You know, when you worry life will imitate a deliberately over-the top dark science fiction game, you get a little bit philosophical.
In my case, the game is the Warhammer 40K game world, a delightfully dark setting of a grim future where humans, aliens, and psychic creations war endlessly and sell miniatures. The setting mixes dismal, horrific, heroic, and in some cases parodic elements mocking all of its own content. It winks and nods at you about just how crazy it can be.
In this setting, humanity is largely ignorant, part of a far-flung feudal empire. Technology is mostly controlled by a separate organization, really almost an “internal” or allied empire, the Adeptus Mechanicus. The Adeptus Mechanicus have their own culture, their own religion, and humanity both depends on them, yet treats them as separate – which the Mechanicus seem fine with. They’re busy seeking knowledge and worshipping the Machine God . . . and at that point I could go on for pages of insane detail. Just hit up the Lexicanium.
Now the idea of humans ever letting technology out of their hands, of a separate culture controlling technology, sounds all grim and dark and b-movieish. Except I see a less, grim, less over-the top, less miniature driven parallel being a real possibility, which concerns me.
I consider geeks a kind of nascent literati class in the vein of the Chinese literati – working intellectuals. Talented, educated, part of their culture, they can act like a glue, holding things together, communicating, analyzing, creating. It’s similar to Florida’s idea of the Creative Class.
Of course I visualize the technical/scientific community being integrated into society as ideal for the future, and ideal for people as a whole. It leads to widespread education and awareness, allows those in creative/technical/scientific fields to be in touch with the results of their work, and prevents social divisions. Plus the more connected you are the more creative you are.
Except, I see an alter ate possibility which I humorously call the “Adeptus Mechanicas Problem” – the chance that we geeks, especially the technical ones, could end up a very separate social class. It’s not a future I want – not one nearly as grim as the setting that spawned my comparison, but one that’s unpleasant. Also we wouldn’t get the cool cybernetic implants, but I digress
These factors have me concerned:
- The amount of college students unable to find work in the troubled economy of the past few years – including the technical, scientific, and creative. They’re not going to be able to launch careers as easy, and risk stagnating or falling out of the possible opportunities.
- Cultural inbreeding among the technical, scientific, and creative. Those that are “in the inside” will of course want to stay there, and will probably do so quite well. With less input from the outside, there’s a risk developing limited perspectives, limited recruiting, and thus limited passing-on-of knowledge and on boarding of people into their culture.
- The weird fact in America that we have a lot of anti-science attitudes in a country more and more dependent on technology. We both disregard science and depend on it, and I believe there’s a risk the scientific/technical will become increasingly separated.
- The anti-science/anti-intellectual attitudes damage education and educational efforts, further decreasing the chance people will enter scientific, technical, and creative fields.
- The weirdest risk . . . higher pay and other economic benefits. Having seen talent lacks in Silicon Valley, I think it’s possible people in IT and similar fields could end up a different economic class between salary, stock options, access to power, and more.
Or in short, an environment hostile to students, science, and learning that also needs science, technology, and learning sounds ripe to create a separate scientific/intellectual/creative class. Someone’s gotta run the system – but not too close, thank you, yet here’s a lot of money.
It’s not what I want to see. It’s not what we need.
A stagnant, separate technical/scientific/creative class would remove innovation. It would disconnect us from people, from results, from the things that bind us together. It would keep us from changing the world, we’d be left just maintaining it.
It would also be less creative, less fun, and less, well, us.
So, I hope I’m wrong. But we do need to confront the possibility that we geeks, now in an age of geek chic, might end up being more separate thanks to socioeconomic factors. It’s not good for us – or the world in general.
I’d like to keep the Adeptus Mechanicus as a laughably over-the-top idea in a crazy game setting, not an excessive metaphor for what we might become.
Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach. He blogs on careers at http://www.fantopro.com/, nerd and geek culture at http://www.nerdcaliber.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at https://www.stevensavage.com/.