Geeks gather to discuss everything but foreign policy, trade, and all those other things that bring about world change and conflict. Photo courtesy the Albany Comic Con's official Facebook page at


Two weeks ago, I was at the Albany Comic Con and ran into my roommate. He was standing in front of a camera giving an interview for a forthcoming web series being produced by local independent filmmakers called “Super Knocked Up.” Without getting into too many details, it is about exactly what you think it is.

They asked him several questions pertaining to super-heroes for a promotional video they were putting together: what super-power would you most like to have, who is your favorite super-hero, what comic book movie are you most looking forward to, and other expected comic-related fare. About four questions in he was interrupted by Obi-Wan Kenobi, who needed to bypass the interview to get into his room (located in the courtyard holding the Convention).

Once Obi-Wan had retrieved whatever it was from his room that he needed so desperately (it wasn’t a lightsaber, that much is certain) the interview concluded. My roommate introduced me to the two conducting the interview, acquaintances of his, and asked if I’d like to help contribute. I said yes, gladly, because I never turn down an opportunity for self-promotion.

We conducted the same interview I had just overheard, pausing for Convention announcements and the occasional raffle drawing. Then came the final question.

“Why do geeks rule the world?”

“They don’t,” I replied.

The one holding the microphone raised his eyebrows in surprise. They clearly hadn’t had and didn’t expect anyone to challenge the presumption in their question that geeks, nerds, or whatever you would like to call them “ruled the world.” Why would they? We’ve been hearing for the better part of ten years that geeks rule the world, whether it be through geek chic, stories and editorials about the prevalence of the internet in our day to day lives, or phrases emanating from Madison Avenue. Going as far back as our childhood, adults would tell would-be bullies that they should be careful not to dismiss someone as a nerd or geek because “one day you’ll be calling him ‘sir’.”

But it’s all a great lie. The artificial boost to the geek’s self-esteem is not a salient truth, but rather a selling point. People in marketing realized during the internet boom that geeks are passionate about those things they can buy with income that may or may not be truly disposable, and as such will empty their pockets with no hesitation so long as they think they are being singularly catered to and are given the perception that what they say and do is important.

That doesn’t equate to geeks ruling the world. They have enough influence in mainstream culture to dictate norms to a degree, but only in the realms of entertainment and gadgetry. They aren’t catered to because there are so man yof them ,but rather the money they carelessly spend and the amount of energy and attention they pay to frivolous things essentially does the marketer’s jobs for them. Geeks are the alpha and omega; both consumer and walking advertisement.

To realize the absence of geeks in World rule one need only look at the news – and by news I mean hard real-world news and not internet sitse devoted to entertainment and/or gadgets – to realize that it’s not the geeks who are  steering the ship. In fact, they’re in the steerage doing all of the rowing while the businessmen that bullied them in high school crack the whips that drive them into a frenzy. Over the course of the last twenty years, we have been fed a lie as old as time itself through marketing and entertainment: that the geek shall one day inherit the Earth. The concept from which I derive the pun was itself developed as a means to keep the poorest in a society from becoming restless and too eager to usurp the inherited power structure. Thousands of years later, that approach is still used to maintain control over a slightly different segment of society. The difference is that the powers that be have fear of the poor if they get unruly. Not so with the geeks, for the only unrest they exhibit is over postponements in release dates and minor glitches in technology.

And so the geek who was bullied and told that one day they would turn it around and control the course of events is every bit as powerless, except now the bullying has transformed into the encouragement of self-delusion. Geeks are the engineers that develop the gadgets and technological advances that drive those in power further up corporate and political ladders, but one doesn’t come across them except as anomalies such as Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Even then, they’re at the top of a mountain of tech, but they simply develop the tech and tools used by those that run the world. Bill Gates doesn’t hold the sway in Washington that, say, an oil or tobacco executive does. Guys like Gates that are held up as the high geek standard are very rich engineers, and only become power brokers if the phrase “anti-trust” appears in the docket (a rarity). They may do a lot of good with donations and charity work, but do not control policy in any real or tangible way.

