Specialization has always seemed suspicious to me. It seems like an idea of dubious value, with obvious downsides. On the grayscale of specialization versus generalization, I lean toward generalization.
Society is filled with cues telling us that we should specialize. Like many social cues, this prod to specialize contains a kernel wisdom. It is based on a worldview which is pretty accurate. We need money to live. We get money by providing value to others. Society at its fundamental level is based upon specialization and the utility we provide. So, it is a really good idea to make yourself valuable.
So, we have this story that we are told. Do well in school. Get into a good University. Study something that promises a great career. Get out and start your career, and then stick with it. Then, enjoy life. Et cetera.
There ideas carry certain implications. Topics unrelated to your fields are “distractions” that should be avoided. “Dabbler” is a very negative label. Personal enrichment is sacrificed for career enrichment. Sure, students will take classes that they are interested in, but interest is never the primary motivator. After school is over, most people never read a book, ever again. They got their job, after all, and now it is time for fun.
I have many problems with all of this. I do not believe that studying is a means to an end. Studying, learning, and teaching is one of the highest of human pursuits. It is by thought and study that we culture insight and improve ourselves. Teaching each other is as fundamental to society as can be.
To be honest, I’m not even convinced that specialization guarantees a great career. The world is changing, and the rate of change is steepening. What happens when our hyper-specialized abilities are no longer useful? Do we go back and retrain?
I believe we should focus on improving our skills. We should be trying to make ourselves better people. People who understand each other better, people who understand the universe better, and people who understand life better.
What kind of skills? Communication skills are valuable to everyone. By this, I mean reading skills, writing skills, and skills speaking and listening. Mathematics and logic help us understand and manipulate our universe, and learning more about these is very rewarding. Programming is super awesome. It lets you explore all kinds of ideas that would be impossible otherwise.
Personally, this is my approach to life. I hope I encourage you to embrace life and learning more fully.