The word “HACK” is painted across the main square of Facebook’s campus in letters so large that they can be seen from space. The term has lost its negative connotation in Silicon Valley; freewheeling coding sessions and virtual breaking and entering have become the same thing.
The culture of hacking is rebellious, idealistic, and militantly anti-bureaucratic—fitting for an age that glorifies entrepreneurship—and it marks a stark shift from the recent history of scientists in American life. During the heyday of the space program, rocket scientists and computer engineers worked closely with NASA officials. The bureaucrat and the geek were not polar opposites but complementary types who often seemed indistinguishable—straight arrows with an occasional streak of repressed weirdness. But, with the counterculture and the advent of the personal computer as a tool for individual liberation, John Glenn gave way to Steve Jobs, “Apollo 13” to “The Social Network.”