By R. S.
It’s safe to say that we now live in a geek’s world. One only has to look at the way gadgets and the Internet dominate every aspect of modern existence.
Geeks are essential to the normal functioning of billions of lives daily. Without them, civilization as we know it would come to a screeching halt. Just imagine a world without something like the Internet — entire businesses would freeze, failed GPS systems would delay countless travelers, unemployment would shoot up even more, and people everywhere would commit mass suicide. Although we don’t like to think of it this way, geeks are king and pretty much rule our lives whether we like it or not. Here are 9 ways geeks have inherited the earth.
Geeks are Behind the Wealthiest Companies in the World
Google’s revenue in 2010 was $29.3 billion, which is an unfathomable number to most, and is more than the GDP of the 28 poorest countries combined. The poorest countries, ranging from Tuvalu’s $31M to Eritrea and Maldive’s tie at $2.1B each – Google could buy them all. Google could buy almost any company out there, and has discussed taking over Yahoo!, T-Mobile, Sprint, and other behemoth corporations. They’ve already scored YouTube, Android, Picasa, Motorola, and Zagat — businesses which make up only a small fraction of Google’s 106 acquisitions. With money comes ownership, and with ownership comes power.
Geeks Dream the Future – and Drive Innovation
Three years before we landed on the moon, Gene Roddenberry was already fantasizing about zipping across the galaxy, meeting new and interesting civilizations and, of course, making hot alien love to them. Sci-Fi writer Arthur C. Clarke theorized the idea for geostationary satellites way back in 1945, a good decade before anything resembling space travel was even on the drawing board. Today they’re an essential tool for global communications and GPS systems. Even theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson’s sci-fi musings on so-called “Dyson Spheres” (basically giant solar arrays encompassing the entire sun) has led to a branch at Fermilab that actively searches for these things, believing them to be the most likely way to sniff out extra-terrestrial life in the galaxy.
And before you ask where your lightsabers, holodecks and sex droids are, a lot of these geeks are putting their money where their mouths are. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and fellow geek and PayPal founder Elon Musk have recently teamed up to start a company that will build a giant space-plane to launch capsules into orbit. Not only do geeks dream about traveling the stars, they’re actually making it happen.
They’re Building Robots to Replace You
One of the most frustrating problem for geeks’ visions of a future where robots have replaced all those pesky humans and their primitive notions of “love” is that we can build a computer that is capable of performing calculations at mind-bending speed, but we can’t seem to design one that can walk better than C-3PO. Well those times may be well behind us as geeks around the world are fast approaching a day when robots can not only find the prime roots of twelve-digit numbers, but also look and feel relatively human. On top of that, there’s robots like Boston Dynamics’ “Big Dog,” which looks like a somewhat awkward dog and sounds like the gnashing teeth of hell, but can stand and walk with the best of them. Then there are these disconcerting Chinese robots that play ping-pong with effortless ease. It appears our only defense against our future machine overlords is to quickly advance development on sex androids, which we all know will cause the productivity of geeks everywhere to grind to a screeching halt.
Geeks Control the World’s Information
Google’s reach has an incredible amount of influence, and not just when it comes to making big decisions for Motorola and Zagat. Google controls information. And information is power. Google has been pushing the boundaries of privacy and copyright laws since day one and sometimes they’ve gone too far (street view anyone?). Recently they have been criticized for their usage of personalized search, which quietly changes a user’s search results according to his or her browsing history. This attempt at a “better” search tool isolates the user inside a distorted bubble, creating a skewed and incorrect view of the world in general. Google, however, is not actually concerned with the ease of browsing or worldly opinions, but with money. Personalized search results means more ad revenue. Tailored results include relevant advertisements, and are more likely to be clicked than a random advertisement without “personal relevance.” Despite Google’s acquisitions, products, services, add-ons, and magical Internet fairies, 97% of their revenue still comes from advertising alone. They’re doing something right (people keep using Google) and making lots of money in the process.
Google’s influence is a little scary. The site dictates what people are looking at without a peep, leaving most people unaware of these practices. It profits from shady and sometimes illegal advertising schemes, sometimes at the expense of others (how many of those “loans and mortgages” AdWords purchases are for legitimate practices?).
Escaping from this vice-grip on the information we’re fed seems to be as easy as using a different search engine. For some tech-savvy geeks who have yet to reach Google’s “God” status, this is a viable option. But millions of others who are unaware of these practices or simply don’t care make up the majority of Google’s users; the site receives over 1 billion unique visitors a month, each spending an average of 200 minutes on Google’s sites a month.
