Six Degrees of Geek

We start with Cory Doctorow. Cory is most famous among geeks for writing on Boing Boing, one of the most popular blogs. If you don't read Boing Boing, and have no idea what a "blog" is, that’s okay. I’m su’ll find your opportunity to jump on the geek-mobile later. From Cory we connect to Mark Frauenfelder, who also writes on Boing Boing, and is editor of MAKE magazine. In relation to MAKE, Mark was recently on The Colbert Report, so from there we connect to Stephen Colbert. Stephen was previously on The Daily Show, of course. (Are you a geek yet?) Also on The Daily Show: super-geek John Hodgman. You may also know John from his role as "PC" in Apple's recent ads, or maybe from his recent geeky book, Areas of My Expertise. In the audio version of the book, Jonathan Coulton appears. Jonathan writes geeky songs. Yesterday, Jonathan appeared on Ze Frank’s The Show. Ze Frank has a geeky video show.

Thus completes our six degrees of geek: Cory-Mark-Stephen-John-Jonathan-Ze. This is the geek train I ride on. Seeing Jonathan with Ze Frank today was the geek-fest that prompted me to write this. But now that I look at the list, I note that these are six white men of roughly the same age and economic background. And we can easily branch out in other directions of geekiness (e.g. Stephen Colbert vs. The Decemberists) and find more of the same. It’s hard to dismiss as coincidence that I am a geek, and also a white male of roughly the same age and economic background. I’d never heard of any of these people as I was becoming a geek, so how did that happen?

It happened because 98% of geeks are white males of roughly the same age and economic background. Me too.
The audio for Cory Doctorow's speech the next day at SFU campus on the hill is found at this page:

I recorded it for CFRO radio in Vancouver - it's a pretty good quality listen.

Alex Smith
Radio Ecoshock
Sterling, but why is that? It's relatively easy to figure out the causes of gender disparity in a given industry (e.g. television, technology, music, publishing, etc.) by looking at who controls the industry, but the notion of geekdom seems much more abstract.
I think the explanation is much simpler than that. Do you remember the scene from the Graduate when Dustin Hoffman is told to get into "plastics"? Everyone at that party was white, middle class. Now I'm sure it had something to do with the great deal our father got buying an Apple IIc a few months before the Macintosh was released, but why do you think he was looking at buying a computer in the first place? Do you think he saw the impact computers where having at his job and thought, hmmm... these computers are really going to change everything? I doubt it since he's just started using email at the hospital last year and never used the computer they had at the church until moving to MI. I'm guessing that someone he respected told him that his kids would get better jobs if they knew something about computers. Our parents made decisions based on information from their peers... who happened to all be white. I think you'll find the same thing happened with the early adopters of the dial up and later highspeed internet access.

So to answer your question, there are many 20-30 something geeks from white, middle class families because the peer to peer information exchange happened primarily between their parents. You're less likely to see an industry dominated by a specific demographic again as neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces diversifying and the access to information is driven less by peer to peer in physical spaces and more by online interactions. There is an "old" joke that on the internet, no one knows you're a dog. I think that can be taken a step further that increasingly in geek circles, it doesn't matter if you're a dog, a teenage girl in suburbia, or a 60 year- in guy in Jakarta, your code speaks. The truly scary thing isn't that the industry is dominated buy white geeks from middle class homes today, but that the peer to peer exchange of information that would keep Americans of any race/color in roles as leaders in the technology industry isn't happening. The early days of tinkering with computer kits has given way to a culture of consumption where people accept ridiculous legal rational that the math used to encode audio is somehow owned by a company (DRM), that shapes are patentable (DMCA), or that building your own camera would be illegal (Broadcast Flag). The RIAA and MPAA are conditioning parents to prevent their children from hacking and there aren't enough people of any age, race, or income promoting a different view point to their peers.
But Kevin, you've only explained tech geeks. What about all the other types of geeks I listed? Did Jonathon Coulton's parents suggest he start writing songs about obscure mathematicians because they thought it would get him a better job? Did John Hodgman's parents suggest he start developing fictional trivia about hobos because they thought it would get him a better job? I can't imagine they did.

These are quintiscentially geeky things to do that don't appear to have a strong connection to the social patterns that create homogeneity in the tech industry. They're like tech geekiness in that they're somewhat outside the norm, but they're unlike tech geekiness in that they won't eventually become the norm. Here are some more non-tech geeks that fit the stereotype: Conan O'Brien, a celebrity geek, Kevin Smith, a movie/comic geek, Beck, a music geek. The first exception that comes to mind is Ana Marie Cox, a political geek.
Ze, Joel and John all live in Brooklyn. Colbert is filmed in Manhattan. Location is important to some degree.

-- Another mid-30s, middle class, white guy.
I thought it would be flip to say "it's a strange attractor"...although that's probably true. What dictates that you become a geek is a pretty complex set - though that set is expanding. I'm 33 and white (though female) so I was exposed to a lot of the same opportunities and influences as other 30something white people. These circumstances emphasized the importance of curiosity and creativity over "survival skills" like learning a trade. So I'm geeky - or if you want to play semantics, I'm nerdy, since I'm not tech-hack-adept enough to be a true geek. It's interesting that curiosity and creativity are becoming the new survival skills.

Why didn't you know about these guys when you were becoming a geek? That's like asking why all the trees in a forest get wet at the same rate when it rains. You're in the same cohort, that's all. The same rain fell on all of you.

In reply to Kevin I'd say that the practice of hacking will most probably continue regardless of what the RIAA et al have to say. We're monkeys, and monkeys hack, unless you put them in permanent lockdown.
I am proud to say that none of the names in this circle-o-geekiness is foreign to me even a little bit. I'm even more proud to announce that little brown girls get their geek on too.





精准医疗要做到个性、高效及预防的关键在于筛查和诊断,因此基因测序等检测诊断技术的发展是关键。成本的下降让基因测序商业化市场的打开成为可能,基因测序技术的成熟和商用经过了多年的发展,1980 年自动测序仪出现,2001 年完成了人类基因组框架图标志着这一技术的成熟,2007 年二代基因测序技术大幅降低测序成本,使得这一技术应用出现可能,以走在前列的Illumina 公司为例,该公司自2007 年起把当时每个基因组的测序成本费用从1000万美元降到了当下的1000 美元, 根据Illumina 公司数据,全球NGS(二代基因测序)的应用市场规模预计为200 亿美元,药品研发和临床应用是增速最快的领域,增速超过15%,肿瘤诊断和个性化用药是最有应用前景的领域,市场规模120亿美元。乐土投资与Illumina以及新一代的基因检测公司Genalyte, Centrillion都有着合作关系。


全球创新论坛纽约峰会由全美华人金融协会(The Chinese Finance Association, TCFA) 主办。全美华人金融协会于一九九四年在美国成立。分布在世界各地的会员来自华尔街投行、基金、监管部门、和学术界,已成为联系中美金融界最重要的桥梁之一。协会定期举行学术年会。协会本部设在纽约,并在波士顿,华盛顿,旧金山,伦敦,香港,北京和上海等金融中心设有分会。


Be number 10:

knows half of 8 is