any hacker can, in the next ten minutes, cause their CPU to do more arithmetic than the arithmetic (explicitly adding 2+5, and so forth, multiplying two numbers in their heads) that every single person has done in the history of humanity. okay, but that's just numbers.
Today we live in a connected world where 2,000,000,000 people can be reached in any eight-hour period of time.
Any hacker can find any niche and make a product that will be the first search result within it (by being the first; making something that doesn't exist; and telling people).
Why save a salary, when you can create a business, create value, and scale to the entire Internet and give people some benefit?
Every hacker should start one or several businesses. While it may not exactly be a moral obligation, this brings humanity forward.
EDIT to clarify: I am disagreeing with the suggestion that hackers should save all or most of their money - (put in my parent comment as "save as much of your salary as you can") -- rather than saving it, they should invest it into their businesses, adwords to grow it, other advertising and business development expenses, hiring, etc.
As software systems grow they turn into complex systems. They become embedded in the processes of the end users, while requiring constant boring work to remain alive.
I fail to see how this maintenance work is less worthwhile than developing new tools. Any complex task requires decades and decades of labour.
This is not to say that identifying niches that benefit from established tecnhinques and require only some domain specific customization would not also be wortwhile.
But claiming "everybody should find such a niche and become entrepreneurs" is quite bit too much. My mental energy is used in my daily work which brings added value to my orgs and our clients. The benefits of this are enormous - I can focus on deep, technically complex work while outsourcing payroll, taxes, liabilities etc. to my employer.
Effectively, I don't think many people can do deep work and become an entrepreneur at the same time. Also, expert skills in one domnain are no guarantee in some other. Star software engineers can turn up shit or stellar business operatives.
I think you are covering the software engineer in some weird halo of infallibility.
That said, I do have enormous respect for people who have created new businesses. But it hardly is the only way to bring in value.
This is how you end up at conferences where everyone you talk to is the CEO, but nobody is actually making any money (or, in large part, actually doing any business).
I also love entrepreneurship, but it is not, nor should it be, for everyone.
I guess my objection was to the idea of saving "as much as possible." I don't mean to imply that you shouldn't work for a salary: but you should take some of that salary and spend it on actively building or backing businesses, not just passively.
Based on your background I think you would be amazed how much business you could create by investing in/overseeing a developer in India or China, for example. Your knowledge/background + $5000 goes waaaaaay farther than you think. (regardless of who the owner ends up.)
To me this is the opposite of the advice to passively save as much as possible!
 I corrected the spelling of this word - I mispelled it before too.
Active investment is highly context sensitive. I'm not denying someone might be plausibly in a position with sufficient information, domain knowledge, connections and a small amount of capital to operate as you suggested.
Your claim that operating on this manner is the obvious best choice for everyone is highly controversial. For starters, private investment requires trust and communication and just the culture barrier to understand the true rules of business and engagement are non-trivial for someone who's native culture is for example northern european.
Basically, I'm totally clueless. I have no idea how to a) hire an indian software dev for a few thousands b) what value added activity I should require of them and c) to whom to sell their work to.
I do know, however, how to invest into low cost index funds with reputable finance organizations. Thus the latter from economic perspective is a highly more enticing option.
I presume you have some specific situation in mind. Perhaps you could give some 'hypothetical' scenarios and what their profit model is?
I do like programming, and I plan to spend my productive time on this Earth programming on projects that interest me and help humanity in some way, but I just absolutely 100% have no plans to start a business. I admire your excitement about the idea, but I think that maybe not everyone feels the same way :)
(I also recognize that maybe not everyone feels that automatically saving+investing as much of your income as possible is a good idea - I'm mainly attempting to reach those folks who do think it's a good idea and just need a little bit of prodding to actually set it up.)
"Saving it" here is not hiding it under the mattress. Buying stocks is literally investing it, only into other people's businesses. Buying corporate bonds is lending it to other people's businesses so they can grow. And investments into existing established businesses could easily be argued to have at least as large a potential impact as starting out on your own with a minor project that is more likely to fail than not.
I don't think there's anything wrong with saving or with passive investments. But it shouldn't be as much as you can. Engineers have other very good uses of their money, which I outlined.
How does starting a business bring humanity forward? Maybe I'm just pessimistic but as far as I can tell the pursuit of money largely just ruins things.
I would think that a "hacker" would make things just because they can and enjoy it, without concern for things like profits or market value. Indeed weren't the very first hackers amateurs and not professionals, in the literal sense?
I'm not saying that people should just forego money completely of course, as I am just as guilty of anyone of wanting more money. I just don't understand why "every hacker should start one or several businesses." if we're solely concerned about humanity.
If, for whatever reason, my business doesn't turn as much of a profit as I'd hope, and I've spent everything I could on it, I'm in an awful position: both as a person who needs to keep a roof over my head, and as someone hoping to do good things for humanity. If I'm on the verge of bringing humanity miles forward, and fail, I've done less good than if I reliably brought humanity a few inches forward.
On the other hand, if I do save my salary up, I can choose at some later point to spend all of my time and energy on something cool, and keep spending that time and energy until something happens, because now my risk tolerance is much higher. And then it's much more likely I will bring humanity forward by the miles I wanted to.