During a resent hearing on immigration reform, Senator Jay Rockefeller – of the West Virginia branch of the Rockefeller family – suggested that the United States is hurt by the depiction of techies in popular culture. I want to suggest that he is wrong. I want to suggest that techies – Rockefeller refers to them as STEM’s – are doing just fine.
I think what this Rockefeller doesn’t understand is that Hipness is defined by the people who are successful And techies are successful; Beyoncé is hip and so are Sergey Brin and Larry Page and, of course, Mark Zuckerberg. The first time I remember seeing that nerds were becoming hip was in the movie Peggy Sue Got Married in which Richard Norvik, a former class geek, became the richest and most powerful man in the room at Peggy’s 25th reunion.
On my ferry boat ride to Vallejo a week or so ago, I sat near and talked to a young woman who was taking the ferry home after her shift as a security guard with ISI Security. She works as a security guard at high-tech companies like Apple and Google and, when I asked her if she liked working there, she said she loved it. When I asked her Why?, she said it was because the People were nice, and smart, and hip.
I was surprised because I fully expected her to say that they were nerds or geeks and that she couldn’t relate to them. I said something like They didn’t used to be hip, she said, Yes they were, we just didn’t know it. Well said.