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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 3 2012: Hey Steve

    Interdisciplinary work, I feel is crucial to solving the current major problems and to the progress of many fields. Efforts should be made such that issues should be tackled by diverse groups of both specialists and well-rounded individuals. Problems require more than one set of knowledge to develop solutions because of the interconnections between everything. I do not think that there should be either more specialists or more well-rounded individuals because each person has developed to be one or the other and forcing someone to do something beyond their interests or capabilities would stun growth and problem solving. I think E.F. Schumacher describes my thoughts best in his “Small is Beautiful”, “What is at fault is not specialisation, but the lack of depth with which the subjects are usually presented, and the absence of meta- physical awareness. The sciences are being taught without any awareness of the presuppositions of science, of the meaning and significance of scientific laws, and of the place occupied by the natural sciences within the whole cosmos of human thought.” Each individual should have a specialization but the depth at which he or she knows other subjects must be greater than a few facts and gut inclinations. Each person has their own college major or specialization but the core curriculum must be more heavily emphasized and must be more rigorous to build a stronger foundation for specialization. All engineering specializations would mean nothing without a deep understanding of the math, science, history, ethics, and motivations for them. An engineer does not only speak in numbers but must be able to communicate through speech and writing.

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