Over the last 500 years we have further specialized every single human activity to create more and more distinct areas of expertise. This specialization has helped us to have doctors who only focus on fixing up knees or bakers who are experts in cup cakes. This would have been unthinkable 50 years ago. This focus on specialization enabled an enormous amount of progress, it created wealth for a big majority of mankind.
But are we now entering a reverse specialization due to the continuing digitalization of our world and all available information? Are Google and other digital information aggregators a mean to recreate some of the notions of an “universal man” of the Renaissance who knows more than just a very tiny field of expertise?
People are becoming nowadays more experts in health related issues when they face a health issue. They will search a lot of information before they agree to a knee operation. They will acquire a wealth of knowledge that would have been unthinkable 10 years ago. Or they will become cup cake experts if they plan a their daughter's birthday party to ensure the organic quality of all the baked ingredients.
I don’t think that we will reverse the specialization trend but we are witnessing a parallel trend that motivates and enables people to acquire a more general knowledge beyond their professional area of expertise. This will not great another Da Vinci but it will create more information enabled human beings. It democratizes the possibility of being a “universal man”.