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Are We Really in a Nerd Economy? May 7, 2012

Posted by Peter Varhol in Technology and Culture.
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In one sense, I guess it depends on how you define nerd.  I was a nerd in my younger days (as much as you could be in a pre-personal computer era), with poor social skills and a focus on inanimate things.

In the late 1990s, it seemed as though just about anyone could work in high tech, so the term seemed to mean connote more of a super-techie that was the genius behind a particular product or solution.  The implication was also that that techie was inept and uncomfortable in social situations.

But this post describing how nerds rule today is off-target, for several reasons.  First, the idea of nerd still implies poor social skills, and that simply isn’t going to cut it in this definition.  Granted, I have known many devout techies with very good or better social skills, but that characteristic is rarely associated with being a nerd.

Second, no one really rules the economy.  This breathless post in praise of the nerd belies the fact that none of us are in control of events around us.  The best we can do is recognize change and adapt accordingly.  Even the Masters of the Universe (with apologies to Tom Wolfe) live lives of quiet desperation.

Rather, the better statement is that people with good technical skills and the ability to easily interact with others and communicate concepts have a skill set that will likely help them understand and cope with changing technologies.  That such people may be called nerds is simply wrong.

The author of this article, like many who are poorly integrated into the technology economy, seems to believe that simple technical competence (or even technical excellence) is necessary and sufficient for success and leadership in the modern economy.

Certainly technical ability is a good skill to have.  But those skills are neither necessary nor sufficient to let us rule anything.  There is no substitute for focus, hard work, and continual learning.

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