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Steven Nikolidakis

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

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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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    Apr 2 2012: My grandfather used to joke 'we are becoming more and more specialized. It used to be that everyone had to know a little bit of everything. Then people began to know more and more about narrower and narrower fields. Soon people will know everything about nothing.' not sure where he got that, but I like it :)
    I like the interdisciplinary. I have never understood why specialists stay around specialists who are like them. Making new ideas from old ones works like evolution. It happens faster when you have diversity in the gene pool! That's my opinion. Woo!
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      Apr 3 2012: Hi, Sarina,
      I think the reason specialists stay around specialists is because the advancement technology has progressed. in most of the fields. A simple topic can lead to a deeper and bigger field for people to dive in. For example, in my bioelectricity class, we talked about different aspects of the electricity that is in our body such as hearts, muscles, brain and more. Every week we tackles different topics. I feel for each of there topic we went through, we were merely tapping the surface. There is so much more to learn to be an expert on one of those subjects! That is the reason why I think specialization has its place.
      But I also agree that diversity can bring in inspirations. And also from swimming in the diversity pool, we can always realize the field we want to dive deep into later on.

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