Don’t ask me, I am a Specialist

February 14, 2010 at 1:55 pm 2 comments

The pursuit of knowledge in any discipline, in the ancient traditions, had a holistic approach to it, with its various branches inextricably inter-woven that presented the subject of study as a complete whole. And a keen practitioner of knowledge such acquired always exhibited an intuitive awareness of the larger ramifications of the problem presented before him and could, therefore, come up with solutions that are precise, non-obstructive and most appropriate. In his analysis, diagnosis and in the final treatment, the fullness of his wisdom found ample expression.

But in an age where knowledge is compartmentalized into chunks of unrelated information, where years of study does not necessarily guarantee a firm understanding of the basics, the application of such truncated knowledge has only resulted in ad-hocism, quick fixes and partial remedies that are most often the causes for a more virulent manifestation of the problem, later on.  While half-physicians are positively dangerous and detrimental to the health of the patients, with a very narrow band of knowledge base, specialists could also contribute to the compounding of their woes.

Specialization might have had  its origin in the need to develop a knowledge corpus that are detailed and mapped to a specific sub-branch, but it is the mindless dependence on specialists for even the most common and mundane occurrences that baffles many. Specialization has come to mean a very high level of competency in an increasingly shrinking field of study to the total ignorance of all other allied branches and more so, even of the basic fundamentals on which the specialization “super-structure” rests. A specialist in hydro-electric turbines cannot fix a home motor pump, an M.Tech in Electronics and Digital Communication cannot identify a faulty IC in his blacked out TV and a Neuro-surgeon cannot possibly offer a treatment for congested nasal.  Either you could have a broad and firm grasp of your subject or else you could be a specialist. You cannot be both!

Contrast to the specialization is the interdisciplinary approach which seeks to apply ideas, theories and postulates of one branch of study to a totally unrelated field and come up with solutions that are novel, unique and truly out-of-the- box. At the heart of such a methodology is the belief that knowledge, in its purest form, is un-differentiated and as such have applications in realms that are previously not cognised. The understanding of the life-cycle of a living species is applied in the field of market research to predict the growth-stagnation-decay of a product, the biological characteristics of an organism is transplanted in the study of library sciences and the statistical theory of probability is applied in medicine to mark the progression of a genetic disorder. These are but a few random glimpses of how beneficial such an approach could be in the building of our knowledge pool.

Our ancients have always lavishly dipped their hands across disciplines to augment their understanding of their chosen subject. The knowledge of the constellations that found application in temple architecture is a case in point while analogies were drawn from diverse fields to drive home profound philosophical ideas.

 The future holds great promise for the inter-disciplinary(ist) and not for the specialist.




Entry filed under: To reflect.

Pasta for breakfast, Chowmein for lunch The wellspring of joy

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. rekha  |  February 14, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    u hit it bang on target! we don’t need specialists! we need well-rounded people. In fact, on former president Abdul Kalam’s recent visit to Muscat, we posed him a question as to what would happen if students chose to study only math or science. He replied that knowledge of any subject can be easily interlinked to another… what is needed is an open mind. How true! I feel that any kind of learning, even if it does not relate to your field of study or work, never becomes redundant… Hope my rambling made some sense 🙂

  • 2. Narayanan  |  February 14, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    True, an open mind is the key. Remember the famous Tagore poem which goes something like ” Where the knowledge is free, where world is not broken up into fragments by narrrow domestic walls…..”

    Just attempting to put ancient wisdom in the present day context.


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