The rise of the generalist

From Karl Smith:

I don’t know if I’ve heard anyone say this and I am not quite sure what I think about it myself, but one way to view the economy in the Information Age is that the returns to specialization are falling.

So, those who like such things can go all the way back to Adam Smiths pin factory and think about all the tasks involved in making pins and how each person could become more suited to that task and learn the ins and outs of it.

However, in the information age I can in many cases write a program to repeatedly perform each of these tasks and record ever single step that it makes for later review by me. The individualized skill and knowledge is not so important because it can all be dumped into a database.

What really matters is someone who gets pins. Not the various steps involved in making pins but the concept of the whole pin. What makes a good pin a good pin. How do pins fit into the entire global market. What the next big thing in pins.

This individual will be able to outline a pin vision that she or just a few programmers can easily implement. One could say this is the story of Facebook or Twitter. Really good ideas and just a few people needed to implement them.

However, as IT progress and machines can do more things it could be the story of the economy generally.

In contrast to The Great Stagnation, I would call this The Rise of Generalist or perhaps to be consistent The Great Generalization.

Even if you stop and think for a minute about all of the things that your computer or now even your phone can do, are you now wielding the most generalized tool ever conceived?

I would add in turn that the Generalist boosts the reach of the Specialist, as the Generalist relies on many specialists to supply inputs for his or her outputs.  It may be the “tweeners” in the middle who lose income and influence, and that the extreme generalists and specialists will prosper, intellectually and otherwise.

Comments

I keep asking this, but answer get I none. Were Smith's pins seamstress's pins or joiners pins? (It doesn't much matter, but I'd like to know.)

My guess is they were seamstress' pins, because Smith says they were put into paper ("it is even a trade by itself to put them into the paper"). I don't think they'd put joiners' pins into paper.

Thank you.

Makes no difference. Getting pins is what really counts. Get in line at the patent office, and leave these details to the specialists.

Then along comes a program specialist with a better program, or a database expert with ReduceMap, and leaves you floundering in your generalist mire.

Nevertheless, there's a case for those people who get getting, if you see what I mean. You might get pins, but when sticky tape makes pins obsolete, you need to get sticky tape.

That is essentially the basis for the recent push to turn innovation into a structured, repeatable process, and thereby defeat the Chinese. Always stay one step ahead of the competition by devising new products and reading Seth Godin.

these aren't generalists. they are specialists in software design, which is the art of developing highly general, scalable solutions, a skill which quite few people have and which is often accompanied by weaknesses/blind spots in other skill areas such as much less tendency to take for granted the importance of the new york times, long form essays, and in person socialization.

I disagree with the quoted opinion and the spirit it conveys. In previous centuries and ages there was not a time when specialists did better as compared with today. Some of today's specialists (e.g. golfers and singers) do exceptionally well and some of the past's specialists (e.g. James Watt when he started) could not make it as specialists.
The opinion derives from the confusion present in today's economic system. Technology, especially computers and communications, enable a radically different reality than has been in past centuries, and society is slow to adapt, understand and embrace this reality. The powers of old, merge with the ignorance of many and generate a confusing allocation of rewards and resources. With multinationals trying to optimize profits which later flow into countries far from the manufacturers. Everybody is looking both for better positions and for a firm foothold on the shifting grounds of the world. Governments trying to protect the interests of special groups and friends while traditionally lining their own bureaucratic pockets.
It is in this confusion, where one may get the perception of some "Generalist" gaining ground - but it has always been the lucky, clever, ingenious, industrious, ferocious, worldly and business-ly who did well. It applies both to the people of the US and China.
Technology has raced in front of society for some time. The slack created is being filled out, chaotically and carefully, while everybody is trying to preserve their standing and power in the process.

Tyler, I hope you can ask someone to translate into English the following paragraphs, part of this long post by Ariel Torres, an Argentine writer on technology:

http://www.made-in-argentine.com/contenido/1310/pistas-para-entender-la-revolucion-digital%0D%0A.htm

Pero la tecnología digital no tiene nada de mágico, misterioso o incomprensible. Que a unos pocos les convenga que todos los demás no entendamos nada de computadoras no significa que sea algo incomprensible. En rigor, es al revés. Las maquinarias actuales son más fáciles de entender que las supuestamente más sencillas cosas mecánicas y analógicas de antes. Aquí van una serie de pistas para entender qué le pasó al mundo, en términos de tecnología, cuando llegaron las computadoras.

