When I was in grade school in the '80s I got called nerd. A lot. In the '80s it was still considered an insult to be called 'nerd,' and I got it in waves. I had good grades, I was into Star Wars, I didn't use a ton of '80s slang (well, by the standards of the time. 'Rad,' 'gnarly,' and 'bad (meaning good)' were normal parts of my everyday conversations... but still... Remember this was the time when Revenge of the Nerds came out but kids my age had no business watching that movie.
How times have changed. Being called a 'nerd' today isn't considered an insult at all... at least not by the person getting the label. We call ourselves Nerds and we say it with a capital 'N.' Why is that different?
Just about everything we own contains a computer these days. The average car has at least four separate computers in it at least, your phone is just a computer that can place calls, televisions have computers in them now, video game consoles have always been computers and most people have several. We live in a world where being intelligent and technically oriented is a massive advantage now. Back in the day, nerds were a social clique who were into esoteric things like sci fi and computers, and today we're mainstream and that's not likely to change in the foreseeable future.
And not only mainstream. Nerds create the software that runs all the computers you need in your everyday life. We write the software that protects and tracks your money, your identity... it's nerds who threaten those things too. Nerds are powerful. Nerds are dangerous. In the words of Tyler Durden, "We guard you while you sleep. Don't $%^& with us."
Nerds make coin, too. That kind of ability is a combination of intelligence and creativity in a way that only engineers and scientists can relate to, and they're mostly nerds too. We live in a world of brains over brawn, and while I'm not saying that Nerds can't be physically strong and athletic, those traits aren't necessary to being a successful Nerd. The very things that made jocks powerful and respected in the old days are an accessory to a Nerd who really only needs a brain and one functioning arm to reach the top of the hill.
Stephen Hawking, almost a deity in the pantheon of popular culture, does even more with less than that... and he's one of the biggest Nerds to ever have lived.
So if I could go back in time, to my isolated, picked on, bullied 6th grade self and say one thing about this, I'd simply say "You've already won. They don't know it yet, but they will."
What I find both hilarious and validating is that the level of technical knowledge the average person has now would have branded them a nerd 30 years ago. Just about everybody can do things with a computer that were undreamt of in 1985. It's become routine, normal, boring even. An open message from Nerds to our past bullies: "Welcome aboard. Get it now?"