Specialization is not natural
Of course, our failures are a consequence of many factors, but possibly one of the most important is the fact that society operates on the theory that specialization is the key to success, not realizing that specialization precludes comprehensive thinking. This means that the potentially-integratable-techno-economic advantages accruing to society from the myriad specializations are not comprehended integratively and therefore are not realized, or they are realized only in negative ways, in new weaponry or the industrial support only of warfaring.
All universities have been progressively organized for ever finer specialization. Society assumes that specialization is natural, inevitable, and desirable. Yet in observing a little child, we find it is interested in everything and spontaneously apprehends, comprehends, and co-ordinates an ever expending inventory of experiences. Children are enthusiastic planetarium audiences. Nothing seems to be more prominent about human life than its wanting to understand all and put everything together.
One of humanity’s prime drives is to understand and be understood. All other living creatures are designed for highly specialized tasks. Man seems unique as the comprehensive comprehender and co-ordinator of local universe affairs. If the total scheme of nature required man to be a specialist she would have made him so by having him born with one eye and a microscope attached to it.
What nature needed man to be was adaptive in many if not any direction; wherefore she gave man a mind as well as a coordinating switchboard brain. Mind apprehends and comprehends the general principles governing flight and deep sea diving, and man puts on his wings or his lungs, then takes them off when not using them. The specialist bird is greatly impeded by its wings when trying to walk. The fish cannot come out of the sea and walk upon land, for birds and fish are specialists.
Of course, we are beginning to learn a little in the behavioral sciences regarding how little we know about children and the educational processes. We had assumed the child to be an empty brain receptacle into which we could inject our methodically-gained wisdom until that child, too, became educated. In the light of modern behavioral science experiments that was not a good working assumption.
Inasmuch as the new life always manifests comprehensive propensities I would like to know why it is that we have disregarded all children’s significantly spontaneous and comprehensive curiosity and in our formal education have deliberately instituted processes leading only to narrow specialization. We do not have to go very far back in history for the answer. We get back to great, powerful men of the sword, exploiting their prowess fortuitously and ambitiously, surrounded by the abysmal ignorance of world society. We find early society struggling under economic conditions wherein less than I per cent of humanity seemed able to live its full span of years. This forlorn economic prospect resulted from the seeming inadequacy of vital resources and from an illiterate society’s inability to cope successfully with the environment, while saddled also with preconditioned instincts which inadvertently produced many new human babies. Amongst the strugglers we had cunning leaders who said, "Follow me, and we’ll make out better than the others." It was the most powerful and shrewd of these leaders who, as we shall see, invented and developed specialization.
Looking at the total historical pattern of man around the Earth and observing that three quarters of the Earth is water, it seems obvious why men, unaware that they would some day contrive to fly and penetrate the ocean in submarines, thought of themselves exclusively as pedestrians‹as dry land specialists. Confined to the quarter of the Earth’s surface which is dry land it is easy to see how they came to specialize further as farmers or hunters-or, commanded by their leader, became specialized as soldiers. Less than half of the dry 25 per cent of the Earth’s surface was immediately favorable to the support of human life. Thus, throughout history 99.9 per cent of humanity has occupied only 10 per cent of the total Earth surface, dwelling only where life support was visibly obvious. The favorable land was not in one piece, but consisted of a myriad of relatively small parcels widely dispersed over the surface of the enormous Earth sphere. The small isolated groups of humanity were utterly unaware of one another’s existence. They were everywhere ignorant of the vast variety of very different environments and resource patterns occurring other than where they dwelt.
But there were a few human beings who gradually, through the process of invention and experiment, built and operated, first, local river and bay, next, along-shore, then off-shore rafts, dugouts, grass boats, and outrigger sailing canoes. Finally, they developed voluminous rib-bellied fishing vessels, and thereby ventured out to sea for progressively longer periods. Developing ever larger and more capable ships, the seafarers eventually were able to remain for months on the high seas. Thus, these venturers came to live normally at sea. This led them inevitably into world-around, swift, fortune-producing enterprise. Thus they became the first world men.
The men who were able to establish themselves on the oceans had also to be extraordinarily effective with the sword upon both land and sea. They had also to have great anticipatory vision, great ship designing capability, and original scientific conceptioning, mathematical skill in navigation and exploration techniques for coping in fog, night, and storm with the invisible hazards of rocks, shoals, and currents. The great sea venturers had to be able to command all the people in their dry land realm in order to commandeer the adequate metalworking, woodworking, weaving, and other skills necessary to produce their large, complex ships. They had to establish and maintain their authority in order that they themselves and the craftsmen preoccupied in producing the ship be adequately fed by the food-producing hunters and farmers of their realm. Here we see the specialization being greatly amplified under the supreme authority of the comprehensively visionary and brilliantly co-ordinated top swordsman, sea venturer. If his "ship came in" ‹that is, returned safely from its years’ long venturing‹all the people in his realm prospered and their leader’s power was vastly amplified.
Over the years, the Spotify algorithms have correctly identiﬁed that I tend to like “chill” music of a certain BPM ...
When I design online ads for American Apparel, I almost always look for an angle that will provoke. Outrage, self-righteousness, and titillation all work equally well. Naturally, the sexy ones are probably those you remember most, but the formula worked for all types of images. Photos of kids dressed up like adults, dogs wearing clothes, ad copy that didn’t make any sense—all high-valence, viral images. If I could generate a reaction, I could propel the ad from being something I had to pay for people to see (by buying ad inventory) to something people would gladly post on the front page of their highly trafficked websites.
But entertainment has the merit not only of being better suited to helping sell goods; it is an effective vehicle for hidden ideological messages. Furthermore, in a system of high and growing inequality, entertainment is the contemporary equivalent of the Roman “games of the circus” that diverts the public from politics and generates a political apathy that is helpful to preservation of the status quo.