Nerds, Big Bang and the silicon valley!

How nerds and geeks changed the world!

Recently I have been watching the famous ‘The Big Bang Theory’ TV series. I must say that it is one of the best comedy series I have ever watched. Even ‘Friends’, of which I used to be a die hard fan of seems to be less funny as compared to TBBT. Anyways, this post is not intended for any sort of comparison between comedy sitcoms. Rather, I would like to write about the importance of nerds/geeks in the world.

Just like the fictional weirdo, nerdy, intelligent, genius physicist Sheldon Cooper character is elegantly portrayed by real life actor Jim Parsons, the world always have had many similar nerdy folks. However to the large extent these nerds might be laughed at, ignored or even ridiculed by the so called pragmatic self-concerned society, but they cannot deny that these bunch of folks have changed the world. If we just look at the history in science, technology, economics or arts, we see most of the inventions and breakthroughs done by the nerd scientists and engineers. Sir Issac Newton must have been a nerd in the 17th century England. The genius physicist Albert Einstein must have been a nerd in his college days who delved into the wonders of physics, and opened the universe of relativity for us.

Silicon valley is famously known as a valley of nerds. It was started and later expanded by a bunch of young minds like the trio Bill Gates, Bill Joy & Bill Atkinson. Bill Gates, as we all know became the richest nerd in the world after he co-founded Microsoft along with his friend Paul Allen, another nerd. Bill Joy who is lesser known as a co-founder of Sun Microsystems, is more of a prodigy in programming. This post from Berkeley praises this genius as “Dubbed the “Edison of the Internet” by Fortune Magazine, Bill Joy is one of luminaries of tech. Years before personal computers were being widely used, he created software that would enable the rise of the modern internet…”. And Bill Atkinson is the gifted programmer who along with Steve Wozniak( the geeky genius behind Apple) gave Apple the recognition of being more than just a fruit.

Then, we have the Google founders, Sergei and Larry, who envisioned a world with a web of internet. And adding to that, comes Mark Zuckerberg, another prodigy in programming, who revolutionized the way we live in social life. It is interesting to see that a nerd like Mark, who struggled to be social in his school or college days, came up with the idea of Facebook, a social networking platform. I guess an online social networking platform idea was the least expected from a nerd, but we know, nerds have always surprised the world!

Then, we have the famous ‘PayPal Mafia’ gang which comprised of a bunch of nerds such as Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, Reid Hoffman, Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, Jawed Karim etc. Elon as we all know went on to start world famous companies like Tesla & Space X, while Peter Thiel became the angel investor in Facebook. And the trio ( Steve, Chad and Jawed) went on to start YouTube which was later acquired by Google. This is the power of a group of people who are intelligent, hard working and visionary.

I think the most famous nerd in the world would be Steve Jobs, who was not only a geeky visionary who rode on his imagination ride to change the world with Mac and Iphone, but also garnered the respect, admiration and cult following which nerds usually despise or avoid. Many nerds before Steve Jobs used to either confine themselves to innovating in their labs, or teaching & researching in University like MIT, Harvard or Berkeley. But it was Steve who broke the well accepted image of a nerd, which is generally introverted, shy, and not going after money or fame. But Steve Jobs was the exact opposite. He changed the way the world used to look or treat nerds. He proved that nerds can become famous, rich, and immensely powerful. And we see, Apple is the best example of innovation, and being different!

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History shows that whenever a bunch of visionary minds have come together, they have often succeeded to change the world. Silicon valley is the world’s largest group of nerds, geeks and tech enthusiasts. Atleast it started off like this, and maybe things have become more profit oriented today, when Wall Street executives and corporate raiders have invaded the innovative silicon valley into a profit churning machine. But still, the spirit of innovation and passion to change the world runs high among the geeks and techies. Starting from the “Traitorous Eight” to “Paypal Mafia”, the nerds and techies made silicon valley the most famous and revered place on the earth.

