“Daddy, what’s wrong with the laptop? Nothing happens when I click the mouse.”
“Just open the task manager and force quit the program.”
“Ok, got it.”
I recently taught my 7-year-old how to ‘CTRL-ALT-DELETE.' You know, that thing we all do when our PCs become unresponsive? It wasn’t easy, not because my boy doesn’t fully understand what the command does (yet), but because pressing three keys at once on a full-sized keyboard can be quite a challenge for somebody with stubby fingers.
The skill, however, has paid off as he no longer requires my help whenever the Nintendo 64 emulator freezes in the middle of his 100CC Mario Kart race. Yes, he and his little brother are into classic video games, more specifically, the ones I grew up playing, which turns out to be a whole lot of Mario.
I find nothing wrong with my boys playing at a young age, after all, I got my first game console—a Nintendo Family Computer—when I was 7. It was a groundbreaking day, literally, as it was the same day as the 1990 Luzon quake. But apart from that, it was the birth of who I was to become for the rest of my life.
"Geek" is a touchy term because its definition changes with time. Being able to operate a laptop 25 years ago or a touchscreen phone a decade back might have passed off as geeky, but today it’s as normal as driving a car. When I was in grade school I was called a "hacker" by friends and relatives because I knew how to change our desktop’s wallpaper and bootup sound. Even being a fan of Star Wars, Star Trek, or Marvel and DC Comics fell in the same category, but today it's part of the poppiest of pop culture (Wonder Woman anyone?).
Truth be told, being geeky is just being able to embrace the new and the weird quicker than the average person. Geeks can roll with and anticipate the punches just before change’s ugly fists land on the status quo’s pretty face.
Now that I’m a parent and raising geeklings of my own, I see the need for my kids to up their game to stay ahead of the curve. And boy, do they have pretty big (self-lacing) shoes to fill.
1) Keep Learning
I’ve winged it for much of my professional career, and I think most (if not all) of my contemporaries are doing the same. Millennials have a phrase for this: “Fake it until you make it.”
The technology of the past couple of decades has accelerated change in every conceivable aspect of human life. By the time you think you’ve mastered something, another comes along which requires yet another round of re-learning and re-mastery.
When it comes to life dishing out the hard lessons, a more appropriate motto would be “Take it, so you can make it.”
2) Technology—not Evil
To paraphrase the late comedian George Carlin: In and of itself, technology is not evil—it’s the asshole behind it that you should be wary of.
Remember how books, radios, and televisions were, at one point in history, marked as "evil" by society? Remember how women were banned from reading novels? Or how parents used the phrase “Ayan, kaka-computer mo kasi”? These are reminders that human beings are hardwired to vilify and be afraid of new things. History taught us new things have the potential to rock the boat through information that ordinary people can use to think outside of the box.
Today, phones and tablets are in that same boat precisely because they, too, make endless streams of information accessible on a whim.
3) Technology must make life more awesome
Because if it doesn’t, you’re probably using it wrong. This is a combination of items 1 and 2; man, in his infinite wisdom yet finite capabilities, compensates by inventing stuff. Said stuff are supposed to make life easier, but if said stuff makes a man worry about more stuff then it has to be stuffed.
4) You (still) rule
If The Matrix and Terminator movies portray dystopian worlds where machines have taken over, appreciate that as of this writing, we humans are still in control. Technology is pervasive, yes, but we still have the freedom to choose whether to use them or not. We can still opt not to check up on Facebook, we can choose to leave our phones at home, and we can choose to go camping or to the beach to get away from it all.