The Null Device

Who wired America? Certainly not the lacrosse team.

Salon asks whether "geek chic" will kill off innovation; the thesis is that now that "nerds" are no longer persecuted and ostracised, they won't have impetus (or time, between all the parties and dates in their social PalmPilots) to invent, create or otherwise contribute to society. Or, to put it in other words, that innovation required two components: individuals with technical intelligence or other skills (these would include artists and musicians), and the ostracism/persecution of said individuals. Which is an interesting theory. (via TechDirt)

(If one wants to get Freudian, one could argue that said individuals' lack of a sex life resulted in them sublimating their libidos into creative enterprises. If that holds true then, given the rise of "nerverts", Heinleinian polyamorists, netsex, webcams and the like, we're, well, fucked. Though hasn't polymorphous perversity been a feature of the fringes of society since the 1960s at least, if not the days of the Hellfire Club?)

Another criticism of the theory is that the "nerd" stereotype doesn't hold for most IT people, and hasn't done so for much of the 1990s. From what I remember, many of the people who did computer science when I went to university were well-rounded individuals, with social lives, girlfriends (they were predominantly male; computer science is almost a monastic environment, but that's another post) and non-computer interests. Many played sports in their spare time; and many were quite good programmers. Whether these people fall into the "nerd" category is debatable.

But yes; if innovation depends on talented outsiders, the "nerd" bar will just be raised higher, and there always will be some who don't want to go to the numerous parties they keep getting invited to but would rather sequester themselves and follow some intellectual passion. And if that fails, there are always autistic savants.

There are 2 comments on "Who wired America? Certainly not the lacrosse team.":

Posted by: mark Wed Oct 29 21:18:55 2003

I thought supressing sex/sexuality/whatever destroyed an individual's will and creativity? Did George Orwell lie to me?

Posted by: Mihaly http:// Thu Oct 30 13:40:03 2003

I wonder if it isnt true? Maybe it's a little more Jungian, rather than Freudian though. I wish I knew enough "market speech" to express this, but it strikes me that focussing internal motivations into alternate channels of expression would fit this form of human behaviour. Of course, I defer to others who know more about human behaviour science.