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Raheel Lakhani

Educational Technologist,

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Has specialization or focus on expertise been an advantage to us or a disadvantage?

In past, whether it was Greeks or the Muslim Empire, there was a lot of focus on eclectic knowledge. The main quest was for learning as a whole and not in different disciplines. Though a lot of categorization has come from that place, still they never concentrated on one categorization. They were well-versed in diverse things.

Is the fragmentation a sin of modern academia? or does specializations really help? how much is it needed and where/when we should avoid? Is jack of all a bad thing?

what are its implications of our education systems? what are its implications in decision-making in varied contexts?

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  • Mar 8 2011: Specialization is a consequence of the expansion of information as it stretches individuals' capacity to develop knowledge, and society's capacity to organize and access knowledge. For expertise to be valuable, it must be governed by the scientific principles of skeptical inquiry and testability. For it to be useful, it has first to gain a foothold in the morass of political and emotional currents that result in social decisions. A credulous populace can be as easily led by false prophets as by experts with something important to contribute, so for expertise to be properly applied to 'real-world' applications, its clientele - potentially all of us, need to have some skill in finding valuable expertise and in discerning whether what a particular expert is offering has applicability to our situation, or is perhaps missing something or misinterpreting our needs. As specialization increases, so we are likely to need more expert-specialists and people whose expertise is in defining needs, identifying expertise likely to be of use, and drawing together knowledge from different fields. To follow from Bernd Fesel, as we envisage not only an increasing spread of specialties, there may grow an ever-higher pyramid of interpreters to link expert with client, and we may well face a problem of decreasing return on investment in knowledge. But there are surely experts out there with a better grasp on this than I, a mere inquisitive end-user and armchair commentator.
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      Mar 12 2011: Spot On! Carl Sagan even said something similar with his 'Baloney Detection Kit'.

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