Why nerd culture must die


Photo by Attila Acs

My first girlfriend was someone I met through a MUD, and I had to fly 7,000 miles to see her in person. I read a paper version of the Jargon File at 15 and it became my bible. Just reading its descriptions of the internet I knew it was world-changing, even before the web, and as soon as I could I snuck into the local university computer labs with a borrowed account to experience the wonder of Usenet, FTP, and Gopher. I chose my college because Turing had once taught there, and the designer of the ARM chip would be one of my lecturers. My first job out of college was helping port the original Diablo to the first Playstation, and I spent five years writing games. I’ve dived deep into GPU programming. I’ve worked for almost two decades at both big tech companies and startups. I’ve spent countless hours writing about coding for the pure love of it. I’m a grown man who still plays Dungeons and Dragons!

My point is that if anyone can claim to be a nerd, it’s me. As a lonely teenager growing up in the English countryside, reading the Portrait of J. Random Hacker gave me a wonderful jolt of excitement and recognition. I’d never met anyone like that, but knowing that there were others out there like me gave me hope. As I went through college I started to discover a few more people who took a perverse pride in being geeks, but it was still rare and very much outside mainstream culture. Nobody really understood why I took a poorly-paid job in game programming after college instead of joining a bank, and most people’s eyes would glaze over when I mentioned I worked in computers. Over the years I gradually built a group of friends who shared the same interests in sci-fi, comics, games, and computers. It was nerd culture that brought us together, and their support was life-saving, but they were hard to find, and we were still way outside the cultural mainstream.

Over the last decade, that’s changed. Comic book adaptations are the safest bet in Hollywood. Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones have made fantasy something anyone can enjoy without embarrassment. Perhaps most importantly, nerds now have money, power, and status. The biggest, fastest-growing companies in the world are run and staffed by us, and mainstream culture has shifted from mocking us to respect. Startups are sexy. We’ve won.

And that’s where the problem lies. We’re still behaving like the rebel alliance, but now we’re the Empire. We got where we are by ignoring outsiders and believing in ourselves even when nobody else would. The decades have proved that our way was largely right and the critics were wrong, so our habit of not listening has become deeply entrenched. It even became a bit of a bonding ritual to attack critics of the culture because they usually didn’t understand what we were doing beyond a surface level. It didn’t used to matter because nobody except a handful of forum readers would see the rants. The same reflex becomes a massive problem now that nerds wield real power. GamerGate made me ashamed to be a gamer, but the scary thing is that the underlying behavior of attacking critics felt like something I’d always seen in our culture, and tolerated. It only shocked me when it was scaled up so massively into rape and death threats, and I saw mainstream corporations like Intel folding in the face of the pressure we can bring to bear.

That’s why Marc Andreessen’s comment that Silicon Valley is nerd culture, and nerds are bro’s natural enemies felt so wrong. Sure, we used to be picked on or ignored by the bro’s, but that was when we had no money or power. Now we have status, bro’s are happy to treat us as buddies instead of victims, to the point that we’re unlikely to think of them as bro’s. I’ve pitched most VC firms in the Valley at one time or another, and a lot of the partners come from business or finance backgrounds. There are nerds in there too of course, and they do control the culture, but they also get along perfectly well with the preppy MBAs. The same holds true across the whole tech industry – they might have tried to steal our lunch money twenty years ago, but now they’re quite happy running biz-dev while we do the engineering.

One of the things I love about nerd culture is how much it values evidence and checking facts. When I’m optimizing code, my intuition about which parts are slowest is often wildly wrong, so I’ve learned the hard way that I have to profile the hell out of it before I try to fix anything. It’s a core skill for dealing with computers, our gut feelings often don’t work in such an alien realm, so skepticism becomes a habit. What has surprised me is how we leave that habit behind when confronted with evidence about ourselves. Pretty much every statistic we can track has shown fewer women getting computer science degrees and working as engineers compared to the 80’s. It’s a basic fact that we’re an incredibly imbalanced industry in all sorts of ways, from race to class and gender, and we’re getting worse.

I’m not claiming to know the answers, but you don’t have to be a social justice warrior to notice something is going very wrong somewhere. Even the Jargon File acknowledged, to paraphrase, that hackers routinely behave like assholes. Is it a crazy leap to imagine that this deeply-rooted tolerance of terrible behavior might drive people away?

When I look around, I see the culture we’ve built turning from a liberating revolution into a repressive incumbency. We’ve built magical devices, but we don’t care enough about protecting ordinary people from harm when they use them. We don’t care that a lot of the children out there with the potential to become amazing hackers are driven away at every stage in the larval process. We don’t care about the people who lose out when we disrupt the world, just the winners (who tend to look a lot like us).

