Originally posted on TED Blog:
This week’s TED Radio Hour examines the hacker, a term often associated with computer crime. But, as host Guy Raz tells us, “All of our TED speakers today are hacking for good — hacking into our brains, into the environment, even into the DNA of extinct animals — hackers trying to save the world.”
First up, Mikko Hypponen, the programmer who visited the creators of The_Brain, the very first computer virus that plagued the technology world in 1986. In his talk from 2011, Hypponen tells the story of how his investigation of the virus led him to an address in Pakistan. Embedded in the code of an infected floppy disk, Hypponen found English text that said, “Welcome to the dungeon 1986. Beware of this virus. Contact us for vaccination.” Following their instructions, Hypponen found himself face to face with the people who had made history. The reason they did it: to prove that the new PC computers were insecure. it’s evidence that the first hackers were actually good hackers.
The next TED speaker in the episode is a completely different kind of hacker. Stewart Brand is using DNA from fossils and preserved specimens to bring a species back from extinction. In his talk from TED2013, he tells the story of Martha, the last living passenger pigeon who died on September 1, 1914. Brand and his colleagues are engaged in “resurrection biology,” also known as “de-extinction.” The idea is to insert genes from an extinct species into a closely related living species. Brand says he is using hacking to organize the past. “Sorrow, anger, mourning?” he says. “Don’t mourn; organize.”