Whatever you may have heard about hackers, the truth is they do something really, really well: discover. Hackers are motivated, resourceful, and creative. They get deeply into how things work, to the point that they know how to take control of them and change them into something else. This lets them re-think even big ideas because they can really dig to the bottom of how things function.
Furthermore, they aren't afraid to make the same mistake twice just out of a kind of scientific curiosity, to see if that mistake always has the same results. That's why hackers don't see failure as a mistake or a waste of time because every failure means something and something new to be learned. And these are all traits any society needs in order to make progress. Which is why we need to get it into schools.
Now, there is the expected resistance from school administrations and parents. Mostly because people don't know what hacking really is. Many people who have been called hackers, especially by the media, or who have gotten in trouble for "hacking" were not, in fact, hackers. Most all of them were just thieves and fraudsters. When you read in the news, Teen girl hacks Facebook to harass a classmate, what you're seeing is a sensationalized headline. What a hacker reads in that headline is: Mean girl watched classmate type in her Facebook password and then logged in as her. That mean people and criminals do bad things with communications medium is not a reason to fear the medium. Schools are there to educate and can embrace this distinction for real change.
Hacking is a type of methodology. It's a way to do research. Have you ever tried something again and again in different ways to get it to do what you wanted? Have you ever opened up a machine or a device to see how it works, read up on what the components are, and then make adjustments to see what now worked differently? That's hacking. You are hacking whenever you deeply examine how something really works in order to manipulate it, often creatively, into doing what you want.
A hacker is a type of hands-on, experimenting scientist, although perhaps sometimes the term "mad scientist" fits better, because unlike professional scientists they dive right in, following a feeling rather than a formal hypothesis. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Many interesting things have been designed or invented by people who didn't follow standard conventions of what was known or believed to be true at the time.
The mathematician, Georg Cantor, proposed new ideas about infinity and set theory that caused outrage amongst many fellow mathematicians to the point that one called his ideas a "grave disease" infecting mathematics.
Nikola Tesla is another person considered a "mad scientist" in his day, but he knew more about how electricity behaved than anyone else. He designed possibly the first brushless motor that ran on AC electricity but is mostly known for the Tesla effect and the Tesla coil.
Then there was Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis who figured out that doctors need to wash their hands between treating patients to keep diseases from spreading. He wondered if the diseases following him around between patients were his fault, so he decided to try washing hands between his patient visits and sure enough the transmissions disappeared. His ideas went against both the scientific conventions of what was known at the time about germs (nothing) as well as the convenience of the doctors who felt it was too much hassle to keep washing their hands.
It just so happens that the way the Internet is designed and the huge number of different applications, systems, devices, and processes it has makes it the most common place to find hackers. You could say it's a place where information can run free because it was built open and free by hackers so it's the best playground for hackers. But it's not the only place. You can find great hackers in almost every field and industry and they all have one thing in common: they spend time learning how things work so they can make them work in a new way. These hackers didn't look at something as the original designers did, but instead saw bigger or better potential for it and hacked it to be something new.
Via Gordon Dahlby