Azeem digs up an essay by Paul Saffo on information overload and new organisational structures, written 14 years ago, to make a case for generalists.
We are in a pickle today because we are trying to manage 21st century information overload with 19th century intellectual skills. For example, we still prize the ability to recall specific information over the skill of making connections among seemingly unrelated information. We have become a society of specialists, each knowing more and more about less and less.
Ross keeps the hits coming. Read this. He is right on target. We need tools that support generalists, the people with a wide range of interests. They are usually the ones who love to push information around. I have met some full-on geniuses in my life (i.e.. Richard Feynman, Murray Gell-Mann, and Sydney Brenner) and ALL of them were generalists. That is they knew a lot about a specific area but they had the ability to learn a lot rapidly about almost ANYTHING. I sat in with a small informal group and Gell-Mann just talked about trying to decipher Linear B, an ancient language. Sydney Brenner has been at almost every single major biological discovery in the last 40 years (with Crick he demonstrated the existence of mRNA and the genetic code, he developed a novel method to visualize viruses, and provided science with not 1 but 2 major animal models – C. elegans and fugu). The polymath talents of true geniuses can be daunting but there are a tremendous number of people who have similar talents (maybe not as prodigious) that useful tools can amplify. We need more of these. [A Man with a Ph.D. – Richard Gayle's Weblog]
interesting to follow.