Some low-impact Googling will reveal to you that the word “geek” is derived from the old German word “geck,” which meant “fool.” You probably already know that if you are a geck or were alive in the 16th century, when it was first uttered by mouths. Four hundred years later, the word was modded and attached to circus freaks, particularly those of the “bite the heads off chickens and snakes” variety. It was only later that the label was attached to sweaty computer users resembling Real Genius extras. But was this really the appropriate nomenclature? After all, early hackers were solitary creatures who certainly didn’t perform disturbing acts for public consumption. They were shy, solitary creatures that feared interpersonal interaction and light.
Cut to: NOW. As a correspondent for G4’s “Attack of the Show” and frequent Internet viewer, I would now like to make the assertion that “geek” has officially been re-claimed by its roots. The ball-punching/public puke videos that comprise a TINY percentage of the Web’s rich fail-tapestry are certainly on par with 19th century sideshow freaks. Even the motivation is the same: to gain attention through shock value. The other day on “Attack” we showed a video of a shirtless kid crossing his arms and leaping backwards into a cactus patch. The only thing missing was a dirty tent and a bunch of rubes ooo-ing and ahhh-ing. (actually, his friends thought it was hilarious) My point is, we’ve successfully returned to the true meaning of “geek.” Well done, us!
Here’s a dramatically obvious statement: the Internet is the most powerful thing in the history of mankind. It is an instantaneous information genie that can give us the answer to any question within our collective knowledge base. Ultimately, though, its major use is to give us shit to point at and say “Awww fuck!” That is, when we’re not trying to force it onto our sex organs to get ourselves off. U-S-A! U-S-A!
So, in our Old School Geek world, it’s no surprise which vids get the most views. Typically they don’t involve Molecular Dynamics Simulation of Bonded-Phase Chromatography, unless one of the molecules has a dick that gets hit with something at the end. It’s usually “Duck Bites Baby” or “Skateboard Accident #42,005.”
It might seem like I’m about to stand on a soap box and give some predictable diatribe about how the Internet is rotting our minds and represents the steep slope into the gaping shit bucket of our civilization’s decline. Instead, I’m going to flip an intellectual bitch and claim that being exposed to such douchey imagery might be essential for the next phase of our evolution-an Evo-douche-on (see what I did there). No, I’m not a doctor, scientist or even someone with a pretend lab: just a nerd with a wacky and admittedly half-cocked theory. But isn’t that what makes nerd-dom fun?
As someone who makes videos from time to time, it really used to poke my nerve centers that the shittier and cheaper a video is, the more people will watch it. Truly, the crap quotient being directly proportional to web views is the economy of the Internet. Instead of wanting to punch the www, I have come to see this phenomenon as biological. Watching insane behavior and filmed human happenstance is our attempt at getting a clearer, fuller picture of the world we inhabit. This could manifest at least two potentially favorable results:
Doesn’t becoming desensitized make people more effective in crisis situations? We fear the unknown but situational familiarity ebbs those fear-tides. I spent an hour the other day watching childbirth videos on YouTube. No reason. I just had never seen a baby come out of a woman. Now that I have a mental reference for what that looks like, isn’t it theoretically plausible that I might be at least a few percentage points less likely to freak out if a spontaneous childbirth scenario arose during the course of my day, and that those few percentage points could make the difference between life and death? Sorry I couldn’t conjure a less vaginal example to make a point, but if you look closely enough you might start to see the niblet of wisdom nestled in the turd.
2) Bigger, Faster Brains!
In the first century PW (Pre-Web), if you wanted to see “Duck Bites Baby” you actually had to trap a duck and have a baby. While this was no doubt exciting on a neurological level, it was also just far too much work. Since the Web allows us access to a near limitless amount of instantaneously new experiences, is it possible that Natural Selection will begin to favor those flourishing minds that can process the most information in the shortest amount of time? Are we not paving the way for bigger, better brains when we consistently increase the number and frequency of crazy, unfamiliar shit we’re smearing into our eyes and ears?
The more pathways we create, the more electricity will be needed for the ol’ think bulbs in our skulls. Gradually, our heads will get bigger and bigger and our bodies will begin to shrink from physical inactivity due to a life spent in front of a terminal. Perpetually indoors, we’ll lose our hair and our eyes will widen and darken to let in more visual stimuli through artificial light. When our advanced selves unlock universal and dimensional mastery, say, in 100,000 years or so, we will travel back in time to share our secrets with our 21st century progenitors, only to become the mistaken archetype for aliens and dissected.
Therefore, it is your DUTY to the betterment of your species to watch as many people get hit in the nuts with as many different objects as you can.
Chris Hardwick awaits your vitriolic rebuttals at [email protected] and will fill the gap until he receives them populating Nerdist.com with “content.”