Monday, August 02, 2010

Rise of the Über-Geek

Recently I was drawn into a discussion that I had managed to troll myself into. The subject (link here) was rather benignly interesting but turned out to be rather insidious as it triggered the organic growth of the discussion. At the end of it, which it finally did before having been put down about thrice (Cue the “Die! Die! Why won’t you die!”) I was left with a question. The answer to which I had a realization. A realization I’d like to now share.
Back in time when I was growing up, (and this was a really long time ago), the word ‘geek’ had a special meaning. A meaning which embraced a certain stereotype that fit the meaning and the lives of those who were forever affected by this tag. Even today Wikipedia lists the following definitions of geek
"A bright young man turned inward, poorly socialized, who felt so little kinship with his own planet that he routinely traveled to the ones invented by his favorite authors, who thought of that secret, dreamy place his computer took him to as cyberspace—somewhere exciting, a place more real than his own life, a land he could conquer, not a drab teenager's room in his parents' house."
“A derogatory reference to a person obsessed with intellectual pursuits for their own sake, who is also deficient in most other human attributes so as to impair the person's smooth operation within society.”
And the mainstream media has done little to not fit to this stereotype of a socially awkward, fashion derelict individual who would most often be found wearing glasses resembling the sawed off bottoms of coke bottles. This was the mainstream geek. He had one and one superpower and that was his obscenely extreme intellect, so well-endowed that most of the time his mouth would not be able to keep up with his mind. Forever shunned by the opposite sex in all forms of attractiveness he would end up being tormented by the athletic type of his own gender. All in all, there was no class differentiation between a nerd and a geek. All geeks and nerds were alike to a layman fun-maker, like penguins. Waddling in their own worlds there was no need to distinguish them apart as Emperors and Gentoos. Being called one was a slur and being one was not any kid’s dream.
But halfway across the world from where I was growing up, a change was happening. Four geeks aptly titled as “The Pirates of the Silicon Valley” were starting a paradigm shift related to the social view towards geeks. To that effect that one of them could actually go on to state, “Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.” And the world took notice. Suddenly the intricacies of normal life like finances were realized to be merely easy puzzles that these geeks could solve on their way to untold riches. But in their deepest hearts these individuals were still the geeks, the old school ones.
Suddenly being a geek was cool and fashionable. This is where the genesis started. The new millennium, now a decade old, has a new class of individuals. These individuals conform to none of the old stereotypes of geek-hood. They proclaim themselves to be geeks. In their defense most of them do possess the superpower but lack the persona to fit in. That would be a fundamentally upsetting situation in case of (for the sake of example) superheroes. How would you react to Superman mouthing, “Up! Up! And Away!” while dressed as Bozo the Clown? And only a similar reaction comes to an old-school person when faced with individuals who could give Lily Cole a run for her looks (yeah that Lily Cole) and yet call themselves “geeks”! (In all fairness Ms Cole aced her tests as a student at King’s College, Cambridge). These individuals are well-adjusted to social nuances, less prone to social awkwardness, are never known to sport unkempt looks and all in all, still are the smartest lot of people around. Understandably they take it as a compliment when called a geek and an insult when not classed as one. This is exactly why the article, I referred to, got me into trouble. As an old-school believer of geekdom, it was impossible for me to imagine the context of relating the two titular entities of the article.
As with our understanding of life around us, we are sometimes required to coin new terms to refer to insights arising out of a deeper study. And in this case, I think it is no longer fair to either class of individuals, new or old, to be referred with the same name. And thus rises the uber-geek, a result of Darwinian evolution, having suppressed undesirable traits and enhanced the desirable ones, as a new species that is so splendid that being one could be every kid’s dream.

P.S. The author claims no affiliation to any of the species mentioned above mostly because his application for membership was denied with the comment, “Has no superpowers”

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