Follow by Email

StatCounter

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Specialist



Specialization is what's rewarded in modern society. With the time necessary to get really proficient at any one thing, it makes sense. The world is interconnected so the market pays the specialist. More people now live in cities. General skills are not needed. In every large city, there is someone who can do anything you need done, and do it better than you can. With an Internet connected world, it's possible to tap into the knowledge base of the very best people on earth.

I know this, yet I'm a generalist. My skills are wide, but not as deep as most professionals. I'm a pretty good electrician and help people with their electrical problems all the time. Need an off grid house wired from the ground up? No problem. Sell my electrical skills? That would require a license. The effort required to acquire one isn't worth it for me. I'd be forced to specialize to justify the investment. Sounds boring.

The other day my buddy's house had run out of furnace oil. He got more, but not in time to keep the furnace from running dry and becoming air bound. As luck would have it, knowing how to bleed the air out of a oil burner is one of my skills. Would I like to work as a furnace repair man? Heck no!

Carpentry, mechanic skills, computer repair, fiberglass work -heck I can even pick out some cords on a guitar. Professional level skills . . . close . . . in some things, but in others I just get by.

Where generalized skills are rewarded is in rural life. There are no experts close by. More of the basic things of life are your responsibility. Incomes tend to be lower, so the only way to afford to get things done is to do them yourself.

Specialization is a major trend, but there are those swimming against the tide. The Maker Movement is one of those things. There are those who just want to build cool stuff. There's a desire to create. We are used to people who create by doing art. Others create by building their own robots, or brewing their own beer. It could be anything.

Then there's the example of Cuba. It's a large island nation with a sizable population. Twice they lost all their professional technical people. The first time when Castro took over and there was a major exodus. The second time is when the USSR collapsed and Cuba was cut off from Russian technicians -along with most of their oil.

The Cuban people learned how to keep old cars going with no access to spare parts. They are experts at tearing something apart and making something new out of it. The home grown solution is the only solution. Life goes on. For example, a broken washing machine is more than junk. It's a source of parts, motors to run other home brewed equipment, wire, metals, pulleys, belts. It's like the Native Americans with the Buffalo, nothing goes to waste. Everything is looked at something that could become something else.

Maybe the greater society works more efficiently when everyone specializes, but that assumes there's no break in the great web of interconnected skills. Efficient systems are also fragile systems. Anything that disrupts that web shuts the whole system down. That's when having some good generalized skills come in handy.

-Sixbears




14 comments:

  1. Yeah Bud, you would make a great Millwright.
    That's what we do, a little bit of everything.
    From messing with 440 volt motors and high pressure gas systems to fixing toilets, no joke.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know, I think I might. Sounds fun.

      Delete
  2. My father had seven brothers. While all had a specialty, all were generalists in many areas. They helped each other build houses, furniture and rebuild cars, teaching each other as they went. All Daddy had to do was ask a brother or watch him.
    Linda

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't great to have family who can actually do stuff?

      Delete
  3. It's unfortunate that we have become a 'throw it away if it's broken' society, the skills we have had have mostly disappeared. But when the shit hits the proverbial sometime soon, the generalist will have their day, again... when necessity is once again, the mother of invention, the generalist who can put their hand to most things will... it's just a matter of time...
    Have a wonderful holiday season Sixbears...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Flying Tortoise! Necessity is the mother of invention, so there's hope.

      Delete
  4. Specialization, will leave a lot of people unprepared - it's like tunnel vision, can't see what is going around you. I hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday season, too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tunnel vision is a good term for it. If you don't pay attention you can get run over.

      Happy holidays to you too!

      Delete


  5. A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

    -Robert A. Heinlein

    ReplyDelete
  6. Raised at the base of a hill in Southern Indiana, my dad made sure I was a Jill of all trades from marksmanship to wood working and gapping spark plugs. Every time I decided I wanted to be top dog at one thing or another, I'd get bored in a hurry. I like assorted abilities.

    ReplyDelete