Newsweek's Steven Levy, author of a best-selling hacker book, should know his business. But he recently said he is surprised occasionally. He singled out the hacker spirit's resilience, as translated in Web2.0, as something he failed to predict.
In an interview with Ubiquity, an academic publication, Levy, who is Newsweek's chief technology writer, says he has been unduly pessimistic about the prospect of the ´hacker spirit´.
Levy is the author of Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution.
He had anticipated that corporate forces, which he termed 'mammon' would suppress it. "But it's turned out to be fantastically resilient, and subsequent technological developments show that," Levy said. He added that user-generated everything is the essence of the hacker spirit.
This lives on not so much in the activity of writing program code, but in the creative use of the technology and its sharing. This is living proof of the resilience of the early web age's idealism. "This technology becomes a terrific distribution point for that mindset which says that information should be, if not free, then as free as possible - though not in the monetary sense, but in the distribution sense," Levy pointed out.
Levy said that the phenomenon that what information you get and produce is more important than who you are or where you come from, has truly surprised him.
Asked what he thinks the likes of Bill Gates or Steve Jobs make of it, Levy said that Bill Gates has a dual approach to free stuff. "He grew up with that, but he's pretty much a hawk in terms of intellectual property rights".
Steve Jobs more explicitly embraces open sourcing, Levy believes. "Steve understands how that could be powerful in distributing music, and has been fighting the record labels in terms of that."
But Gates has shown that he realizes how important it is to grow the pie of technology, Levy said, adding that Microsoft has adapted to the new reality to some degree.
Levy´s most recent book The Perfect Thing: How the iPod Shuffles Culture, Commerce, and Coolness was released a while ago now, and the interviewers at Ubiqus asked Levy about plans for a next epic. He responded that he had no specific topic in mind yet. When the interviewers suggested he'd do a book about Ray Kurzweil and his group, Levy said he'd think about it."If Ray helps me live forever, I'll certainly get around to doing a book about him."
Just betting on how wrong one feasibly can be on the Singularity. Might it be a single tool? A device? An internet based deity? A being believed to live on in the clouds, but hailing from a Wifi zone? My prediction is that Levy should get going or he might be in for competition. Kurzweil is busy directing his own film at the moment and is sooo easy to write about.
Anyone in Levy's position, who says he can do whatever he likes at Newsweek, should automatically be assigned a crowdsourced platform if he set out on his next publication. To be provided assistance from none else but the Singularity.