Opinion: The “Non-Geekiness” of the Masses

Occasionally, I am reminded of just how big a geek I am. I live in a truly Geek filled world, personally. My lovely wife, Belinda, was manager of the Database and Development Group at Ciba-Geigy (later Novartis, later Syngenta… they can’t make up their minds, I suppose) in the R&D Department. She was a world class geek back when they were cobbling together Macintoshs with actual hard drives (zowie!) to store huge (5 megs!) of data gathered in the field. These machines dialed in (at a blistering 300 – 1200 baud) to update databases on a VAX. This was cutting edge stuff in the early 80s! We met there, and “courted” by e-mail! It was VAX based All-In-1, but it was e-mail! We may not have met on the Internet… but it was as close as it could be back then!

My son is 14. He is a hard core (really hard core) gamer. He has his own web site called “GameMasters.biz”. He rocks!

My friends tend to all be computer geeks, and we talk about virtualization, LAMP, the latest virus attacks and e-mail scams, and when IPTV is going to go mainstream. Our “political discussions” tend to be about net neutrality, or the digital divide.

And then, sometimes, I talk to a “normal” person. Usually, it is when they bring thier computer to me and say, “It’s slow,” or, “It’s broke.” I patiently explain that it is probably overriden by spyware or viruses that THEY got when they went, with wild abandon, to the wrong website, or when they clicked on that e-mail attachment that I had been telling them for years not to click on. They blink their eyes like a deer in headlights and say, “Yeah, whatever… can you fix it?” “Yes,” I say, “I can fix it, but your DO understand that if you keep acting like an idiot and practicing ‘unsafe computing’ you will be back and pay me again to fix it, don’t you?” OK, so I don’t say THAT exactly… it is usually a milder version with the pretty much the same sentiment. But they just give me that look, like, “You really ARE a Geek, aren’t you?” And, they smile and say, “When can I pick it up?”

And so it goes. I suppose I should look at it as a blessing. Like big business and their “planned obsolescence,” I am guaranteed continued business because “the masses” will always be computer “stoopid!” But, the idealist in me keeps trying… and keeps educating, and continues to hope that one day a light bulb will appear over their heads and they will say, “Gee, Dr. Bill, maybe I will learn about how computers and the Internet actually work, and not do dumb things like click on e-mail attachments and visit evil web sites… yeah!” Sigh. Right.

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