Geeks under 35, do you use the word grok?

@emacsen I'm over 35 and I think it's outdated. We're beyond the phase of having our culture shaped by libertarian sci-fi authors. Look where that took us: billionaire nerds looking at sci-fi dystopias and going "yeah! that's the world I want to build! The tech is so cool — hey, as long as I'm the one in control of the panopticon it's all good right?"


I understand that viewpoint, but as someone who uses grok a great deal, and who used it even before reading SIASL, I disagree.

Words go beyond their original usage. Many words in English have their origin with Shakespere but we don't say "Oh that's just from that English author."- they're just words we use.

And shared stories especially, those are really the center of culture.

As for dystopian and panopticon, etc. I genuinely don't know what it is you mean here. Maybe elaborate?

@emacsen @hisham_hm similarly I used to use the word until I read the book and learned more about the author, who I find repulsive. it has nothing to do with being outdated.

I think the comparison with Shakespeare doesn't work as well because "grok" is *new* enough to have been introduced in living memory while Shakespeare's words have had scores of generations to spread. it takes time to separate a word from its origin, and IMO that time is still in the future.

@technomancy @hisham_hm

Oh Heinlein is a complete [pejorative] but it's also used heavily in one of my favorite books, the Illuminitus! Trillogy, alongside other words that we don't see as often today.

The "culture vs author" debate is one in which I think there's a constant debate. For example, continuing with the Shakespere example, I'd be 1000% in favor of canceling Shakespere.

Yet do we see people doing so?

I chose people <35 because SIASL is >60 years old now, and that's 2 generations.

@emacsen @hisham_hm interesting; I've never seen it used in any published material outside Heinlein so maybe that's why my perspective is different.

when I hear someone use it, it makes me think they probably aren't repulsed by Heinlein, because I assume (unlike Shakespeare's words), people are much more likely to know where it came from.


@technomancy @hisham_hm

I encountered the word first in Unix forums in the 1990s, then when reading The Illumintus Trillogy!, and other scattered places in 1960s sci-fi.

Yes, I did read Stranger years later, but by then it was more of a "This is the origin of a word I already use regularly".

I can understand if I *only* saw it one source that I'd feel differently. I just... didn't.

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@emacsen @hisham_hm I guess the other "published" place I've seen it used is ESR's Jargon File, but ... that's even worse than Heinlein. =\

I might see it differently if I'd read it in your order!

@technomancy @hisham_hm

Relatedly in the 1990s I remember seeing many hosts named fnord, which was always frustrating as you can't have blank hostnames. it always filled me with a sense of dread.

@emacsen @technomancy @hisham_hm the trick with dealing with that dread is to simply not see those hostnames


@emacsen @hisham_hm

Fwiw that entry appears in the jargon file prior to ESR involvement in it. Of course you can reasonably argue that MIT hacker culture was problematic in its own way ...

@dan @technomancy @hisham_hm

This is very important indeed.

Rather than focusing on ESR, though, I will say that I think the FLOSS community has lost something of its social cohesion and stories.

The FSF used to be good at the culture and stories, mostly because they too were taken largely from MIT, but it's stagnated, and the culture's frozen.


@emacsen @dan @technomancy FSF/GNU's side of the culture has frozen, but they no longer drive the culture. Every time I go to FOSDEM I get an energy refresher by seeing FOSS is alive. Yes, things have changed a lot in the past 20 years and not all for the better, but a lot of responsibility also falls on us old-timers for resisting change and not moving on with the times (and then things like the Github juggernaut happened largely reshaping things)

@emacsen @dan @technomancy It's a complex topic, and the intersection of FOSS culture, tech culture and startup culture plays an important part. All those things changed over the years, and they sort of compete for mindshare.

I don't meet your criteria, but I absolutely heard of and used "grok" before the book (and know others in a similar situation).

@technomancy @hisham_hm

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