For many years, I have counted Steven Levy’s Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution (1984 orig ed.; now in a 25th ann. 2010 ed.) among my favorite books. It’s the story of the pioneers of personal computing, starting back in the late 50s and going into the heart of the 80s. It’s a wonderfully written book, full of personalities, discoveries, and innovations.
Nevertheless, from a distance this doesn’t look like the kind of book that would hold my affection. I’m not a tech geek. In fact, I am among a minority of professors at my law school who prohibit the use of laptops in my classrooms, and I have used PowerPoint only once in the many talks I’ve given at conferences and programs over the years.
So what’s the ongoing draw of this book?
For me, Hackers captures the great pull of immersing yourself in something that matters deeply to you; doing something positive, constructive, and/or creative; and being part of a group of people whose collective efforts exceed the sum of their parts. At times, it’s about being able to join something truly exciting on the ground floor.
Within the past decade or so, I’ve found those kinds of connections:
- The workplace anti-bullying movement has become a core piece of my work and life. I feel very blessed that I discovered this movement early in its inception and am playing a meaningful role in growing it.
- The emerging intern rights movement has also become deeply important to me. I’m delighted over my supportive, “senior” role to this predominantly younger cohort of activists.
- The therapeutic jurisprudence network, only a quarter century old, is about to launch a global non-profit organization, and I am excited to be working closely with a small group of organizers.
- Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies, founded in the early 2000s, is poised to help shape dialogue, research, and practice toward a more dignified society. Last year I joined its board, and I am stoked about the possibilities for expanding the influence of this wonderful network.
Most of the crowd in Hackers found their passions early in life. For me, these pieces didn’t truly come together until my fifties. Call me a late bloomer, but it took me a long time to grow into and find this groove. Now, it feels right, and I’m very grateful for that.
You may read more about my work in these realms in my recently published law review article, “Intellectual Activism and the Practice of Public Interest Law” (Southern California Review of Law and Social Justice).