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Steven Nikolidakis

Student, The Cooper Union For The Advancement of Science and Art

TEDCRED 50+

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Does society need more interdisciplinary work? Or more well-rounded individuals working together?

This week in my Bioelectricity class there was an emphasis on learning about muscle physiology. One facet of the musculoskeletal system which I find especially interesting is the notion of having specialized muscle tissue for certain actions or scenarios in life. Muscle is composed of individual fibers called myocytes, each containing protein strands which grab and pull on each other to induce muscle contractions. Muscle fibers can further be broken down into two types, namely Slow Twitch (Type 1) and Fast Twitch (Type 2). The Slow Twitch fibers are extremely efficient at converting oxygen into usable energy and allowing athletes to perform tasks for extended periods before they fatigue, such as running a marathon. The Fast Twitch fibers, on the other hand, don't use oxygen to create fuel and can recruit motor neurons for a short but powerful burst, which can be useful in a sprint. Each muscle may contain any combination of each of these fibers in order to perform an activity.

In this case, specialization proves to be an imperative characteristic to the completion of a task. In today's world, people immerse themselves in a vast array of fields in order to help the society advance. So I ask the TED community: Is it more beneficial to society to consist of people who are experts in one field, or those who have a well-rounded background in many fields?

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  • Mar 30 2012: An important part of having "general" knowledge is developing versatile intellectual capacities - reasoning, analyzing, questioning, sorting information, contextualizing, zooming in, zooming out, identifying patterns, singling out anomalies, etc. What is more important than having general knowledge, in terms of having basic information about a variety of subjects, is having general capacities - capacities that enable acquiring and processing new information outside of one's area of specialization. I'd like to suggest that specialized knowledge combined with generalizable capacities is the best formula for maximizing both benefit to society and benefit to the individual.

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