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“You can’t arrest an idea,” tweets Jake Davis, the day before his arrest. Five years prior to sharing his story on the TEDxTeen London stage, Jake was locked up for posing a threat to national security as a criminal hacker.
Jake started hacking government websites as a teen, because, at the time, “it felt like a game.” Notorious for hacking under the globally recognized Anonymous mask, Jake found himself gaining viral attention and defying authority, nearly by accident.
So, as a teenager challenging the system, was Jake in the wrong?
As THINK Global school representatives at London’s 2017 TEDxTeen Bold Moves, we listened to Jake’s story, and the story of many other teens, who suffered consequences from challenging the system in some way. As an untraditional traveling school notorious for encouraging our students and other like-minded teens to “change the way you THINK,” we similarly recognize that “sometimes the boldest moves are seemingly the smallest,” as said by TedX teen host Simon Cohen.
Jake challenged the system, and in doing so found himself in prison. But Jake also learned, maybe the hard way, that much good can also result from behavioral deviation.
Jake tells us that we shouldn’t be afraid of hackers, and instead, that “hackers can be a force for good in the future.” As a speaker for TEDx Teen, Jake confessed that hackers do what they do “simply for the challenge of doing it.”
It is clear that teens should be challenged. And it is also clear in Jake’s reform from sharing a cell with “Mr. T” to standing in front of us at TEDxTeen that teens should also be given safe spaces to challenge the system, especially when they can be instrumental in finding systematic flaws, like Jake and many other white hat hackers now do by engaging in bug bounties for world-renowned corporations like Facebook, Twitter, Uber, and Spotify. Regarding these bug bounties, Jake says, ”If you hack Facebook, you get $500 every time.“ And why do these companies do that? Because knowing the faults in your own system can be good, sometimes critical, for your own operational development and reputation.
At TEDxTeen, it was evident that many of the talkers had taken a similar introspective approach in coming up with their own bold ideas. Natalie Hampton, who had been ostracized for years at school and made to feel alone and isolated in the school lunchroom, used her own experiences to develop a phone app called Sit With Us, which makes sure that no one ever need sit alone during lunch again by crowdsourcing opportunities to make new friends and find a place at the table.
Another speaker, Claudia Vulliamy, who turned her rejection letter from Oxford into a piece of positive abstract art that quickly went viral on Twitter, stated, “we will all, at some point, fail” but that we also “all have an opportunity to do something with it.” And Claudia is right: we all at some point do fail, but it’s what we do in the aftermath that is most important, whether through art, music, online activism, hacking, or countless other outlets for staying mentally strong, looking inward, and recognizing that rejection is simply proof that you were bold enough to strive for greatness in the first place.
Join us in New York City
As always, it was great to be a sponsor of such a thought-provoking event, and it was clear that the stories shared resonated with the teen audience, who, like our students at THINK Global School, thrive on seeing conventions challenged and view every idea as an opportunity to think in bold and imaginative ways.
Have some bold ideas of your own that you’d like to share? TEDxTeen 2017 NYC is right around the corner, and we’d love nothing more than to hear you give the talk in person. So sign up today!