I’d always hoped we were more virtuous than the mainstream, but it turns out we just didn’t have enough power to cause much harm. Our ingrained sense of victimization has become a perverse justification for bullying. That’s why I’m calling time on nerd culture. It’s done wonderful things, but these days it’s like a crawling horror of a legacy codebase so riddled with problems the only rational decision is to deprecate it and build something better.

What would something better look like? The Maker movement gives me hope, because including all the kids we’re missing is built in from the start. Whatever the future becomes, the bottom line is we need to value being a decent human being a hell of a lot more than we do now. Our toleration of asshole behavior must end, and it’s such an integral part of nerd culture that nuking the entire thing from orbit is the only way to be sure.

184 responses

  1. Pingback: Behind The Bullying Epidemic | Wild Webmink

  2. Some “Nerds” may feel comfortable in their roles as it allows them to be eccentric without too much raised eyebrows.

  3. Out of touch and wrong. What changed is you have money now.

    Nerds have to put up with a ton of crap until they get the $$$ and that is a problem with American society at large – and how the Feminists have effectively divorced responsible male behavior (which usually means nerdy behavior) from being cool, by removing the social consequences for wasting time with losers.

    The Arty character on The Simpsons is a case study in this.

  4. I think this can be summed up as Power corrupts. Also- true that much of the snobbery many feel as being part of a secret outsider society generally goes away as we grow up. Obviously this piece has hit home with many. Very thought provoking

  5. The bros still beat up the nerds in high school, and the non-nerd-girls still ignore the nerd guys… Nerd Culture is itself an illusion, but nerds are still not accepted at face value in the schools. At least, not in the district I sub in. The Jocks still don’t usually hang with the brains, and the cheerleaders are still often vacuous-by-choice. (Having seen some brilliant work turned in, handwritten, in class, by a student who was passing herself off as ignorant of the material, the old social pressures to conform to the standard cliques is still a factor for her.) The same cliques I had to deal with more than 20 years ago. My alma mater still has the same basic social clustering, and still hanging out is the same places, as when I was a student there. RPGs are played in the same venues at lunch.

    • “the non-nerd-girls still ignore the nerd guys.” This inadvertently reveals what’s wrong with your response and even more with the more overt attacks on Warden that I see here. There are, of course, nerd girls, and maybe not all nerd guys ignore them, but that way you put it shows that you think that nerd guys should have access to non-nerd girls. This sense of entitlement is still a live thing among misogynist nerds. Why?

      Your remark about social pressure is not too far off, but you seem to have missed that Pete Warden was saying it too.

      I have mixed feelings about all this. I was not a nerd as a kid, I don’t think; I was a bookworm. I wasn’t obsessive enough to get into tech stuff. Instead I learned to think. I read not just fantasy and science fiction, but mundane literature, politics and philosophy, sociology and psychology, and more recently cultural theory. I’m an intellectual — someone who works and plays with ideas — which isn’t the same as intelligent, though I’m both; nerds generally seem to be intelligent but not intellectual.

      I went to very small rural schools, and was a loner because there really didn’t seem to be anyone around who had the same interests I did. I got into the lonely elitist thing for a while, but put it aside when I got to college and when I learned its downside and dangers. At the same time, I never found a group I wanted to belong to in practice, because sooner or later I would go against their grain, and rather than cave to social pressure I’d just move along. I’ve mostly been content to have virtual communities of people with similar attitudes and beliefs but whom I never met; originally I met them through reading print, and later online. I was never all that interested in meeting them face to face, though; for face to face interactions I had my offline friends. This didn’t bother me that much, because I still had plenty of friends from a variety of backgrounds. I never felt that there *should* be a place that would take me in. I got over resenting being different, and outsider; at an early age I realized that it was a strength, not a weakness. This is why I’m immediately skeptical when someone talks about being marginalized. You can’t have a center without margins, so some people are going to be on the margins. Why not me? It doesn’t mean I don’t have human interaction, social and sexual and emotional. It doesn’t necessarily mean material marginalization (being homeless, jobless, hungry), which is a bad thing. But thinking different from most people is not bad; I don’t find it unpleasant.

      • “…that you think that nerd guys should have access to non-nerd girls. This sense of entitlement is still a live thing among misogynist nerds. Why?”

        It isn’t entitlement nor is it misogyny. People who overcome ridicule to make substantial contributions to society have every right to expect recognition for their deeds. Show me a society that doesn’t agree, and I’ll show you a society in the garbage heap of history.

        The rest of what you wrote is just a stereotypical narcissistic SJW pretending to be as important as those you want to parasitically live off (which is also the premise of your question).

