIT students, he might be expected to use the term "hack" in that sense. There is nothing inherently "wrong" with this, nor is

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          Absolutely. MIT doesn't get to define "hack" for the culture at large.

          No, but the term hacking was in use for a very long time before everyone came along and decided cracker was a better word.

          Many of us are old enough to remember the term applying to both, and listening to the whining about how it's supposed to be crack instead of hack gets an eye roll, because those people weren't around when 'hack' covered a lot more.

          MIT doesn't get to define the word, but people who are trying to retroactively re-define

      • Hmmm... What do you suppose someone thinks of a "lifehacker", someone who visits and applies the advice given at the immensely popular website http://www.lifehacker.com [lifehacker.com]?

        I think the word "hacker" means different things in different contexts, and just because one definition is used less doesn't mean it no longer exists, or that it holds up progress.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The word hack at MIT usually refers to a clever, benign, and "ethical" prank or practical joke, which is both challenging for the perpetrators and amusing to the MIT community (and sometimes even the rest of the world!). Note that this has nothing to do with computer (or phone) hacking (which we call "cracking").

      ...implying there is no such thing as ethical computer/phone hacking. The way I see it, Aaron's actions CAN be seen as ethical (although possibly illegal) "hacking". After all, he was "hacking" to liberate public domain works to the larger public, which CAN be seen as ethical (although possibly illegal).

      tl;dr: MIT's President should stfu about "hacking".

    • by Trip6 (1184883)
      Can you "hack" a "Smoot?"
    • by gstoddart (321705)

      And to many of us, that's why we still use the word 'hack' in both the making something cool category and 'hacking' into a system.

      To me, this insistence on using the word 'cracker' came about a decade too late -- because 'hack' was used for both for a long time, and then a bunch of people starting whining and saying it should be 'cracking'.

      For me it will always be hacking code and hacking into a system.

  • I still think that the best advice I've ever heard/read at any commencement advice is.... to wear sunscreen...

    Baz Luhrmann - Everybody's Free To Wear Sunscreen
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTJ7AzBIJoI [youtube.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Prior to the incident with Aaron Schwartz and how it was handled by MIT, I associated nothing negative with MIT. MIT was all about higher technology learning and legendary hacks. I am saddened that MIT now conjures strong negative as well as strong positive thoughts with regards to some of the core activities that one associates with a computing career choice and lifestyle.

  • There is a difference between not living up to ones own standards and not having standards. Setting a good goal for yourself and telling others that this goal is good doesn't always preclude one from being weak and failing to live up to ones own expectations.
  • Aaron Schwarz would roll over in his grave.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    And plagiarist.

  • He's now on every singe watchlist there is.

  • How quickly can we connect the Aaron Schwarz case as quickly as possible without sign of reflection to a random factoid?

    While i certainly dont appreciate the possible punishment for copying files, what he did was *not* hacking. Hacking is ti exploit unexpected, new paths. Attaching a computer to a netwerk and copying files for releasing them, unrelated to demonstrating a new way of exploiting something is *not* hacking

  • Harvard dropouts started MicroSoft and Facebook. Stanford/grads dropouts started CISCO, Yahoo, Google, HP ... I dont see MIT with an "elephant" for all its bravado.

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