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By Jack Ganssle

We're All Geeks

Published 8/01/2006

A study by Imaginova (http://www.imaginova.com/newsroom/release.php?id=060419) suggests that more Americans are geeks - or, at least, to some extent emulate geekdom - than one might think. They claim 40% of 18 to 54 year olds are "intellectually curious" about science.

Though they didn't publish the numbers, the company's press release qualitatively claims most of these scientifically curious people are highly educated, high income people. That's puzzling, as combining that "fact" with the 40% number suggests that an awfully big percentage of the American 18 to 54 age group make a ton of money. How many teenagers do you know who aren't working near minimum wage? How many 18 year olds are "highly educated?"

Surveys are perilous instruments whose results often reflect the bias of the researchers. I can remember in high school filling out questionnaires designed to elicit information on teenaged sexual habits and claiming the most outrageous behaviors in an immature attempt to skew the results. Today when we see some pundit on the news sternly warning us about the deterioration of kids' morals I can't help but wonder exactly how they accumulated the data, and if kids today still like to play with the process.

So I figure the data from this latest survey is interesting but possibly suspect. Still, if the results hold any truth, it's encouraging. Other studies are all doom and gloom about the prospects of science in this country. One is left with the feeling that the dearth of scientists will leave the US a technological backwater in the years to come. We're faced with a series of problems that, assuming political will can ever be mustered, will only be solved by the application of plenty of science and engineering.

If 40% of us figure science is cool and interesting there's plenty of hope. If these folks, many of whom probably don't hold jobs in the sciences, just encourage their kids to be similarly interested, we'll continue to grow a population of scientists and technologists.

And that's critically important to the long-term success of this nation.