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The Hack the Planet Manifesto

During the early summer of 1998, I was searching for direction. Simplification. An understanding of the purpose of anything. I do not remember how the answer came to me, but when it came it said "Hack the Planet" and I understood that this was my slogan. The purpose that had guided me for twenty years now had a name, and it was Hack the Planet.

You may wonder exactly what Hack the Planet means; on this page I will attempt to explain it.

While Hack the Planet is powerful in its simplicity it is weak in its vagueness. Many people do not understand what it means to hack, to be enlightened by the fire of creativity. Hack the Planet is not a destructive force; it is a creative force that aims to change things for the better. It is the optimistic belief that tomorrow can be better than today. It is based on the fundamental idea that change is good. Change brings uncertainty, but I have come to accept and even welcome uncertainty.

When I tell you that I want to Hack the Planet, I do not mean merely the physical geography of earth. I want to hack technology. I want to hack the media. I want to hack the economy. I want to hack society. You name it, I want to hack it.

I think this is best illustrated by example. In the late 70s, an engineer named Steve Wozniak decided that every person should be able to afford a computer. This is now known as the "personal computer industry". Woz hacked the planet.

A few years later, Richard Stallman decided that every person has the right to understand and control how their computer works. He called this idea, that software should not be owned, GNU. Many people believe that such Open Source software has an evolutionary advantage over other software and thus that its success is historically inevitable. RMS hacked the planet.

In 1986 a carpenter named Larry Harvey burned a wooden effigy of a man on a San Francisco beach. Over a decade later, tens of thousands of people join him every year for a week in the Nevada desert to shed the limitations of normal human society. This new society, which embraces the self-organizing properties of chaos as its only master, is called Burning Man. Larry Harvey hacked the planet.

The people who John Brockman calls the Third Culture are hacking the planet. They are dissatisfied with normality. They are changing things. There are more people hacking the planet right now than I could chronicle. But I hope to chronicle some of them and their ideas. This Web site is dedicated to the idea that hacking the planet is essential to the survival of the human race.

Wesley Felter, 14 August 1998


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