      • Ethan you are creepy as fuuuuuuu. Like damn, are you proud of what you wrote there? Go show your mother or sisters what you wrote…

    • Yeah, but what makes you think you are entitled to a “shot” at a non-nerd girl? Because you were cheated and now they owe you their submission in payback? This women -not -as -people -but -swag rates you a place, not as a “victim, but as a passive aggressive bully. So too the idea, the implied concept, that “only” being able to “date” nerd girls doesn’t count. So now you are saying, you want to be giving access to hot women as swag (can someone say objectification?), yet nerd women are pond scum, not worth dating (hello, objects again?) Maybe you can’t get a date because you dislike women as people, whether they are conventionally attractive or not.

      • I’m getting a bee in my bonnet about this and I’ve ended up writing a long but heartfelt reply.

        Cee F says: “what makes you think you are entitled to a ‘shot’ at a non-nerd girl? This rates you a place – not as a victim – but as a passive aggressive bully.”

        Which is a lot to read into someone’s lamenting that he was at the bottom of the social scale and that those he found desirable didn’t fancy him.

        What if wanting women to whom you’re attracted to be attracted to you is not a sense of ‘entitlement’ to the favours of any particular individual, but a sense of entitlement to two other things: the experience of certain rites of passage which are thought to be a normal part of male (or human) existence, and the sense that one is a respected, valued, normal, non-lacking individual?

        I put this forwards as a question because obviously any attempt to analyse such complicated aspects of human behaviour in this sort of forum is going to be inevitably crude and overly simplistic (which is a part of the problem with the whole ‘entitlement’ argument generally). In fact the whole debate about “nerd culture” is another oversimplistic concept which is being taken far too seriously. Categorising people in any way can always be useful but when we start to forget that these categories are only ideas, which we impose upon a complicated reality for the sake of convenience, rather than actual definite differences observed in reality, we begin to build a house of ideas on a foundation of sand.

        In my country, which was the UK, the distinction between ‘nerds’ and ‘jocks’ didn’t really exist. Although we used the term ‘nerd’ it wasn’t a hard and fast definition. Personally, I saw myself as a bit of a nerd because my friends and I were interested in non-musical pop culture (Star Trek, Tolkein, Warhammer, computer games), and these things were certainly derided by the mainstream as ‘sad’, but at the same time some fans of these genres were amongst the popular kids, and there was little definite connection between such nerdy interests and scientific or mechanical interests. Some of the unattainable girls that I fancied were interested in ‘nerdy’ things. So, when people on here start speaking about how all nerds are ignored or about about how ‘nerds’ all end up starting tech companies, or never take an MBA, my bullshit detector screams in protest.

        As to “entitlement”. Did I think that on some level God owed me the life that was depicted as normal on tv? Yes, I did. Did I think, though, that every woman owed me her adoration? No, I didn’t. Was my frustration solely due to the failure of life to be as it is in a James Bond movie – no.

        There was another level to that feeling of “entitlement”, which was inherent and biological and nothing to do with socialisation. It was only many years later, when I was treated more normally, and not shunned by a great many people, that I truly understood just how easy it is to be happy. I made a strong, conscious effort, back in the day, not to feel hatred towards those who unconsciously insulted me (and others) in ways that now seem inconceivable, and I told myself, on a regular basis, that I wasn’t entitled to various social niceties, that I unknowingly did the same to others, and/or that I would do the same in their place. I imagined myself into other people’s shoes and tried to see things from their point of view. This was fairly successful, but not as successful as I believed, because, despite everything, there was a lingering resentment which lasted for years. I’ve found that other former pupils – including a female friend – were similarly scarred, for a significant space of time.

        What has this to do with entitlement? Well, my change in circumstances taught me some things. When I was young, I thought that I was unhappy because of a lack of feminine intimacy and the lack of a chance to engage in enjoyable sexual excess. That turned out to be a misdiagnosis. Certainly, there was a frustration. But by my mid twenties, I was happy, even without having had a smidgeon of sexual experience, and with a still-active sex drive. What had changed was two things other than sex. Firstly, I had some degree of respect from my peers as a whole, and had become a part of multiple teams that were not relegated to the fringes of social interaction. Secondly, and of vital importance, women of various degrees of desirability now interacted with me in a friendly and respectful way. While I still wasn’t sexually successful and still wasn’t, even, a preferred friend of any woman, I was no longer so seriously shunned. I was treated as normal, *and my feelings were thereby being respected*.

        When I look back now at the school days, I think that saying that my unhappiness was a result of the sexual unavailability of girls is massively misleading, even if at the time I might have agreed. In fact, a significant proportion of males (if not the majority) don’t have significant sexual experiences at that age, yet remained happy. What counts is, rather, the pain or joy at being included or excluded from ones peer group, and in particular from that of the opposite sex. If I’d been treated as ‘normal’, or even just interacted with on a free and friendly basis, I’d have been perfectly happy. This didn’t happen very often, for a variety of reasons. One could say that this was fine, because it was simply a result of my being unpleasant company for others, but my later experience proves this explanation to be faulty, as well as being morally dubious. It *is* possible to interact in a friendly and respectful way with people you don’t personally want to spend time with, and in most mature workplaces this happens all the time, so that’s no excuse for the type of exclusion that I experienced.

