Overweening Generalist

Friday, May 6, 2011

Specialization Is For Insects

Yea, verily it seems unto me that specialization is still for insects, long after Robert A. Heinlein made that claim. This creates certain very real problems for overweening generalists like you and me. Why? Well, you probably have some good answers for this, but one of my best answers is that specialization has increased with the hyper-technological boom, especially in the post-WWII era. The Geeks have elbowed their way to the top of the intellectual and financial world, their niches a product of ever-increasing acceleration of omni-ephemeralization microchip-ruled world.

Don't get me wrong: I love what the Geeks have accomplished. I'm impressed as all get-out. And I like a lot of Geeks personally. And I am jealous of their specialized skills. Some of them frighten me with their powers to alter the social structure. But in the haze of wowee-gee digital gadgets and virtual thises and thats, "killer apps" and the Gamer Welt, etc, etc, etc...I wonder about the value of knowledge. Or rather: certain kinds of knowledge, certain modes of knowing and thinking, particular ways of approaching Being that may be getting drowned out in the Tweeting.

Also: I am not claiming the Digirati and Associated Geekdom (a name for your next band? it's yours!) are "insects." Heinlein's line about specialization was a rhetorical flourish; most geeks I know are intellectually fluent in a few areas. And they're fun! (generally speaking)

Now look: I'm on a blog. I can't believe how cool and easy some Geeks made it for some damned Generalist and dead-tree book reader like myself to start ranting on a blog. I'm not fundamentally against any digital media; I love that you/we/I can use it, and the social media world has clearly enveloped us.

I just want to muse here about what it might mean for us. And by "us" I mean the human race, my favorite of all the species alive now. I read recently that, of all species that have ever inhabited the planet Earth, 0.01 of them are still alive, now. And we're part of that small number. The 99.99% have gone...well, let's leave that for another day.

I want us to be a success in the multiverse. I'm one of those Socrates-like people who asks annoying questions. That's mostly what this blog will be about. I think we Generalists need to speak up. I think the Kulch needs us. Maybe I'm wrong, but I will go on, in the spirit of pragmatism and assume the Kulch needs those of us who are passionately interested in perhaps "too many things."

1 comment:

Eric Wagner said...

Interesting, well written post. I feel curious about the polarity between what I think I should study to develop myself, like the fiction of Robert Musil and 18th century music theory, and what has a greater chance of advantaging me economically.

P.S. Man, I used to love Robert Heinlein.