Nerds were born in the apocalyptic terror of the rise of nuclear weapons during World War II. They understood the absolute need to create an “alternate reality”, which is what drew them to Tolkien and especially to computers – nerds are the creators of virtual reality. The idea behind nerds is that the world is corrupt, terrifying, and self-destructive, so an alternate world can be created to take over, or subvert, the real world in order ultimately to save the real world. This is why the classic nerd “leaves the real world” – the completely committed nerd lives strictly within the virtual world he’s creating. The typical enemy of the nerd is the jock because jocks represent to nerds the domineering type of person responsible for the destruction of the world.
It’s not true that the nerd is “on the left” – Bill O’Reilly and Newt Gingrich are nerds. It’s important to understand the nerd as apocalyptic – building a gated community to keep out the zombie invasion is a right-wing nerd activity. The surveillance and security state emerging in the 1990s is a right-wing nerd phenomenon.
Nerds and virtual reality have taken over the world *because* of the widespread understanding that the world is dying. This understanding began to become popular in the 1960s soon after Jack Vance wrote The Dying Earth and the first serious work began to be done on climate change, supporting the longtime deep understanding of such people as Goethe, Thoreau, and Rousseau about the horrific damage of the Industrial Revolution. Franz Kafka and Nick Drake are two famous 20th century nerds.
Now, in 2014, nearly everyone understands it. Most of the people who claim not to are just doing so for political and financial gain. Nerds, with their early embrace of the reality of the world and subsequent design of computers and the internet in order to give a new space, a space for hope, a space for the possibility of saving the human race, understood it long ago.
Nerds gave humanity the understanding that we need to give up on the world in order to save it. For that brazen thought they were oppressed for decades, fading only in the late 1980s.