geek culture is an oxymoron

I was thinking tonight about Larry Wall’s famous quote in which he says that the great virtues of a programmer are laziness, impatience and hubris. He’s probably right: Larry is a smart guy.

Those three things are a big loser in just about every other area of life, however, from cooking to sex to financial planning or even just showering. And most geeks seem to carry their technical values over into every part of life with a determined consistency, as if all of our experiences and challenges were just special cases of software engineering.

This is disastrous. It’s a kind of Slashdot mentality in which Geek Culture becomes an end to itself and a source for wisdom in all areas of life. I think we’d be better off if in most situations we asked “How could I do this in a non-geeky way?”

5 thoughts on “geek culture is an oxymoron

  1. Yeah, we’ve talked about this a lot, especially since we’re a sort of split arts/geek household. The whole “am I first” / “did I say the cleverest thing, and also follow Roberts Rules of Order when expressing it” / “how illogical” thing doesn’t really work when you’re talking about emotions and human beans in general. Being a BOFH is cool at work, but when you come home, you need to be able to compromise and put someone else’s needs ahead of your own on occasion. =) I know it’s hard — I’m usually pretty tolerant about it, because I do it myself to a degree, I guess.
    Reminds me of the Geek Apology, a term we have coined for the “I’m sorry I made you feel badly BUT…” followed by a big excuse about why you are wrong for feeling badly, because it’s all illogical and you’re looking at it from the wrong point of view — completely forgetting that IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER. If someone’s hurt, they’re hurt, you say “sorry” period, and *then* talk about it later.
    Hey, maybe we should give seminars. 😉

    1. I’m guilty of attempting to couch everything in a logical context too. It does not work – as you said – with human emotions very well. Sometimes, I even catch myself saying something like: “Okay, so you some set x and for all y in x there is a context – call it c……” etc. If you wanna do the seminar circuit, I’ll be your test subject. How not to approach an emotional conversation.
      Rule 1: Try not to use metavariables to express how you are feeling while crying on the floor.

      1. Metavariables okay by me.
        I don’t see what’s wrong with using jargon to express yourself, if it’s natural for you. Unless you think it helps you to distance yourself too much from your emotions. (But some distance, at times, is a good thing.)
        And if you think computer/math people have it bad, Sometimes it sucks infinitely worse for people in the arts.

  2. contrary points
    Ordinarily I’d be the first one to agree with this. I think Jaron Lanier mused that the origin of “geekiness” is the reduction of human activities to the technology of the day. Near-quote: “Music becomes MIDI; art becomes Photoshop.” And I suppose relationships become information/fluid exchange.
    However, I’m going to indulge my howevering nature. I think it’s kind of nice when people attempt to act consistently and at least try to see things from a neutral perspective. “Illogical, captain” can be a starting point to moral behaviour.

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