He studied philosophy (and computer science as a minor) at the University of Helsinki. In 1994, with his thesis on the philosophy of religion, The challenge of Bertrand Russell, he received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the same university, thus becoming the youngest Ph.D. in Finland.
He has done research work in Finland (University of Helsinki), the United Kingdom, and the United States (Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley) and has done field work in India, China and Japan. At UC Berkeley, Himanen directed (Manuel Castells as chair) the Berkeley Center for the Information Society, a research group under Berkeley's International Computer Science Institute. The Center was active from 1997 until 2005
Himanen has also been a counselor to the president of Finland, Finnish government (including the Ministry of Education) and Finnish parliament in the field of information society, keeping a sustained dialogue on human-oriented information society with the leading IT companies of the world.
Currently, Himanen works as a Principal Scientist at the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology, where he leads a research project on global network society. He is also a Professor of Creative Economy at the University of Art and Design Helsinki, and has been a Visiting Professor at the Oxford Internet Institute (based at Oxford University) from September 2005 to July 2006.
In his book HimEros written as a dialogue, Socrates’ wife Xanthippe relates to the Helsinkian what happened to Socrates in Hades, how Socrates decided to escape from Hades and go to study philosophy at the University of Helsinki, and how he was arrested, sentenced to death and executed as a result of a three-day conversation with the philosophers of the University. Xanthippe also transmits Socrates’ dialogue with the university teachers of philosophy Cyborg (Stephen Hawking), Pope (John Paul II), Unabomber (Theodore Kaczynski) and Madonna (Madonna Ciccone).
In Hacker Ethic, Himanen is trying to understand the core of informationalism, the post-industrialist paradigm, extending the ideas of Manuel Castells' Information Age. As an alternative to the industrial-capitalist protestant work ethic he proposes a hacker ethic as something like a cyber communitarianism. The structure of the information society is a web, which in contemporary business world manifests itself, for instance, in dynamic outsourcing and even cooperation with one's competitors. The "knots" of such a web get activated according to the needs and opportunities.
According to Himanen, the three main features of hacker ethic are:
Manuel Castells thinks that the innovations produced by hackers are the foundations of the development of the whole culture. According to Himanen, the social hackerism begins from such things as vegetarianism, whereas the opposite of it is represented by Microsoft and the licensing of computer programs. Himanen thinks that in the information society we need a radical lack of prejudice, such as he has met in philosophy lessons to children. A critical challenge of the Internet era is the ability to meet the other human being.