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Hackers vs. suits: Why nerds become leakers

When The Guardian unveiled its profile of Edward Snowden, it included a picture of the 29-year-old contractor with his laptop. On its back were stickers for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil liberties group, and Tor, software that allows people to browse the Internet anonymously. Laptops with EFF or Tor stickers are common at technology conferences, and people who have them tend to have a lot in common. They tend to be technically-savvy, skeptical of authority, and comfortable defying social conventions. Like Snowden, a high school dropout, they tend to have unconventional career paths. These personality traits describe Bradley Manning, the young soldier who is accused of leaking secret documents to the WikiLeaks Web site. They also describe WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. And that probably isn’t a coincidence. The Silicon Valley investor Paul Graham has argued that the same personality traits that make people good at programming also cause them to have a disobedient attitude toward authority figures and social conventions. These programmers, who often describe themselves as hackers, are experts at examining complex systems and finding ways to make them work better. They tend to think about society as just another complex system in need of optimization, and this sometimes leads them to conclusions starkly at odds with conventional wisdom. via Hackers vs. suits: Why nerds become leakers.

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