Geek As Citizen: Geeks In Power

When I last posted on geeks and the virtues of tolerance (and indeed how it fit both geeks as people and culture), Tony of Manga Therapy said bigotry happened when people were in positions of power, and we had to ask how long it may last. I wanted to address issues of Geeks and Power separately in this column. Thanks Tony!

Geeks wield a lot of power in modern society.

We are the masters of technology. We code the software that runs things. We perfect the materials that make structures and vehicles. We even address the problems other technology has created (an irony to address another time, perhaps)

Our popular culture is now mainstream in books and movies, even if too often ideas familiar to us are draped over standard tropes and frameworks. Videogames are bigger than Hollywood. Studios hunt the next big thing and it’s often science fiction, or supernatural, or the like.

To be frank, I still think this comes as a bit of a shock to those of us who are geeks, and those of us who are part of geek culture. It just seems to have appeared – and though yes, we can trace it’s evolution, it’s still a bit surprising if only due to its rapidity. I can’t quite imagine telling my self twenty years ago about the things I see now and have it being believable.

But here we are. Able to code applications, run giant companies, design new products, and create new media sensations. As technical companies extend their lobbying power and gain influence we become more emeshed in politics; and as issues of technology infiltrate all parts of our lives, we become emeshed as well.

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The Ethics of Doing What You Like

Now and then when I talk to people about their careers, there seems to be a strange undercurrent of guilt when they discuss having their ideal career.  They feel that what they truly want to do is useless, that it doesn't benefit people, or that they're being selfish.  I usually encounter this among artists or people interested in video games, but I see it everywhere.

In short, I meet people who think "Doing what I really enjoy doesn't make the world a better place, so I shouldn't do it." 

What they're really saying is "I should do something I hate and would be lousy at in order to attempt to make the world a better place."  It's a strange kind of moral argument.

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