Technology's Bro Problem

I have been busy pushing something large and unwieldy online.  Amazingly, it took up all my time and attention so there was a slight blogging drought.  When I'm less fried I may write about the experience a bit but probably not.

The New York Times today had an article called Technology's Man Problem.  Make with the clicky and read it.  The blog will still be here when you get back.

The article is fairly spot on except I disagree on a point: technology doesn't have a man problem.  There's no problem with grown, adult, mature men in technology.  Technology has a bro problem.  

Let's face it: the hot startup culture worships the young, white, male brogrammer.  We've fallen in love with the myth of the young kid fresh out of Harvard making a billion dollar startup based on the CMS he built with his friends who goes off to live a lavish Hollywood lifestyle atop his awesome company.  He's hot, he's awesome, he's smart, he drives a great car and has a stripper girlfriend, and he is absolutely under no circumstances a nerd.

When I was growing up, we worshipped nerds like Steve Wozniak and Richard Garriott -- guys who were many things but certainly not bros.  Raise your hand if you thought the Woz was awesome.  Bill Gates was King Nerd.  

And it was woman friendly as far as something based heavily on mathematics could be.  Further back in time, Ada Lovelace invented the first algorithm.  Six women programmed ENIAC and won the war.  Anita Borg!  Hell, Roberta Williams at Sierra wrote all my favorite games.  

Don't forget, the unbro-iest of them all:  a nice gay dude invented the foundation of Computer Science.

But now we have bros.  Computers used to be about mathematics, algorithms, and engineering.  Now it's about getting a million to download apps about boobs in 24 hours.  

I would argue that the core problem with startup culture and the plague of bros is because computers have stopped being about computer science and about marketing. Combining computers with love and money is a toxic situation.  How popular can we be?  How many eyeballs can we get?  How awesome does the Internet think I am?  Can I raise $5M in funding if I make this super cool widget everyone wants?  DO I HAVE MY OWN SUBREDDIT?  Internet will you come and love me pleaaase?

And well that attracts bros instead of nice quiet nerds.  Nerds are endearing.  Bros are not.  So the womens, they hemorrhage from computers and go to do something more rewarding, like professionally getting their teeth drilled, rather than hang out with bros.  Then we get the New York Times writing about the lack of women due to the bros and the bros get tons of attention and they get outraged and we have a circular problem that's like an ouroborus eating its own tail.  

It's a deep culture problem and I don't think we're going to go back to the 80s when computers were like physics and no one went into it because it was deeply technical.  Only thing I really have on offer is to make being a bro culturally unacceptable in the community and, with the Internet, I have no idea how to make that happen.  Social media will get bigger, not smaller, and will open more avenues to a bigger more aggressive frat boy who craves affirmation of the anonymous hordes.  Why be worshipped by millions when you can be worshipped by billions.  

Anyway *wave hands around wildly* it's a problem.  There are no quick solutions because between the anything goes atmosphere and computers being about love instead of algorithms, we're all kind of screwed.  

It's a good article, though, and has lots of good links.