* Antes todas las máquinas eran internamente diferentes, funcionaban de modo diferente y tenían una función diferente. Hoy todas las cosas digitales son lo mismo, son computadoras o son controladas por computadoras. Pasamos, por lo tanto, de innumerables mecanismos, diseños, metodologías y formas de control a una sola, la informática. Una vez que entendemos qué es una computadora, entendemos todos los demás dispositivos.

* ¿Y cuál es la diferencia entre los mecanismos supuestamente sencillos de antes y las computadoras? Antes, las máquinas y herramientas tenían una función específica. Ahora cada función se programa. Es una de las ideas más disruptivas de la historia técnica de la humanidad. Pasamos de herramientas que servían para algo a otras que, no sirviendo de entrada para nada, pueden usarse para todo. La computadora (o cualquier otro dispositivo digital) sólo sirve para una cosa, para ser programada. Entender esto es clave, es la piedra fundacional de la revolución digital.

* En el pasado la información se podía guardar como tinta sobre papel, bromuro de plata sobre acetato, señales magnéticas analógicas sobre cinta, surcos en un plato de vinilo. Hoy toda la información existe bajo la forma de números binarios alojados en memorias digitales mutuamente compatibles. De nuevo, simplificamos: de docenas de métodos a uno solo.

* Antes teníamos acceso directo al mecanismo, la polea, la manivela, la palanca, el motor. En consecuencia, cualquier cosa mecánica podía romperse si la usábamos mal. Ahora, en cambio, no tenemos acceso al microprocesador, la memoria o el disco duro, sino que un programa media entre nosotros y los mecanismos. Por eso, las computadoras (y todas son computadoras) no pueden romperse por usarlas mal.

* El gran obstáculo para comprender las computadoras (y llevará dos párrafos, éste y el siguiente, aclararlo) es que mientras las máquinas de antes simulaban la función de nuestros músculos o aumentaban el poder de nuestros sentidos, las computadoras simulan las funciones del más oculto y menos conocido de nuestros órganos, el cerebro. Básicamente, hacen cálculo y evalúan proposiciones lógicas. Es natural que nos cueste despegarnos del obvio telar, del explícito automóvil. Pero no hace falta sino un leve cambio de mirada para ver la nueva realidad.

* ¿Qué son los misteriosos, mágicos, inexplicables dispositivos digitales, entonces? Son máquinas que procesan información. Todo lo que llamamos información (texto, video, magnitudes físicas, valores numéricos, imágenes, sonido y demás) es transformado en bits y, llegado el caso, se opera sobre esos bits para hacer algo útil: imprimir, mostrar en pantalla, transmitir por Internet, obtener estadísticas, cambiar la tipografía, ecualizar, y la lista, como sabemos, no sólo podría seguir durante semanas, sino que siempre se puede ampliar.

End of quote.

We need to understand the changes in technology before speculating about their economic consequences.

But digital technology is nothing magical, mysterious and incomprehensible. That a few suits them all others do not understand anything about computers doesn't mean that it is incomprehensible. Strictly speaking, it is upside down. The current machinery are easier to understand than the supposedly simpler analog and mechanical things before. Here are a series of clues to understand what happened to the world, in terms of technology, when computers arrived.

* Before all machines differed internally, functioned differently and had a different function. Today all things digital are the same, are computers or are controlled by computers. Therefore, numerous mechanisms, designs, methodologies and forms of control in a single turn computing. Once we understand what is a computer, we understand all other devices.

* And what is the difference between the supposedly simple mechanisms before and computers? Earlier, machines and tools had a specific function. Now each function is programmed. It is one of the most disruptive ideas in the technical history of humanity. We moved from tools serving for something other that not serving entry for nothing, can be used for everything. The computer (or any other digital device) serves only for one thing, to be scheduled. Understand this is key, it is the foundation stone of the digital revolution.

* In the past information you could save as ink on paper, bromide of silver on acetate, analog magnetic signals on tape, grooves in a vinyl plate. Today the information exists in the form of binary numbers housed in mutually compatible digital memories. Again, simplify: dozens of methods to a single one.