        The fact is that young people are cruel. And, although as they get older they tend to become progressively less so, the pain of rejection can actually be more serious as young people mature and develop certain emotional needs. When I was twelve I was wantonly insulted and jeered at (by a few), and generally shunned as a weird loser. By 16, many of those same individuals were making attempts to be positively kind, but the school culture lingered to the extent that I was still someone that most people would be wary of being seen with – a male might be assumed to be in my social circle, and a girl would have risked the ridicule of her peer group. And this quasi-isolation hurt more than it did at twelve. At the same time, some people, for whatever reason, were wantonly rude, and I remember several particular snubs that were completely unnecessary and not at all helpful. At that age I assumed that many of the girls were simply reluctant to risk ending up with a clinging hanger-on, although subsequent experience has illustrated that politeness and affability don’t usually result in such problems.

        At any rate – back then, I ardently tried *not* to feel any resentment. But advocating forgiveness, self examination, and an aversion to anger, are one thing – and forbidding people the right to feel angry is quite another.

        The whole ‘resentment = entitlement’ thing is effectively an attempt to deny people the choice of determining the legitimacy or value of their own emotional experiences, to make those emotions a *problem*, and to impose upon us one oversimplified understanding of cause and effect.

        That’s wrong.

        I don’t think it’s unnatural for men/women to want desirable partners and to feel “entitled” to what they see as normalcy. Obviously, one’s individual concept of normalcy is somewhat malleable, and may have been molded by the media into an overly sexualised, overly satisfactory, form, which is not in fact so representative of the average experience, – but, whatever a societal conception of ‘normal’ might be, somebody’s experiences will always fall beneath it. Moreover, I think that the feeling of being upset at rejection has a lot to do with things that are unrelated to attaining relative normalcy, and more to do with certain deep seated needs that have nothing to do with socialisation. I don’t think the anger of young men and boys at being rejected “beta’s” is the result of ideology, consciously subscribed to or otherwise, even if they use ideas to help them come to terms with their feelings. I think that the type of rejection that is under discussion is so fundamentally painful, and is in many ways actually so unjust and cruel (whether as a result of social structures or of individual choices), that it is legitimate, and inevitable, for these unhappy men to feel some sort of anger, and that complaining about how the victims have a sense of ‘entitlement’ is beside the point.

  6. Nerds are the technical counter culture, a decentralised army that is in constant training, a real threat to empire. This is why in an age of information a panopticon society is being created, nerds dragged out of the shadows and into the mainstream, the counter culture diluted into conformity.

    • who gives a shit, really all this cultural division is bullshit, every culture we have today is a socialy engineered mockery of our real culture, specifically designedo to create division, and derision to dissolve the social union of the state thereby allowing globalist organizations like the UN to gain a foothold in society, whie we gawk at yet another dud in a dress.
      the same UN, which might i remind you, has no governing power over us as we do not elect them, but rather they are self appointed.
      divided we are weak, but united under individual freedom, we are the strongest.
      leave plastic culture behind, and sand on solid ground, the same ground our forefathers fought and died for.
      all these tirades of difference are just feeding the beast, we need messages of unification not division. forget the labels, were all just incomplete reflections of perfection.

  7. Pingback: We’ve Won | Lyfe in Pixels

  8. Many thoughtful connections here, and I think largely correct. I think the misogyny is just a self-reinforcing subset of the general problem: we think we’re right about everything, can be arrogant, and often have poor social skills. This is not attractive to any person of either gender. I spoke recently with someone who made a wise comment, about hiring: companies who fail to address their male-dominated tech cultures are necessarily missing a half of the workforce. Women have the same capabilities to think like an engineer and be great as men, or greater, or differently great.

  9. Thank you for writing this; it means a lot. I have now placed you on the top shelf alongside Nick Mamatas’s ”Lets’s put an end to Geek Pride’; I hope you like the view…

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  12. I happen to come from a finance and a business background mainly, but also from politics and history.

    Revolution does not have to be Madame Guillotine on Marie Antoinette’s head anymore. Modern revolutions happen through paradigm shifting. Bob Dylan led an anti-war revolution. The bra-burning (sometimes man-haters) led the feminist revolution.

