Developing of the Geek Personality

The Supergeego, the Geek's moral compass, is behind the Geek's desire to be a productive employee.

November 19, 2004

2 Min Read
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The Gid

The Gid is an innate characteristic that causes the Geek to seek technical pleasure. This purely selfish personality trait underlies the Geek's desire for gadgets and other toys of the trade--and his or her jealous guarding of them.

Take the individual who is gifted technically but never applies his expertise to useful projects. When old, slow or broken computer hardware is retired, his eyes light up, his lips smack and he does a little jig as he carries the relic into a corner. He spends much of his time getting the hardware to work again, sometimes in inventive ways, but the equipment is never again used for anything worthwhile. Meantime, it's difficult to get the Gid-intensive Geek to work on the new production equipment. (In an alternate psychological theory, Pavlov would argue that this is simply reflexive behavior--especially the lip smacking, or drooling.)

The Supergeego

The Supergeego, the Geek's moral compass, is learned rather than innate. It's behind the Geek's desire to be a productive employee. The Supergeego dictates what the Geek thinks is Good technology and Bad technology.The Supergeego often expresses itself in opposite ways. Take "free" versus "corporate" software. Some Geeks are adamant that all software should be freely available; others think the profit incentive drives vendor Geeks to create better programs. These moral differences also apply to operating systems, programming languages and other information technologies.

If the Supergeego becomes dominant, the Geek may develop rigid, impractical boundaries and become unwilling or unable to use technologies other than those she is comfortable with. She may also overcomplicate simple projects because she considers her preferred technology the "right way."

The Geego

The Geego is based on the reality principle: The enterprise has needs, and sometimes being technically impulsive, selfish or hidebound can hurt the Geek in the long run. Yes, we must be curious and explore new technical approaches, but we still need to get our day jobs done.

This Gid-Supergeego conflict can create Geek anxiety. Google, founded by a couple of true Geeks but still a capitalist success story, takes an enlightened approach to this conflict: It lets employees set aside a certain percentage of their work weeks for their own pet projects, under the premise that this time will help them maintain interest in their enterprise projects, feed their Gids and, possibly, lead to new business opportunities. Not every company can afford to grant this kind of technical freedom, but most IT organizations can figure out ways to satisfy their Geeks' need to be creative while promoting productive work.Speaking of Geeks ... My wife and I are expecting three little ones, due around the time you read this column. I'll be taking a break from writing to free up time for diaper changing, but I will still be active at Network Computing, working behind the scenes to ensure timely tech coverage and quality content.

Mike Lee is Network Computing's editor. Write to him at [email protected].

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