Birth of a nerd

From John Lancaster’s article “Warmer, warmer” in the London Review of Books:

Electric light and power, and television, and computers, and fridges, not to mention cars and planes and lasers and CD players and dialysis machines and wireless networking and synthetic materials, are things we take on trust: we don’t know how they work, but we’re happy to benefit from using them. We may have a rough understanding of scientific method, and even a rough Bill Brysonish sense of some of the science involved, but that is about it; our attitude contains significant components of faith and trust and incomprehension, while at the same time we are grateful for the wonders modern science has brought us.

Quotes like this make me realise how much of a techie-nerd I am. I could probably give a paragraph-long description off the top of my head of how all those things work, and I feel much better for it. I think that I’d feel uncomfortably anxious and mystified if I didn’t.

I used to think that excessive nerdiness was what led to bad moods and depression, but perhaps I’ve got cause and effect the wrong way around: my tendency to anxiety could be why I misspent so much of my youth reading encyclopedias. This search for reassurance occasionally backfired, as when I read volume H of the World Book and spent the next month convinced that I was going to have a heart attack at the age of around 8.

And people think Wikipedia is bad for kids.


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