People often equated geeks to hackers, but there were certain nuances between them.
An American slang, the word geek was originally used to describe people who were passionate about one or specific fields and invested a lot of time in its research-mostly in the electronics field. In the beginning, the word carried a derogatory connotation, and in the early days of the P-revolution, the term was then extended to hackers, also with a negative overtone.
Nowadays, however, especially since the rise of Silicone Valley bigwigs like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, the term ‘geek’ was given a new meaning. It began to be labeled as a person who was free, creative, and breaking stereotypes. Indeed, geeks were such a group of people. They were the adventurers on the Internet, the hardware enthusiasts, hackers, technologists, programmers, engineers…
“Simply put, you can be anyone-you only have to stick to our principle and you can join the 01 guerrillas,” Philip said. “Of course, most of those who join us are from computer-related fields, though we’ve always hoped that some cheerleader girl or dancer would join us.”
“We have a secret forum of our own, with a self-developed instant messaging software. Over there, we usually discuss technical problems. You can also post about problems you encounter and wait for someone to answer it, or simply show off your skills. The people there are all very nice.” “Is Edward part your crew?” Zhang Heng asked.
“No, Edward, he… he’s not one of us,” replied Ponytail.
Zhang Heng raised an eyebrow at the statement.
“About a year ago, Edward hacked into our forum, the website that we built together.”
Waldo still looked surprised at the mention of this incident.
“Was it supposed to be difficult?”
“Erm, not really. It’s a little easier than hacking into the government’s defense systems,” Philip answered, “The most important thing is that he did it without anyone realizing it. If he hadn’t left us a message after the fact, we wouldn’t even have known that he was there.” “What message?”
“Initially, it was just something of a greeting. You know, hackers appear to be low-key, but, the fact is that most of them desire attention-especially when they manage to hack into really difficult places, they tend to leave a little something. For example, I know a guy who snuck into the HR system of the telecom giant Société française du radiotelephone (SFR) before sending sent a little red flower to all the employees who were working overtime that night.”
“That guy did exactly the same. He left a pixel map of Pac-Man, but it was very small, located on the lower right corner of the homepage. Unless you paid close attention, you won’t be able to see it. Anyway, that was the first time we met Edward. After that, we built a new firewall and encryption system, but the guy still managed to get in.”
“Were you guys angry?”
The man with the ponytail adjusted his glasses. “Angry? No, no, no. It was like an interesting game for us. We enjoyed the feeling of playing against him. So, we revamped the forum, and you can probably guess already—he beat us again. But throughout the whole process, we were all having fun. And it was from then onwards, that we began to have further communication.
“We always thought that ‘Edward’ was a group like us, but the truth gave us the shock of our lives. He said that he was Edward, and he was the only one in his ‘team.’ He told us that he was hired by a very powerful organization and was doing something very cool, something that could turn the world upside down. Once successful, the project was supposed to radically change the way everyone lived and traveled. Of course, Edward always kept his address and work confidential.
“We didn’t take the matter too seriously at the beginning, because, you know, hackers… Who doesn’t like to brag? People always talk about how great they were in the past, but the fact is, they are not even half as good as what they claim to be. I have to admit that Edward is very good at what he does. Heck, it wouldn’t be hyperbole to say that he is the best I’ve ever seen, but to say that he was going to turn the world upside down was just a little bit too over the top. But that aside, we were happy to make a new friend.
“From then on, Edward would often drop by the forum and blow his own trumpet, occasionally relaying recent happenings. Most of it, though, was just about how short the executives’ skirts were on that day, or how awful lunch was. He was always a very contract-abiding guy and never discussed work to us. Until one month ago, we suddenly received a message from him saying that he didn’t know if he was doing the right thing…”
Philip barged in, “I asked him what happened, and if he’d been under a lot of stress at work lately, but he never replied. About a week later, he suddenly contacted me and told me that he escaped and had a very important thing on him. I asked him what it was, and he sent me a document. I could tell from that document that something might have really gone wrong.” “How so?”
Philip glanced around the room and lowered his voice. “It’s a program called TOS. They are planning to build a powerful central control system that will connect all public facilities in the city to the network. It’s like installing a brain for the city-gaining insight into hidden laws that cannot be seen with the naked eye from the massive amounts of data it collects. This could solve problems that decision-makers have always faced due to limited information, such as coming up with partially optimal strategies and not globally optimal solutions. Through millions of precise and meticulous calculations, the program can intelligently reallocate public resources to avoid waste.
“I’ll give you an analogy-once all traffic lights at all intersections are connected to the network, you can recalculate the optimal time allocation for each individual signal light to save travel time. Should an accident occur on the road, the brain of the city will alert the hospital directly so an ambulance could arrive at the scene in the shortest time possible.”
“Sounds pretty good…”
“Yes, that’s what Edward thought too at first. But later on, he discovered that TOS actually had a secret agenda. Once the system had been set up, not only would information from the public facilities be automatically gathered, it would also actively gather personal data from every citizen-your phone messages, medical records, medical insurance numbers, criminal records, favorite websites, the friends you chat with, browsing records, chat content, and every bloody time you use a credit card-all of those things would be collected by it.”
“It’s a disaster,” Ponytail lamented.
“Yes. This means that in the future, every move we make will be under surveillance. We will have no privacy at all—even our rooms would be full of cameras,” Waldo became unusually serious, “You won’t know when they are going to hack into your phone, or even your drone…
“…and if the development of the system continues, things may only get worse. This is only the first stage. In the second stage, TOS will analyze and predict everyone’s tendency to be dangerous. While it’s a great concept, being able to stop a crime before it even happens, we don’t know what algorithms are used to calculate this tendency. Without restraints, we could all end up labeled as dangerous people!”