The Demand For Geeks Has Gone Up

I have a close friend who termed herself "geek" in highschool and was part of a group called the "nerd herd" and was proud of it. Little did she know that she and her group, in an effort to distinguish themselves as different, were only part of a rising trend that has come about in modern days due to how deeply technology has become imbedded into our American Culture.

William Butterfield, in his post called "Markets Made Geeks Cool..." at Corner Solution, says that the demand for geeks is rising because the term "geek" is now associated with the technological hero of the computer age whereas before it was always associated with canival performers whose talent consisted of biting off the heads of live chickens and snakes.

Butterfield empasizes the truth of this statement by referring to a recent federal law suit in which The Geek Squad Inc. of Minneapolis filed suit against Geek Housecalls Inc. of Lexington on trademark infringment. In Minnnesota's complaint, it claims that Massachusetts adopted a similar name to capitalized on Minnesota's established reputation and business.

"Established reputation" as a geek? Well, there it is folks. If one company can trademark a common word such as "geek" then those of us who want to be known by similar reputation better hurry and jump in the market before someone takes "nerd," "dweeb," "drip" or "bore."

P.S. It's a good thing I was a nerd before all this hype. I might have felt like I was a follower rather than a leader.

1 comment:

Dr. Tufte said...

This is a good example of why economists always stress the dynamics of markets.

People outside of economics frequently make assertions that rely on economic situations being static. In reality, they are often very fluid. In class, this was the case with the I.B.M. antitrust case - by the time the case wound down the conditions that had produced it were no longer relevant.

In the case of geeks, an economist would have no problem with the following story. What Geeks were doing in the past was not something that was valued in the market. This is a signal to do something different (probably more than one). "Geeks" have been interested in lots of stuff that wasn't more widely popular (e.g., Dungeons and Dragons, goth styles). But eventually they hit on something that was valued more widely. You could make the opposite argument about jocks. Were they complacent, like lazy monopolists, and didn't develop anything that would be more valuable in the 21st century? That seems to be the message in the portrayal of jocks in the current media.

This line of argument has broader implications for how we view things like resource availability. We figure out different ways to use the things we have. Paul Romer (a future Nobel Prize winner, and the man behind Aplia) noted that 40,000 years ago we were painting on cave walls with iron oxide, while today our hard drives paint iron oxide onto disks. Both are useful, and yet it is hard to see the connection (unless you train yourself to think about the world as an interesting and dynamic place). It gets harder when you realize that iron oxide is just ... rust. Who knew?