So far outside the box you can't even see the box from here.
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Sunday, October 13, 2013
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.
I live in an area of NH known as the Great North Woods. I'm in my dome-i-cile out in the county with my lovely wife and a varying number of family and friends
-part red neck, part hippie but all country. Experimenting and enjoying the adventure of life.