    The reality is that, throughout history, revolutioners have almost without exception forgotten what they were fighting in the first place. America fought dearly for its Declaration of Independence and yet, today they are a modern Britain trying to colonize the world. The feminist insistence of being able to do anything now led to women having to do everything with ever-increasing professional, financial and social pressure.

    Those revolting are almost never prepared for the advent of power. And as such, they almost always become what they sought to topple.

    I suppose this is somewhat understandable. Extremism breeds extremism. If you negotiate, you don’t start with your best compromise, you start with something wildly outrageous in hopes of meeting somewhere in the middle. The problem is, that in order for your paradigm revolution to succeed, you need at least some significant portion to believe in the extremist view, or otherwise you would not have enough leverage.

    And let’s face it. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Perhaps because those who seek power are the least to be trusted with it. In fact, you would often find that some leading revolutioners joined not so much because they believed in the cause – but because by understanding it, they saw that they could strategically position themselves for positions they would not have been able to occupy in a status quo system.

    I cannot say that I think the nerd culture has won entirely, otherwise certain anonymous groups would not exist.

  13. Pingback: The Dark Side Of The Nerds - CURATIO Magazine

  14. Pingback: Nerd culture is destroying Silicon Valley – Quartz

  15. I really couldn’t agree more with the text; that’s something I’ve been telling people about for a while already. But one thing I come with a different opinion, namely the part which states that we’ve grown to become a huge group.

    It’s just me talking out loud, but I think the nerd culture ( I hate calling it that way ) has been overpowered by the ‘bros’ ( just got that jargon from that tweet about Silicon Valley ). Back when we were being bullied by the so called popular guys at school it was a bad thing to be called nerd, but as we had this hard time being sociable – in my case I was way too shy, and too clumsy with social skills – we set our focus to study, then got somewhere else, in a ways different from the other guys ( not saying better way either ).

    To make the story short, as the nerd culture started to become popular, those guys who used to bully us also wanted to incorporate, to dress the nerdy hat; so they coined a whole bunch of different terms or facets, such as geek.

    Then they started telling everybody they were geeks, but as they couldn’t do math, physics or computer programming, they found their different areas of interest, and forced them into the nerd culture. “Listen people! I’m nerdy too, check this out, I’m a pop culture geek!”, or “I’m an art geek”, you name it geek.

    So, the real nerds, like me, too clumsy, are still the not cool ones, a rather lower rank of the nerd kind. That statement at twitter mr. Marc Andersen wrote, seems to me, more of a person whom used to bully guys like me back in those days.

    Just my two cents.

  16. Pingback: Nerd culture, the good and the bad | Toni.org

  17. While I agree with most of what you said, I feel that it isn’t our culture that’s pushing away people of different race and sex. I think it’s the same as it’s always been: we’re still a minority that most people do not (or can not?) identify with.

    I work with some of the most talented programmers I have ever met – of both genders, from around the globe. They’re out there and we identify with each other.

  18. While I agree with most of what you said, I feel that it isn’t our culture that’s pushing away people of different race and sex. I think it’s the same as it’s always been: we’re still a minority that most people do not (or can not?) identify with.

    I work with some of the most talented programmers I have ever met – of both genders, from around the globe. They’re out there and we identify with each other.

  19. Wrong…Wrong and more Wrong!!!

    The geeks (nerds if you prefer) who build the tech world are not the problem. This stuff used to be hard. When it was hard, you had to give a damn about what you did, and the people you could talk to, because very few people understood what you were talking about in the first place, let alone could provide any insight or suggestions for making things better. The problem is we have made it easy to be a geek (nerd) and with the easy has come the assholes.

    These weren’t the bullies in high school. Being a bully required taking a stand. Making waves. Being recognized. No, the assholes in that have ruined the geekdom of today are the ones who were in the posse of the bully. Not strong enough to stand on their own. Never the one to start a fight, but always there to join in and kick you after you were already knocked down. Those are the assholes that ruin things for the geeks of today.

    We have made things easy enough that even those mental midgets with no backbone can hide behind a terminal and kick you when you are down. They will only make crude jokes in a welcoming crowd and never stand up to be counted when they think they can be singled out or identified as an individual. They are the ones who get offended and run to mommy (or the boss) when they are called on their behavior. They still have no backbone. The still are worthless. And they still play second fiddle to the real bullies. But, most of them have moved on and no longer need the posse. So the posse has dropped off, and found a place to hide. Behind a computer. Hidden. Invisible. Unaccountable for their behavior, just as they were when there was a bully out front. Nobody blamed the posse, they all focused on the bully and ignored the rest. Same as today.

