The word geek is a slang term, noting individuals as “a peculiar or otherwise odd person, especially one who is perceived to be overly obsessed with one or more things including those of intellectuality, electronics, etc.”
This is the starting line the Wiki offers on the word “Geek”. Everywhere I looked, the word “Geek” meant a person with little or no social contact. It also means someone who is interested in technology, to an extreme point where he/she is more comfortable with computers than humans.
The history of the word and the apparent use of it suggests a different perceived meaning of the word among the current society. Most of the people involved in technology are proud to call themselves geeks. It seems to imply a certain type of personality who is liberal in thinking and more socially and politically active than the actual word meaning suggests. In USA the word geek can be redefined as a hippie in computing. They are aware of the social and technological connections and are not socially inept as some dictionaries define.
One such occasion where the geeks lived more than their expected level was when the so called “world’s most dangerous hacker”, Kevin Mitnick was arrested. He was condemned as a dangerous criminal, both by the media and the FBI. It was said that he could take down the whole American defense network just by whistling in to a pay-phone (Obviously this was not probable). Along with the image created by the Hollywood films, that hackers can just hack into anything through a pay-phone (watch Hackers), Kevin Mitnick was considered to be the most wanted man in USA those days. He was later arrested by the Feds, and was imprisoned without any charges in a Federal prison. He was denied of any contact to the outside world and he was put in solitary confinement for several years (the exact number of years I can’t remember now).
The only activism that voiced against this brutality came from his gang of friends, who were hackers, and obviously geeks. They traveled around the country, making the people aware of the situation Mitnick is facing, and communicating the message of who hackers really were. It was a time when hackers and crackers were not distinguishably identified, and a hacker was as same as a common thief tried under the same laws added with Data Protection Laws. It is notable that a group of commoners dared the FBI, and the prevailing system of law. Their activism was a major force in helping Mitnick to have a trial. Kevin Mitnick is free now and is running a IT security consultant firm.He was not a hacker. He just new simple techniques of security. The major component of his hacking was Social Engineering (the term which was coined after him I think).
The point I’m trying to make here is that a geek is not a person who is socially inept or only interested in technology. He is a socially and politically active person who is just interested in technology than any other.
But the situation in Sri Lanka is a bit different. There are a lot of people who call themselves geeks, and try to live up to the meaning which the dictionary gives them. Most of these so called geeks are not well socialized. They are not interested in the social and political context they live in. Their mentality is that such things are not “modern” any more. They are more insensitive to their environments. I have seen people saying that it is not their duty to be interested in such things.
When the government bans web sites no opposition comes from these tech heads. Such voice comes from other activists who are not aware of technology and therefore cannot raise a valid voice. The tech heads must be thinking that such activism is not their duty.
When fellow geeks are threatened the so called geeks act as if that never happened. They are afraid of responsibility and is not able to stand any oppression. This was apparent to me by observing some incidents associated with such people.
The so called geeks have not spoken about a single social issue ever. All their writings contain facts on coding, tech gadgets, and web sites. I can’t say whether this is because they lack a part of their brain or if they are just plain stupid. Such content is normal for a tech head, but should he be insensitive to social issues at all?
Is this the kind of people who will be our technical heads? People who are not interested in social matters? Is this the kind of people who are being put out of the education institutes?
Technology is not their for people to go after it. The sole purpose of development and existence of technology is to support humans. Crucial technological developments occur during the times of distress. Therefore it is clear that technology should cater to human needs, and humans should not give in to technology.
But how can we associate technology to the society and solve its important issues without understanding it at all? How can we understand it (or even look at it) without being interested in it? Most of the technologically proficient people today don’t even speak a word about burning social issues. Their only interests lie in the latest useless gadgets released by some American company.
A great deal of public finance go into producing such proficient technical people but all they are interested in is technology. The important part of investment (which Free Education is), i.e. return of service does not come from these professionals. Instead they become oriented in technology, which is a secondary factor, and ignore the social and political context which are the primary factors. Without the need of social and political system, technology would not exist at all.
It is high time that the education institutes and the people who set standards in education took this matter into their consideration. Students should be encouraged to participate in social activities. They should be made aware of the position of technology with respect to society. They should be trained to associate technology to the social issues and solve them. It is time that the proper ROI is planned during the time of investment.