I read Wired magazine on the plane back to California. I bought it because it had this iconic cover with Bill Gates, older, wiser, and more considerate–the face of technology’s past–while Mark Zuckerburg was hanging out right behind Gates shoulder. A smirk was on the social networking titan’s face, a shadow of Gates’ younger, naive, and sometimes foolishly inconsiderate self–the face of technology’s future. I’m a big fan of empowering nerds as well, so the title Geek Power: How Hacker Culture Conquered the World, also drew me in.
I was surprised to find that the story of “the hacker” runs directly parallel to the writer, and every other artist. As the article explains, a “hacker” was first meant to denote the people who used their techie know-how for good, not for bad, and somehow the mainstream adopted the term to refer to people who spread viruses, infiltrate and subvert online security, and otherwise wreak havoc on The Wild Wild West that is The World Wide Web. But the truth is, hackers, or the geeks who write code, are the same as the geeks who write stories. They are creative people. People who feel threatened by commercialism and the limits of going mainstream with their codes. Hackers believe in the freedom and equality of information. They have an ethos, a mission they live by, and most of all, they feel like their creativity is being threatened by modern society.
I also found it interesting that hackers judge each other by how well they hack–not their education, not their class, race, gender, age, not even their clothing!–but hackers judge other hackers on how well they can write code. Writers are the same way. I don’t care where you come from and how you got where you are, if you write well, you have my respect as both a writer and a reader. The article revealed to me that what once seemed to me like the most cold, least creative, non-artistic, (boring), field of coding and technology is actually a field based on creativity more than anything else. Gates and Zuckerburg are artists! They are first and foremost creative people who simply could not have created anything worth talking about unless they used their artistic and creative brain muscles. Numbers and robots need artists behind them as much as novels and paintings do.
Okay, if you are a techie, you might have already known techies are closet artists and creatives–but I didn’t. I mean, I guess it’s obvious, but I just didn’t realize it, because math, engineering, computer science all seem to run so completely opposite to any artistic endeavor. It’s no surprise that I feel this way. Many techie classmates scoffed at me and thought it was cute that I was majoring in Drama at Stanford. So obviously I got very used to pitting myself against techies as my enemy, and now I realized that computer geeks are simply self-hating artists.
Which makes me think… Why are people so insistent about trying to get more math, science and technology teachers, thinking that the modern world is ruled by math, science, and technology, when two of the most influential technological innovators (and all of hacker culture) are closet artists! More specifically, they are closet writers! They write code and not stories, but really, what’s the difference? Isn’t social networking just a story? A second-by-second, up-to-date, live story?
Creativity and an artistic sensibility serve as the basis for technology. So, if you get rid of art and creativity in schools, it DOES make reasonable sense that you are severely stifling a student’s ability to create anything innovate to solve society’s future problems.
This just adds to my overall theory:
Creativity and art are necessary for human survival, and they should never, ever be seen as expendable!
Art is no joke. I’ve seen theater and writing used to heal psychological wounds. I’ve seen art used to empower a voiceless people, and inform others who were ignorant of an injustice. Art has saved many lives including mine. We are all artists, we are all creative people. We have used our creativity for basic survival in the past, and for the future it is creativity that we will use to solve big issues like the climate crisis. More math teachers, more science teachers, more technology teachers, yes, but keep our art teachers too.
Because without human creativity, humanity can’t move forward. And if humanity can’t move forward, then you know what will happen next.
The robots will take over.
Editor’s note: this post previously featured the song The Humans Are Dead by Flight of The Conchords.
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