    When I was younger I spent so much time being belittled and beaten up that I developed thick enough skin to survive. I’m sorry you didn’t. When I see someone being made fun of, I don’t jump up to defend them. Nor do join in. I turn and walk away. I don’t watch racing to see the car wrecks. I don’t slow down at an accident. I either stop and help if I can, or I get out of the way for the folks that can help. I refuse to be part of the mob standing around watching, or cheering. If there are pieces to pick up, I will do what I can to help. Frankly, that’s better than the treatment I got most of the time when I was the one being made fun of, or picked on, or being beaten up.

    If there is blame to be laid at the feet of the geeks, it’s that we don’t use the real talents we have to root out the few people that are causing the problems. Like on the playground…if you call out the bully, and shut them down, the posse will disappear. This stuff is hard. We know it’s hard. We did it once. We can do it again.

      • You’ve missed the point of this article. And I’m only responding to your comment, because you actually made some points that actually agree with this article. You basically say in the beginning: the problem isn’t the nerds….the problem is we’ve made it easy to be a nerd.

        Well it was the nerds…who made more nerds. Who have created a culture of saying, “we don’t care of what you have to say”. It’s basically Animal Farm, except more people can become Pigs.

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  21. I am a mother of girls. One is 16, very creative and curious, she is taking Intro to Computer Science and IOS App Design in high school, right now.

    I was president of a major cable company in the late 90’s. Cable tv was more gender balanced than other industries and though we struggled with racial diversity it was always a goal. So I am COMPLETELY unfamiliar and actually quite horrified by the possible career paths available to my bright creative kid who loves making things.
    The feminist in me wants her to break down walls. The mother in me will steer her away from the angry, ugly closed society that I see in tech.

    Sixteen year old girls read Twitter. She is reading all about GamerGate. What do you think happens when a girl that age reads that? Think about it. It’s terrifying.

    Life is short. Career-life is shorter still. She should and will choose a career as I did where you can just show up and work hard without worrying about deeply ingrained hatred closing doors.

    Thank you so much for the articulate presentation of what is wrong.
    If you guys can fix it…good. If you can’t don’t expect a generation of women will come do it with you. That is asking too much and there are too many other fields which will welcome them.

  22. I am a mother of two girls. One is 16, very creative and curious, taking Intro to Computer Science and IOS App Design in high school, right now.

    I was president of a major cable company in the late 90’s. Cable tv was more gender balanced than other industries and though we struggled with racial diversity it was always a goal. So I am COMPLETELY unfamiliar and actually quite horrified by the possible career paths available to my bright creative kid who loves making things.
    The feminist in me wants her to break down walls. The mother in me will steer her away from the angry, ugly closed society that I see in tech.

    Life is short. Career-life is shorter still. She should and will choose a career as I did where you can just show up and work hard without worrying about deeply ingrained hatred closing doors.

    Thank you so much for the articulate presentation of what is wrong.
    If you guys can fix it…good. If you can’t don’t expect a generation of women will come do it with you. That is asking too much and there are too many other fields which will welcome them.

    • This. This is why I hate stuff like this. The gender disparity is only going to get worse. Maybe when it starts to affect SV’s bottom line will they start to pay attention. Imagine if 50% of the population quit using Google or quit buying Apple products. One can hope.

    • As a female Senior CS student, I can say it’s not that hard out here. And certainly any sexism I’ve bumped up against is well overshadowed by the sheer awesomeness of my chosen field. It becomes very obvious that assholery is just a marker for incompetence, and from what I’ve seen of the working world, that doesn’t really change. GamerGate is just a vocal minority, and I doubt any actual, decent programmers are in their ranks.

      • Gamergate is a reaction against the hypocrisy of the faux-gamer/geek/hispter crowd, in a great part composed by women (starting with he girl that triggered the reaction – a game maker whose only fame came from peddling “social issues”)

        And yes, most “decent programmers” agree withh gamergate, aka, do not follow the hysterical, faux-rage bandwagon of feminist hacks.

        BTW, “geekymon” is a ridiculous nick. Only an idiot who’s obviously NOT a “geek” feels the need to proclaim itself as such.
        Geeks/nerds/hackers make themselves known/seen by their actions, not by stating it on a nick. lol

        Sigh, the sorry state of these modern hipster idiots – “mysognistic”? no. They’re in equal parts men and women

  23. Silicon Valley is actually doing quite well, in fact better than it has ever done in history. Despite its lack of diversity, top tech firms are making billions hand over fist. Of course minorities are pissed off because they feel they aren’t getting their “fair” share of the pie (that they didn’t create). The reality is that straight white men have a history of innovation, risk taking, and entrepreneurship which is why you see so many at the top. People like Zuckerberg are not “nerds”, they are entrepreneurs and they want to hire like-minded people for obvious reasons (it works). When women and minorities start founding fortune 500 companies maybe those companies will hire fewer straight white men. The truth is that not a single “SJW” can argue with the financial results of Silicon Valley and rely entirely on moral arguments, as if Larry Paige really gives a sh*t. For every study showing diversity is awesome I can show a fortune 500 tech company comprised overwhelmingly of straight white/asian men, founded by a straight white man. Nobody has ever played the victim card to the top, you have to work your way to the top. At some point, you must get the f*ck up, bust your ass, and ignore what the mighty oppressors are doing. Nerds were able to do it, why can’t women and minorities? Because they are constantly sold the story that they are oppressed victims and have no chance. Why would you take any risk if you were taught your entire life that all the cards are stacked against you.