My response to the producers of “Super Knocked Up” was not nearly as long-winded as what you just read, but it did hit upon all the major points. After I’d finished, the man behind the camera nodded his head and smiled.

“That was great,” he said, as he and his companion thanked me for destroying the premise of their culminating question and telling them that they do not rule the world. They seemed grateful to have the perceived weight of responsibility taken off their shoulders.

“You’re welcome,” I said asI retrieved my things.

We made some small talk and I departed to spend the rest of my afternoon perusing the Convention floor. I watched grown men dicker over the price of action figures, heated discussions about the importance of decades of confusing continuity for comic book characters, and a legend that had once inked the great Jack Kirby receive thanks from fans from all walks of life that were born well after he had retired from the industry. It was truly touching and it brought a smile to my face. You just don’t see that sort of pure joy, apprecaition, and celebratory ambience on the floor of the United Nations.

Geeks don’t rule the world, and it’s the world’s loss.

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18 Responses to Why geeks don’t rule the world

  1. Paul gallery says:

    Don’t speak too loud! Anonymous might hear you.

  2. me neither says:

    Couldn’t agree more with your argument. Geeks have a lot of influence in terms of buying power, and development of new products and services (most likely, because much of the world will tell you that they are in fact, a closeted geek). But as you said, they hold no tangible influence, but not because they can’t, it’s because they don’t want to. If Gates, Jobs or even Zuckerberg wanted to be on top of Capitol Hill they could be but it most likely doesn’t interest them. It takes a particular personality, to be such an influential person (or an affinity for throwing money around). Inherently, I think it’s that in which keeps geeks in the background, they simply aren’t born with it. Not their fault, just something we all need to understand.

  3. Tony Barbaro says:

    I think people confuse looking like geek, with actually being one. Geeky-looking people may indeed rule the world.
    If you could rule the world from your mom’s basement while dressed as a character from Dune….now you’re talking geek-rule.

  4. Brad says:

    I thought about it after reading your blog, then realized that I went to RPI, while my boss went to SUNY Plattsburgh. And our CEO went to SUNY Albany. Darnit.

  5. Steve says:

    The terms “nerd” and “geek” have become so nebulous that there’s no way to know for sure. When we can define the word any way we like, it’s hard to give a ruling on these kind of things. Most celebrities who want to generate an image of humility will own up to being “geeks” in high school. People who are really into sports often identify as “geeks.” When I went to high school, “nerd” simply meant somebody smart whom we didn’t like. Using that as a metric, there are a whole lot of smart, unlikeable people who are currently ruling the world. But if we break down the term to be a little more all-encompassing, when we divorce the word from the popular image of the cliche anal-retentive pop culture junkies that inhabit our movie screens and comic book stores, and just agree that a geek is anybody who is ferociously enthusiastic and knowledgeable about a narrow field of study…then yes, these are people who are often very successful in life. Most successful people are extremely enthusiastic about their work, and intensely focused on it. I think that social skills and charisma are also important to entering into the higher reaches of power, but then we arrive back at the question: is being a geek and having social skills/charisma mutually exclusive? I don’t know that the term is rigid enough for me to answer that.

    Another confusing trend is the way that self-described “geeks” wear such labels as a badge of honor, and aren’t very eager to welcome others into the subculture. “Oh, you’re not a REAL gamer if all you play is Farmville.” “You’re not a REAL DC fanboy if you haven’t read anything from the Silver Age.” “You’re not a REAL geek unless you dress up for the convention.” This makes it even harder to come up with a general definition of “geek,” because people from both the outside and the inside want it to be a very, very specific thing. The non-geeks who use the term are so often dismissive with it, and the geeks who use it are so often protective of it, that finding an objective usage is more difficult than ever.

