You are here

Why "nerd culture must die" fails

A friend of mine shared a link to Pete Warden's article Why nerd culture must die on FB this evening. As usual, my response became too long for FB. So here it is… There's a weird jump about 7 paragraphs into this essay, where Warden switches from talking about nerd culture in a perfectly reasonable way to talking about some kind of jackass culture that was never part of my geek social experience until recently. I think the last three paragraphs are a bizarre conclusion given the setup. In particular, the "maker" culture is the natural continuation of nerd culture: there's not a lot of difference between what we're building now with hardware, electronics, and mechanicals and what we were building 30 years ago. Mostly just there's more of us and the tools are better.

I believe that a bunch of jackasses, some with a modicum of actual technical skills, are posing as the natural inheritors of our culture and frightening everyone. I can't remember attacking or being attacked ever being part of my geek experience, nor even seeing it happen to others until recently. If it's not supportive of all people trying to grow technically, it's not hacker culture to begin with.

Warden's use of the term "larval hackers" suggests to me a lack of familiarity with this stage of development. This is the stage in which hackers are likely to act the most socially maladapted: arrogant, intolerant and aggressive. My diagnosis has been partly that we have way too many of these emerging right now, not way too many being driven away, and that we need to figure out ways to either get these folks pupated successfully or GTFO.

Finally, WTF was that link featuring Fictional Jessica? Doesn't an article featuring Vulnerable Jessica the Female and Sophisticated Josh the Male kind of undercut the point Warden is trying to make in the article? And what is this link supposed to show anyhow? That we're bad at security? Perhaps that somehow this is nerd culture's fault: if we just gave more of a shit about ordinary people, we would discover a magical fantasy land in which we could save people from the insane complexity of setting security policy on astoundingly capable hardware and software? Huh. I never thought about it that way before — because it doesn't make an ounce of sense. (Oh, and what's this free antivirus that apparently doesn't screen email attachments at all? I've never seen one that bad, although I suppose it's possible. Maybe.)

Anyhow, not impressed. Warden has done a bad job of diagnosis and thus has a bad prescription for remediation. Does something have to change? Hell yes. But I don't think "nerd culture must die" is the answer. Fob