    • I do agree with a lot of what you say, if not with your (intentionally) offending tone.

      Identifying oneself as a victim is unlikely to breed success.

      Just as a “control test” for your theory: In South Africa the straight, white male has become an endangered species in the work force. Their female counterparts are significantly more likely, although not nearly guarenteed, of employment. The verdict in this instance appears to me to be that, in this instance, oppression has stiffled innovation by the straight, white male. While women and racial “minorities” surely must address any victim mentality they may have, I am not sure that that can entirely absolve the straight, white male of Silicon Valley from perpetuating oppression.

      I also believe that there are certain biological and social factors that must be taken into account if women are going to break through barriers for themselves:

      Women are now often the higher earners in middle class households. This normally entails working 40 hour weeks (or more). Yet females are still the primary caregivers of children for the most part. All of this while the domestic worker sector is shrinking amongst the middle class employer. The Greeks (and many other succesful and innovative societies) relied on slave labour to remove menial concerns, enabling them to make significant strides in scientific (as well as political and artistic) progress. Exhaustion has never been an aid to innovation. Desperation, yes, but not exhaustion. So having an entire generation of women who are not quite desperate (except to hang onto their placating middle class jobs) who are also exhausted, is unlikely to promote enlightened thinkers.

      Women’s priorities tend to be very different from men’s. The GENERAL feeling amongst women is that extreme wealth accumulation is obscene. Women have thus far generally been more likely to set up co-operative or charity organizations that are not geared towards “unethical” levels of profit at the expense of society. For I think you should at least consider, not if the straight, white male has a right to exist, but whether super rich corporations have the right to…

      Now the biological factors… (I can already hear some of the feminists along to stone me for heresy)
      The truth of the matter is that child bearing takes a great deal out of a woman’s body. All the best nutrients go to the baby, whether it is during pregnancy or during breast feeding. “Mommy brain” is a well-known (and often kept secret) phenomenon amongst women. It is not just the distraction from a screaming child post birth, but most women will experience extreme difficulty comcentrating on high level material during later pregnancy and up to a year post birth, in large part due to hormonal changes that are a biological imperative. Aphasia is also relatively common. None of this is conducive to scientific innovation.

      I am also a firm believer that certain aptitudes, especially mathematical aptitude (needed to be a good programmer) develops during early childhood. Female children’s aptitude in these areas are still not always cherished or nurtured. Programmers (and hackers) will reach the peak of their careers by their late teens. Although I certainly don’t argue that women have the capacity to learn coding and other skills later on in life, the product, although intuitive, is unlikely to be AS cutting edge an innovative. I am personally much higher skilled in intuitive equation-based application building (mostly for financial analysis) than most of my male colleagues, but I was taught the basics by an exceptionally brilliant (but less intuitive and more methodical) man. As a complete side bar, this man also tried his absolute level best to have an affair with me and I broke all ties with him as a result. I did continue to learn and improve on my own, but I lost my mentor. Mentorship is a major advantage in scientific innovation. It is much easier to reach the top if you are already standing on the shoulders of giants (or the piles of bodies of those who went before you – take your pick).

      Lastly, if you think nerds (I am not sure I think FB is so fantastic, so I hesitate to call its inventor a nerd…) got there entirely on their own, you are exceptionally naive. The nerd had at least one right hand man (perhaps an army) who knew how to NETWORK. And that means networking with the Old Boys Club. Without trying to play the victim, I acknowledge the reality that I have a tougher time gaining clients because while I must dazzle them just with goal-orientated results, it is quite acceptable for my male friends to hang out at a bar or on the golf course to smootch potential clients. I am not complaining, but I can’t BEAT you if I don’t at least know what your advantages are 😉

    • I’m an immigrant, I own a successful startup, and I will own you. 40% of the largest US companies owned by immigrants or their children. You’re not a founder, you’re not an engineer, and you’re not a nerd. You’re probably just a little racist “community support staff” in a company. I’ll hire you for minimum wage (if you look good enough).

    • The hell, man? Leave your anti-feminism bullcrap out of this. GamerGate isn’t about anti-feminism no matter what your insecurities tell you.

