Are you a Generalist or a Specialist?

What don’t we know and aren’t looking for?

One of the things concerning me in writing here is if I’m falling into the trap of reinforcing my beliefs without considering the full gamut of possibilities. It’s just too easy to stay within the range of a topic without looking at any fringe possibilities.

Belief gets in the way of the answers.

Belief gets in the way of the answers.

In days past how could I possibly imagine the Earth revolving around the Sun when everyday all I ever see from experience and thought is the Sun rising and setting, obviously going around the Earth. It’s not until I consider odd, transient and subtle effects like the seasons and movement of the stars and planets that I would start to doubt the original assumption. Sadly most of us reinforce our prejudices without looking at the alternative possibilities, especially if they contradict our beliefs and put risk to our opinions.

In a rather lengthy but well put post in Letters to Atarasia Arjuna says…

… the mathematician becomes more mathematically minded and sees arithmetical insights everywhere, and so it is with the religious minded, the empiricist, or the aestheticist.

As a result we are susceptible to being trapped by our favourite framework biases, which although plastic, as they are based upon malleable neural networks, acts as though they are not because the output of the system creates a magnifying and reconfirming feedback loop between observations and conclusion…
…The result is a “hardened” or “over-specialised” neural system and the consequence for the agent is a deeper commitment to the reified ontology

We can all be accused of bias in our speciality.

The secret to understanding the reality of any situation is to consider every possibility without favour until the truth surfaces (and even then maintain a little doubt). Often this is difficult as it challenges long-held beliefs and the accompanying egos and cultural norms. Sometimes it’s simply a concept so far away from what we’re used to that it’s hard to imagine the possibility of it’s existence.

We’ve all been rattled by a new understanding which has changed our world view. It’s best to remember this could apply to everything in our life and looking for it helps to reveal the truth.

Many thanks to Nicolaus Copernicus. You got it right buddy despite what seemed obvious.

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Rob Being 2 April, 2013, 6:19 PM

    I like the site name “Inspired Acceptance” and feel the spirit resonates with something I wrote a couple of years ago. ” I am creating this space to share ideas, to have a presence and as a present. A present in return for all the gifts I have been given by others. Who by sharing their time, ideas and skills with me have been a part of my own journey of becoming and being. Thanks to all of them, and all those who shared their insights with them – to pass on to me.

    Alchemists claim mastery of change. Not a claim this apprentice alchemist being makes. Rather I seek to use the maps and models of the universe from the alchemists of the ages to find ways of unravelling the illusions, predjudices, biases and projections of my senses and perceptions which prevent me from knowing my being as ultimate reality. Sounds grand and pompous, yet my hobby brings humour, enjoyment and entertainment to living”

    I pass my thanks on to you for sharing this new site and posing questions about the nature of reality.

    • Ian 2 April, 2013, 6:30 PM

      Thanks for the feedback Rob.
      I agonised for months over the name. It’s one of the hardest things to encapsulate this huge topic succinctly with a URL that’s available.
      What you wrote reminds me that everything I’m going to present here is known by most people. They just don’t consider it often and it’s writings like yours which help to remind all of us.

      For your information I started this site on to start getting my thoughts down and just migrated it over here so you’re the first comment to arrive on this stand alone, self hosted URL.
      Thanks for being part of the journey 🙂

  • Rob Being 27 May, 2013, 6:13 PM

    The human brain naturally with its role as a self survival machine processes the appearance of “synchronicity(1)” and “co-incidence(2)”, and causes that “spooky feeling of de ja vu(3)”, and other “self delusions(4)” as highlighted in “Fooled by Randomness(a)” and “Blink(b)”. So 1, 2, 3 and 4 get noticed – yet the majority of the time,the brain does not notice or chooses not to bring to our conscious attention (awareness, mind, …) that most of the time things and life (whats happening) is random and impersonal. I agree our specialisms provide both a focusing lens to bring things into detail and also a prism to split a topic or idea into its components or categories. But the same specialism leaves us in a “silo” that we do not notice as a fish does not (one assumes) notice the water. Buckminster Fuller I think once remarked he often purchased magazine at airports in a random fashion to get cross pollination and exposure to news ideas from different disciplines and industry sectors. Personally whilst having a tendency to analysis and science, I have found there is merit is trying to interrupt my preferences and occasionally change frames of reference or perspective from microscope to telescope or normal to wide angle lens, local to global. The easiest way, being to have a chat with someone else from a different “silo” whom I respect and know from experience can hold, examine and discuss uncertainty and use doubt as a tool of exploration to move from the specific to the general and back again. Hence “generalists” like me need specialists and vice-versa, although when an employer asked me to detail what my specialism was so they could promote it on the company website – they were not impressed when I declared my Specialism was I am a Generalist – I am now quite pleased I did.

    (a) Book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
    (b) Book by Malcolm Gladwell


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