The rise of the bros, and the fall of the geeks

One of my favorite movies when I was growing up was the 1984 classic,
Revenge of the Nerds.” If you haven’t watched it yet, take two hours
to do so–yes, it’s available on Netflix:

The movie really spoke to me–a guy so nerdy that the kids at my
private school for gifted children nicknamed me “Encyclopedia
Yeh”…when I was in the 3rd grade.

Yet today’s viewer would
probably find it hard to believe. The’d marvel at the concept of
computer programmers and homosexuals being abused and socially shunned.
I’m glad that times have changed in the past 30 years, and that we live
in a more enlightened society that tries to fight bullying and respects
intellect.

At the end of the movie, the protagonists make a moving speech:

“Gilbert: I just wanted to say that I’m a nerd, and I’m here tonight to
stand up for the rights of other nerds. I mean uh, all our lives we’ve
been laughed at and made to feel inferior. And tonight, those bastards,
they trashed our house. Why? Because we’re smart? Because we look
different? Well, we’re not. I’m a nerd, and uh, I’m pretty proud of it.

Lewis: Hi, Gilbert. I’m a nerd too. I just found that out tonight. We
have news for the beautiful people. There’s a lot more of us then there
are of you. I know there’s alumni here tonight. When you went to Adams
you might’ve been called a spazz, or a dork, or a geek. Any of you that
have ever felt stepped on, left out, picked on, put down, whether you
think you’re a nerd or not, why don’t you just come down here and join
us.”

Today, “The Big Bang Theory” is the #1 show on TV, and
Chris Hardwick has his own talk show. Yet while I’m glad that nerds
have a respected place in society, it saddens me to see what we’ve done
with it.

Maybe it’s because more recent generations of nerds
haven’t felt the same persecution, or that geekdom has become cool.
Whatever the reason, nerds now act like the bullies that once terrorized
them.

Today’s startup culture can still be open and inclusive,
but it is often closed and cruel as well. “Brogrammers” act like the
jocks of yesteryear, privileged and arrogant. Worse, we’re so
self-righteous that anyone we disagree with suffers the wrath of the
Internet mob, without due process or restraint.

Abraham
Lincoln, perhaps the wisest man who ever lived, said, “If you want to
test a man’s character, give him power.” We’ve been tested, and I’m not
sure I like the results.

2 thoughts on “The rise of the bros, and the fall of the geeks

  1. Perhaps being a nerd is different today. It's not about being a programmer. A lot more people are tech-savvy today and know how to program.
    The brogrammers, who party and outcast those who are different would not be considered nerds back in the day. Because it's suddenly cool to be a computer geek (geek-chic?) who runs a startup, it draws many people who otherwise wouldn't do it.
    Perhaps some people are over-compensating for being outcasts at a younger age, but being an nerd meant being put aside because you were smarter, or followed your interests, which were not necessarily main-stream. Throwing the best parties, and being considered cool because you have a startup does not make you a nerd.

  2. Interesting point, Arik. During the dot-com boom, the Valley was overrun with MBA and management consultants who saw starting companies as the path to easy money. Maybe this is an analogous situation.

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