InterSpecialization Specializing

Specialization: the concept, in the context of trade from the excellent EconTalk Monologue hit me very personally.

 Trade (in ideas and goods) both benefits from and encourages us to become even more intensely specialized. I wondered ‘where do I fit into this? Am I in trouble?’

 I’m not intensely specialized in one area – in my job I have to deal with everything from Maxwell’s equations to microcontrollers, from programming languages to power supplies. And my hobbies span practicing cartwheels to reading articles about the political economy of recycling. There isn’t one area in which I would say I’m a specialist.

 I used to think this made me inferior to someone whose knowledge was intensely focused in a single area. However, a conversation with a Caltech friend dispersed this illusion. Thanks to the broad science background that Caltech gave both of us, he (a software engineer) could easily communicate to me (a mechanical engineer) a neurological process with far more detail than one would expect, given our nominal backgrounds.

 My realization is that a world filled with intensely specialized people needs people who specialize in facilitating communication between the specialists. In order to fuse ideas from opposite ends of the discipline-spectrum, one can’t have your head too deep in any single ostrich hole. That in and of itself is a type of specialization. 

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