TED Conversations

Steven Nikolidakis

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


This conversation is closed.

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?


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Mar 30 2012: As numerous contemporary philosophers have recently observed our society is moving towards two directions. On the one hand divergence through specialization and on the other hand convergence due to the inherent connectedness of our knowledge fields.It is not so much of an issue, as it is an observable phenomenon. To explain this we need to understand that we've arrived at a junction where our knowledge increases at exponential rates both on the collective and personal levels and at the same time the links between knowledge, mostly due to the improvement of communications technology, are also being recognized at a much higher pace than before. Based on the above, specialization as a term is redefined. Today the specialist emerges as not the solver, but the holder of a piece of a wider puzzle. And it is through the creative and collective contributions of all specialists that mankind strides towards the future.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.