Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Reverse Specialization?

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”.




3:47 AM  
Blogger Mike Darnell said...

We all had the ability to be specialists all the time.

Some of us chose to be ignorant out of laziness... especially those of us who had access to a library and never took advantage of it.

Having data delivered to your doorstep doesn't absolve you of the responsibility to be active and seek it out as well.

I like your opinions - at least those I read here...
: )
"I tweet @pop_art"

7:13 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

I think specialization in the economy occurs mostly during market booms as more producers enter into industries with their sights on grabbing their share of the riches. This puts pressure on both the new and existing producers to carve out a niche in an effort to stay competitive. Because the market is booming, there is a congruent amount of money to be made in a niche market as there is by being a "generalist."

However, as the market turns south and we enter recessionary times, the amount of business available in each niche category because too small to sustain a full business. The producers finds himself seeking alternative sources of revenue to sustain his operations. To which, he soons enters areas in his industry and so the cycle continues.

8:53 AM  
Anonymous Steve said...

Yes, now the information available on the web is really making every net surfer as an expert. But this could not make an internet user as a specialist in a particular field, but certainly will help to understand the things better. Thanks to Internet!

8:49 PM  
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