Thus, lets hope this spirit of innovation continues in the valley. Even though the companies which were started by young minds who were called nerds in school days, who revered books, technology, comics, video games more than dating girls, or body building, who were mocked as being weirdos by the social world, today we see the entire world is dependent on the technologies and innovations these geeks had started, be it Iphone, Google, Tesla, or Facebook. Hence, I remember some wall street trader had said during the 2008 crisis that “Goldman Sachs rules the world” But he was wrong. Today, its the “Silicon Valley that rules the world!”. And in Steve Jobs words…

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Don’t be a football of other people’s opinions

We often tend to sway away by other people’s opinions like a pendulum. But does it really help us? This article highlights wisdom of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, J K Rowling, Steve Jobs and Robert Frost about this.

This is one of the 5 Sutras taught in the Art of Living Happiness program founded by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. I find this principle or sutra to be so relevant in our life. We tend to sway away with people’s opinions, just like a pendulum does. Our life goals, our priorities, our career, our interest, even our food, life partner or clothing is enormously influenced by what people will say or think. Say in a party, or event, if 10 people praise us, and only 1 criticizes us, then we will surely remember only 1 person in our entire life. So much is our personal life dependent on public perceptions.

But if we take a step back, become calm and contemplate on this fact, that does it really matter what people think about us? Does people’s opinions really matter in our life? Should we allow others comments or thinking to affect our thinking and opinions? I think most of us will answer a big “NO”.

This is because everyone changes in life. And so does our opinions and views. Nothing is permanent in life, neither is human life itself eternal. We never know what’s going to happen in the next moment. Similarly, people’s opinions about others are also influenced by their own experiences they have had before. For someone who struggled with poverty during childhood, will most probably become a money saver, or passionate for getting rich in later life. But on the other side, someone who has lived an affluent life, might not care for the comforts he/she have had received, without any efforts. They might not even realize it, how fortunate they are. But we see many of them getting depressed or even obsessed in life due to comments from some friend in a party, or even jealous for not having the desired health, or beauty, or even skin color. Our wishes, our opinions, our views are all a product of the experiences we have had in our life.

One thing I find funny is how much delight the society has in giving their free opinions and comments to others, even when they aren’t asked for. As J K Rowling said in her famous Harvard commencement speech “..but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it”. It is true indeed that the world is more than happy to opine or interfere in other people’s affairs. And we often see that the society never stops in this pursuit. If someone hasn’t achieved a goal like for ex: good job or education degree, then people will keep asking or reminding him/her. Later, when the goal is achieved, the society immediately moves on to assign a new goal which might be job, or getting married. Then after marriage, the next goal is having kids, and so on and on and on. Its simply never stops!

What really happens in this process, is we get entangled due to other people’s expectations, or opinions. We lose our peace of mind. We lose our confidence in our own ability, and we start living a life based on what other want us to live. As Steve Jobs rightly said in his Stanford commencement address Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. “ We get trapped by dogma and which at the end, makes us regret our lost time to work on what we truly loved to do. We regret for the lost opportunities which might have altered the life track differently. Due to other people’s opinions, we take the crowded or easy path, and not the path which is less traveled, which Robert Frost beautifully expressed. We ultimately feel consequences of “The Road Not Taken…”

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost

Hence, lets just allow other people to express what ever they want. But let not allow them to enter our mind, or cloud our conscience. We somehow know deep somewhere down in our heart, what we like, what we want in life. Our gut instincts, our mind, our heart is more powerful to face all the external bombardments which occur in the form of people’s unwanted opinions. Lets just put a filter on our mind which will allow only the good, relevant and positive ideas to enter the mind, and flush out all the negative thoughts, fake news, gossips, people’s expectations etc.

Just like hand washing is necessary to stay safe from Coronavirus, we need a mind washing in the form of meditation, wisdom, reading good books, listening good music to keep the mind away from the virus of other people’s opinions, judgements and expectations.