The Internet — specifically Google — has taken over the world in the way that over a billion people are being fed tailored, skewed information on a daily basis — and eating it up. That’s a whole lot of influence. Who knows if Google hasn’t been quietly planting ideas about the world in our heads?
Geeks are the World’s “Most Influential People”
It’s not just Google running things these days. Six of the top ten people in Vanity Fair’s most influential people list for 2010 were geeks:
Mark Zuckerberg – Facebook
Here’s a man who built a business on the idea of a fresh college-centered social network while secretly holding hands with the CIA. Facebook owns every picture you’ve ever uploaded, reserves the right to save any and all information you’ve ever published on Facebook (regardless of deletion), and regularly sells user information to third party advertisers.
Steve Jobs – Apple
Jobs’ influence continues to rage on after his death. He’s been named Media Person of the Year, Most Influential Man in Gaming, has a biography already named the best-seller of 2011, and founded a geeky computer company which had a revenue of $108.25 billion in 2010.
Sergey Brin, Larry Page, and Erick Schmidt (Google)
As if it needed clarifying, evidence of Google’s influence is supported here.
Jeff Benzos – Amazon
Amazon has changed the way we shop and is widely known as the best place to get deals on almost whatever you want to buy, from electronics to clothing to movies to machinery.
Founder of Oracle who happens to be the 3rd wealthiest man in America. And he’s worked for the CIA.
Evan Williams and Biz Stone – Twitter
Twitter, a service most known for allowing normal peons to connect with and be heard by their favorite celebrities, also influences their billions of users by filtering content and promoting tailored advertisements.
G4 – It’s a Nerd’s World
It’s not just rich geeks who have inherited the earth. Geeks are now everywhere. Even the media recognizes it. G4 has recently been airing commercials with the slogan “It’s a Nerd’s World” which comically discuss gaming. The channel is centered around gaming, technology, and all things Internet. They’ve found incredible success, especially with their use of Olivia Munn — the new kind of sexy girl next door. Munn is a geeky, somewhat clumsy vixen drooled over by nerds everywhere.
Comedy Central also caught on and found great success with Tosh.0, a comedic show with a format like The Soup. The only difference is that it’s based around YouTube clips, which are played and then ragged on by host and comedian Daniel Tosh. Tosh now performs stand up in front of sold out stadiums.
And then you need only look at all the big trade shows and expos out there. They are all run by geeks and for geeks.
Geeks Hold the World on Their Shoulders
And it’s not just famous — or rich — or even popular geeks that have inherited the earth. A plethora of behind-the-scene geeks actually keep the world working just fine. Google alone employs almost 20,000 people. Yahoo! employs over 13,000. Hundreds of other geeky computer companies, web start ups, graphic design firms, digital marketing and web programming agencies, and other companies in the web-centric world are responsible for employing hundreds of thousands in the U.S. and overseas.
If all the well-versed geeks in the world magically forgot how to code, wire, strategize, and generally do their jobs — what would the rest of us do? How would we function? Jobs would be lost. Services and whole companies would cease. The stock market would crash. Everything would change. We now depend on these geeks.
We’re All Geeks Here
What is a geek, anyway? Is it someone who can build a website or create a professionally photoshopped image? A person who can code, or game exceptionally well? Is it Tosh.0 with his funny nerd jokes or Steve Jobs with his “genius” innovation? All of the above. We’re all basically geeks now, and those of us who aren’t will soon die out forever.
Most of us don’t know many people who don’t know how to use the Internet or a smart phone. When we do, we typically find ways to mock them with the rest of our geeky friends. Check out this screenshot of my grandma’s all-caps email! Look at these Texts From Bennet – they’re all spelled wrong!
Most of us and our mothers can use a computer, sync our phones, create personalized blogs, and edit videos using simple software. Parents who complain about Google’s decision to shut down their children’s blogs (due to an age restriction related violation of TOS) sound like people from a weird dystopian future:
“Google shut down my daughter’s Chromebook and put a lock on her data! She can’t even access her data!”
The future is now.
The World is at the Mercy of the Geeks
As the world gets smaller, geeks get stronger. As for the rest of us, our computers, televisions, Kindles, smartphones, GPS systems, and other various gadgets will continue to multiply. We will keep getting more and more dependent on geek gadgets and technology. As we continue to consume, consume, consume, in as many ways as possible, we have to wonder: what happens if all the really important geeks just disappear one day? Could we survive without them?