  24. I feel this article is pandering to the social justice warriors who are part of the political correct status quo combining big business corporations with Marxist politics. The nerds don’t have influence, it’s the political minders of the left (social justice warriors) like Anita sarkeesian that have the money, power and influence. This article is just part of the shakedown currently going on against nerd culture which is primarily white guy outsiders. That makes this article not courageous but just another sycophantic appeal to power.

  25. Pingback: Feminism Mach II | Paddastoel

  26. Reblogged this on It's Playing, Just With Research and commented:
    Pete Warden provides some insider thoughts on what has gone wrong with nerd culture. His points about the ingrained tendency to not listen to critics, to fall back on victimization, to become insular all provide thoughts for the types of fractures we are currently seeing in fandom, in general, especially along gendered and racial lines.

  27. David, your comments epitomize the self centeredness and blindness the post references. You literally seem to think you were born on third base and hit a triple. The reality is that straight white men have a history of living in a society where they are treated as they ideal, regardless of their social class. They will ALWAYS have an advantage, and that’s not playing the victim card (which, ironically, is what you’re doing. It’s just history. There are plenty of women and minorities who ‘get the fuck up and bust their ass’. But the insular nature not just of tech but of business, period, in this country insures that there are obstacles that your straight white men just don’t have.

    It’s not because we we’re “constantly sold the story”, it’s because YOU are.

  28. I’m glad to see a raising of awareness. However, the issue of gender proportions being wildly skewed towards males is not limited to only computer geekiness: it encompasses all of science. Backing it is a slew of inculcated prejudices with a thin film of pseudo-science (http://recode.net/2014/10/09/neurosexism-brains-gender-and-tech/). To operate within these fields entails a social responsibility to not only be aware of these issues, but to also be proactive in addressing them. That is why I sincerely thank you for voicing your concerns.

  29. Money and power don’t make you a mature human and if one is not careful can hinder the maturation process and magnify the consequences of immaturity.

    History has many examples of exploited people who are liberated only to miss the most valuable lessons of their exploitation and become exploiters themselves. Us against them, zero sum thinking and acting. When this plays out there is no advancement only a shifting of spoils.

    If you really want to make a difference, it is up to you right here, right know, to make a choice and start on a different path. Don’t depend on authority figures masquerading as leaders to save us. Don’t be the one throwing stones instead of building bridges. Don’t confuse money and the perception of power with “winning”. Don’t hideout in mind numbing escapes.

    Instead think about wisdom, compassion and skillful action. There is a lot of suffering in this world. I’m pretty sure we all have experienced some of it ourselves. How about we battle that instead of each other?

  30. Pingback: Linkschleuder von 2014-10-15 | stk

  31. I’m not a nerd in the sense that you define it – I don’t work in tech and don’t know much about it from a, well, technical standpoint. But a lot of my friends are in tech and do fit the classic nerd mold, and I’ve been a gamer and have enjoyed other stuff in that sort of sphere. I also had terrible social skills growing up.

    And you know what? I partly agree with you – but only partly. “Don’t be an asshole” is a maxim I try to live by, even if I can’t always live up to it, because we all have our asshole moments. I think pretty much every negative aspect of the Gamergate movement could have been prevented if all involved had just tried not to be an asshole – to send death/rape threats, to call out certain women in the industry for promiscuity, and so on. This seems pretty basic to me.

    However, “nerds”, at least in the wider sense of the term, still face some issues. Some of the stuff associated with “nerd culture” is still pretty widely considered, if not socially unacceptable, then at least weird. And when it comes to Gamergate, there are two sides to that story – some of the accusations of a lack of journalistic integrity at big game news/review sites definitely ring true. Though I don’t quite see why there’s so much anger; Kotaku and Polygon and co. were always worthless as far as I was concerned.

    I can’t speak to the tech side of it – I’m sure there are some issues of pent-up anger/misogyny/whatever in there. But I really have a hard time agreeing with your conclusion, even if I’m only partly a “nerd”. My life is shitty enough anyway that I refuse to feel bad about how I feel. I still try not to be an asshole, and I think that everyone should strive for that, but I can also understand how a lot of the people you’re addressing in your post feel.

  32. Pingback: How Did GamerGate Become A Lightning Rod For Violence? | How Did GamerGate Become A Lightning Rod For Violence? | Social Dashboard

  33. GamersGate had less to do about harassment and who someone slept with to work her way up the promotional ladder as much as it had to do without right ethical deviance and corruption in mainstream game journalism publications and websites.

    So now not only is it impossible to tell between what is a review and details about a game vs what is a barely veiled PR promotion for corporate giants scratching the backs of game journalists.

    The criticism of critics is merely criticism. It can’t be purely blamed on their “gender” every time a criticism is made.

  34. Pingback: Weekend Reader Woche 42 - Philip Büchler

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