    Let’s look at an example: President Obama is a smart dude who studied his ass off and really liked Spider-man comics. Was he a geek? I guarantee you, there are several people right now who are thinking “well, HOW MANY Spider-man comics did he read?” “Did he read the Ditko books or the McFarlane books?” “How often did he get laid?” “Was he popular?” “What did he study?” “How did he dress?” “Was he ugly?” “Did he wear glasses?” As if this additional information makes all the difference in the world.

    In my estimation, most of humanity possesses geeky qualities. The only thing that separates a geek from a non-geek is their enthusiasm for what they love, and the degree to which they allow others to see it. As a self-described geek, I’m pretty comfortable saying this. As somebody without a background in political science or economics, I really can’t say with any certainty who is currently running the world. It’s easy to mention Bill Gates, Obama, and Steve Jobs, not because they’re geeks, but because they’re famous. Are the people who are really pulling the strings equally as famous? Not to the point that I can say with any certainty whether they are geeks or not. If they know how to stay in charge and keep a low profile, though, I think it’s safe to say that they’re not idiots. I know the oil and tobacco industries hold a lot of sway in Washington, but they have the benefit of being thought of as industries and not individuals. There are people buried underneath the money somewhere, and those people may very well be geeks, too. Maybe not about comics and such, but I’d wager there are a few classic car enthusiasts, wine connoisseurs and gun collectors in the lot. And aren’t these people “geeks” as well?

    The way I see it, the major difficulty of grouping anybody together under the banner of “geek” is that “geek” isn’t a word people want to share. “Geek” is a word people want to own.

  6. T says:

    Paper can always buy Rock so Scissors never wins

  7. Jack says:

    They dont rule the world because a 30 year old man dressing like obi wan kenobi and drooling over 2 different covers of the same issue of the new avengers doesnt exactly exhibit any skills in leadership.

  8. Mickey says:

    Now, as it’s been from the dawn of human history, the ruthless rule the world. Same as it ever was….same as it ever was….

  9. Geeks do so rule the world! The world of warcraft…

  10. Ann says:

    Seriously, who came up with the whole the meek shall inherit? was that forced onto us through the bible? What a load of hoo hoo.

    As Mickey so charmingly pointed out, it’s always been the “ruthless”. I suppose you can call them “ambitious” to be pc but honestly, it’s the Type A personality, go-getters, no matter what it takes or how many people you step on along the way, back stabbers, liars, and cheaters that always succeed.

    I have always been suspicious of the successful. What have they done? What have they DONE???? (I mean in the past to become successful)

  11. Natalie says:

    @3…Tony, your comment made my day haha. A Glossu Rabban-like dude (complete with the actual suit from David Lynch’s film) ruling the world would be ridiculously awesome.

  12. Mickey says:

    Exactly Ann. Kevin, thank you so much for the Talking Heads vid of the song I took the line from…made my day! Did you notice how, ummm…GEEKY David Byrne looks?

  13. Are geeks hipsters, or visa versa.
    I. Am. Confused.

  14. JQP says:

    I agree with #2. Why waste your time ruling the world when you can do something enjoyable instead?

  15. Eric says:

    Oh crap. Did he read the Ditkos or the MacFarlanes? WHAT KIND OF PRESIDENT HAVE WE ELECTED???

  16. BD says:

    #4 Brad – you crystalized it all right there.

    I could be wrong but from their perspective, you’re a myopic worker bee designing ways to efficiently (and sometimes spectacularly) get to the top of a ladder and they’re Big Picture Men who decide what wall that ladder leans up against.

    From your perspective, you know you make them look good but be late to work one too many times and you’ll be found atomic wedgied in the supply closet by the cleaning guy as the Big Cheeses bump chests (well, in the SUNY days chests would meet…now the gut is protruding beyond the quickly softening pecs) and smash-toast their cans of Bud whilst chanting, “NERD! NERD! NERD!”

    Geeks Rule The World? Methinks we never get out of Jr.High.

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