I have been referred to as a geek for the last third of my lifetime. For a time I took it as insulting. I earned the moniker because of my involvement with computers and the Internet, being an advocate of both, and more importantly, a sighing repairer of computers for family and friends. I have never been in the forefront of the popular advancement of these things; to the contrary I have been but a background player. Yet, I am considered a pioneer in these technologies, locatable if Googled just right, but in my view that earns me the same distinction attributed to the thousands of people who wound their way west in the expansion of our nation’s borders during the 1800s. I have a few “firsts” under my belt and hold a few patents in my name. But those patents were applied for and owned by companies I worked for. I take no reward for them beyond the paychecks from my employers.
Yet I am one of the cogs in a wonderful machine. A cyborg of sorts; the combination of man’s intellect and technological capability. My efforts helped to create the world we live in and the technology upon which we depend. Fortunately to a greater extent than fixing man’s most frustratingly mysterious necessities, the home computer. I’ve managed to earn the title of Engineer and the fruits of my engineering contributions live on in the banking industry and in the world of wireless data distribution networks. Of course, in spite of those contributions now amounting to the charcoal sketching on cave walls in contrast to the level of knowledge employed so cavalierly today, it gives me the legacy of satisfaction in knowing that I helped get us all to there we are today in ways beyond mere employment of technology. I was a designer, experimenter and developer. I get to hear the relatively newly minted words like WiFi and Bluetooth and know that my efforts nudged them microscopically forward in their journey to the commonplace. I get to know that my early works and skills laid the groundwork from which the likes of FaceBook and Twitter and Google emerged. While my name doesn’t spring from historian lips nor appear in publications of the fledgling days of cyberspace, I was a member of the clubs that spit forth Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak and know that one exploited the work of others while the other was a true creator, and they are the reasons that we have computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones. I am not of their ilk though, as so completely attested by my bank account if nothing else. My proof of worth is manifested most tacitly in my offspring rather than myself.
It should be no large surprise to me that my hobbies, the way I spend so much of my time these days would be technological in nature. I take delight in crafting machines which have enough personal intelligence to comport themselves with a degree of autonomy. I still, in my usual way provide experimental development contributions to the future, albeit even more anonymously than before. I see the future in my playthings; a future of exploration and achievement of the human species. My hobbies manifest proof of concept for any number of technological evolutions predicted by futurists as the tail now wags the dog in the development of future methods of exploration, discovery and even combat. As I see and hear the news of military drones, landers on Mars, and self driving vehicles I take pleasure knowing that my hobby advances all of these things and more as my hobby exploits and proves the ideas of people more creative these days than I. Of course, my creations have no such lofty purposes, instead focusing on ways to take aerial photographs of my home by releasing self directed fliers or creating deep seated psychosis in my wife’s cats with tank treaded stalkers.
History will take little note of me; my passing observed solely by friends and family when my sun sets. I will deserve no more and no less, simply being one of the manifold millions of human organisms who spend a few seconds here, marked by a relative few ticks of the cosmic clock. As with my ilk, I will have both used well and wasted the fleeting moments granted me, manifesting the human condition. We’re all frail organisms; each doing what we’re supposed to do as evidenced by our having done it. But I would like to think that in my personal exploitation of time that I made at least some small contribution to improvement of the previously mentioned human condition. I would like to think that in our own ways, each of us has caused some tiny reverberation in the fabric of space and time as we proffered our us-ness to the universe.
Some of historically noteworthy humans might seem giants. But that is a local perspective born of human hubris. Only a view from below can look upwards and in doing so create a perception if the gigantic. It is looking down that we see just how insignificant humans are in contrast to the planet we inhabit, and how small our solar system is in contrast to our galaxy, and how infinitesimal our galaxy is to the universe. Then again, it is testament to the gargantuan steps our tiny existence have taken that we can see from a downward looking perspective and know our puny place in matters of the universe. Even that we can wonder that our universe is but one of infinite numbers, eschewing human hubris to think of ourselves as even less significant. But that is how progress is made. At one time humans thought our world and our ideas were the center of the universe. But it was the curiosity and creativity in us that showed us the role reversal that permitted such tremendous advance, and with an inertia carrying us farther and farther to the place of knowing that which is knowable, learning what is learnable.
For this I wear my badge of geekdom with a sense of pride and accomplishment, and I give standing ovation to the human tribe in spite of it still being so backward and ignorant. Because of the contributions of us each, we can know the depth of our naivety …and reduce it further.