Despite the title The Hacker Ethic is a philosophical essay contrasting the Western capitalist world view with those of hackers. In this context, hackers are those passionate about any subject, not just computers.
The book starts with an essay by Linus Torvalds and finishes with a thoughtful 75-page essay by Manual Cassels called "Informationalism and the Network Society". At its heart though, is the paradox summed up on page 60, "Present capitalism is based on the exploitation of scientific communism". This simply means companies make money based on information provided by scientists for free. This results in an ethical quandary. Companies eagerly seize information freely provided by hackers yet withhold information discovered by themselves. An indefensible position.
Himamen claims hackers work because what they're doing interests them and disseminating what they learn brings the respect of their peers while others work for money and enjoy the envy of their peers. His arguments are well illustrated with ideas from Plato, through medieval village life, protestantism, academia, the industrial revolution and more. He concludes the information revolution makes work central to our lives, soaking up the time and energy necessary for play, for the pursuit of personal passions.
He isn't whistling "Dixie". Who do you know with a hobby? How many talk to their families? Most spend their free time watching actors pretend to be members of passionate families. This is essential reading for anyone who wonders what their life is about. Hackers don't need to read it. --Steve Patient