Hacking is also Bruce Sterling’s territory. Less than a decade after Levy, cyberpunk writer Sterling constructed another notion of hacking in his book The Hacker Crackdown: an activity of the young, the inventive, the aggressive, the misunderstood, the persecuted. The cyberpunk genre of science fiction made protagonists of individuals who could operate on the virtual borderland between computer and human. Though not necessarily presented in heroic terms, Sterling clearly sees his hackers as protagonists in the narrative of the encounter between the individual and the social, political and cultural institutions transformed by the realities of technology.

Sterling quotes what is perhaps the best-know hacker text, "The Conscience of the Hacker" by "The Mentor":

This is our world now... the world of the electron and the switch, the beauty of the baud. We make use of a service already existing without paying for what could be dirt-cheap if it wasn’t run by profiteering gluttons, and you call us criminals. We explore... and you call us criminals. We seek after knowledge... and you call us criminals. We exist without skin colour, without nationality, without religious bias... and you call us criminals. You build atomic bombs, you wage wars, you murder, cheat, and lie to us and try to make us believe that it’s for our own good, yet we’re the criminals. (85-86)

But is Sterling's view ultimately all that different from Levy? Both Sterling and Levy present the hacker as something akin to a stage in a cycle of maturity. Just as Levy’s idealistic coders were forced to move into a the "real world" of business ethics, so do Sterling’s protagonists: the members of the hacker groups Legion of Doom and the Masters of Destruction have moved on, either to well-paying coding and consulting contracts, or to jail.