Cyberpunk Justice – Even If You Lose, You Win

Cyberpunk Justice - Even If You Lose, You WinThere’s an interesting, under-discussed concept within computer hacking, and this article from a couple of weeks ago proves that it’s a thing: according to, Tatenda Chinyamakobvu was arrested for hacking a database to change his grades. Now, he’s representing Zimbabwe in Geneva at the #Hack4SmartSustainableCities conference. Within cybersecurity, there’s a strong undercurrent of ‘even if you lose, you win’ (EIYLYW) as a form of ‘Cyberpunk Justice.’

If you embrace the philosophy of ‘systems can be hacked,’ then it’s no surprise that budding hackers apply this to the outside world. This should be of interest to anyone who follows ‘cyberpunk justice.’ Black hat hackers are famous for using their experience to propel them into lucrative, legitimate careers. This Mashable article cites seven examples, but we could cite many more. Hacking can also be lucrative in other legal ways.

For instance, corporations have embraced this reality in the form of ‘bounty programs.’ As Wikipedia points out, “[t]hese programs allow the developers to discover and resolve bugs before the general public is aware of them, preventing incidents of widespread abuse.” I’ll give you three guesses who finds these bugs, and the first two don’t count. Put all those facts in a paint shaker and what comes out? Even if you lose, you win. Breaking the rules is okay, if you do it right.

I’m spitballing some of these concepts right now because I haven’t heard an articulate breakdown from anyone about ethics and hacking yet. What I’ve come up with so far is the value of choice in a world where the space between haves and have-nots grows wider every day.

Cyberpunk Justice - Even If You Lose, You WinI mean, how are you supposed to tell kids to follow the rules when the kids who break the law are getting sent to the head of the line? How will you sell them on ‘if you work hard and do things right, you’ll succeed?’ Right now, the world’s actions communicate very clearly that EIYLYW works. The next generation may hear what you say, but they watch what you do. When you reward EIYLYW, you’re telling them what you really care about.

But what kind of future will this lead to? My personal belief system includes integrity and ethics, so I don’t personally subscribe to EIYLYW. I’m a firm believer that it’s not just about what you do, but how you do it. That’s why I encourage people via Mesh to think about building their skills in ethical ways.

On one hand, I can see why many people would embrace EIYLYW.  But without ethics or limits, we’re no better than the bad guys. The closer we get to a systems devoid of accountability, the more important it’s going to be to choose your direction. After all, this isn’t just about you. It’s about all of us.