* Before we had direct access to the mechanism, the crank, the lever, pulley, motor. As a result, any mechanical thing could break if her used wrong. Now, on the other hand, no we have access to the microprocessor, memory, or hard disk, but rather a programme average between us and the mechanisms. Therefore, computers (and are all computers) can not break for using them wrong.

* The major obstacle to understand computers (and will be two paragraphs, this and the next, rinse it) is that while the machines before simulating the function of our muscles or increased the power of our senses, computers simulate the functions of the hidden and less well known of our organs, the brain. Basically, they make calculation and evaluate logical propositions. It is natural to us cost takeoff from the obvious loom, the explicit car. But it does not lack but a slight change of look to see the new reality.

* What are mysterious, magical, unexplained digital devices, then? They are machines that process information. All what we call information (text, video, physical quantities, numerical values, images, sound, and others) is transformed into bits and, if necessary, it operates on these bits to make something useful: print, on-screen display, transmit over the Internet, obtain statistics, change the font, equalize, and the list, as we know, not only could continue for weeks, but it cannot always be expanded.

Translated by computer - Courtesy Microsoft Translator

Thanks. Later I'll tell you how good the Translator is.

This is a theme of Vernon Vinge's Rainbows End.

> This individual will be able to outline a pin vision that she or just a few programmers can easily implement. One could say this is the story of Facebook or Twitter. Really good ideas and just a few people needed to implement them.

This is extremely clueless thing a lot of people with no idea whatsoever what programming is like think.

Both Facebook and Twitter, just as every other such enterprise did not start with a master and getting "a few programmers to easily implement it".

Twitter started as video game. These programmers turned it into Twitter. End result had nothing to do with any master plan, and this is what happens in every single successful case.

Good point. Few things start out as they end up, except in "hindsight".

Two well known examples: Timex started out in the bomb business, making timers. They started selling in mass merchandisers only because they couldn't get distribution in jewelry stores.

Facebook's early success was due to exclusivity (only Harvard grads and other A-list students). Now it's hold on the market is due to its universality.

A few programmers might re-create something once it's clear what it is that needs to be created. But there is much wandering in the wilderness ahead of reaching the oasis. Is it better to be a generalist or a specialist during that wandering? That's not really a relevant question.

"What really matters is someone who GETS pins. Not the various steps involved in making pins but the concept of the whole pin. What makes a good pin a good pin. How do pins fit into the entire global market. What the next big thing in pins."

After working 30+ years in manufacturing I strongly agree with this. There are people I work with that are so super-specialized and live in such a small skill compartment they often don't understand what they are designing (in terms of process of manufacturing and in terms of the customer's end use). This also IMO, leads to a "structural" problem with regards to hiring. If companies would do more training of people with generalized skills, they would be better off in the long run.

I've wondered if more specialties means more material for generalists to work with. To be simplistic, say every specialty produces 1 novel insight a layperson can understand. If there are fewer specialties, there are fewer insights a layperson can understand, and more specialties means more insights a layperson can understand. More specialties would then mean more tools available to generalists. I guess 'specialism' is limited by the extent of the market, to paraphrase Smith, but also it seems 'generalism' is limited by the extent of the market too, and possibly the two approaches don't compete but supplement.

I see this more as a comparison between local and global optimization and the people who do such work. Specialists can optimize locally for their specialization while generalists optimize holistically. For example, you might dedicate and grow many specialist teams to optimize each component of a system thinking you're getting more efficient and not realize that you don't even need half of the components.

I think Facebook invalidates this point. If having the big idea was enough the Winklevoss twins would be the billionaires, or maybe Tom from Myspace, or whoever invented Friendster.

Facebook succeeded because it's a sleek, intuitive app that, for a long time, continued to add great features. And it is what it is because Mark Zuckerberg is a spectacularly smart guy and gifted programmer. That's what set Facebook apart.

I agree. At least IT savvy Generalists @ Generalist Blogs will prosper intellectually and perhaps gain influence. It made me think though (sorry to get back to unpleasant facts of the day) that before the Great Generalization can help produce economic prosperity there is one problem along the way. The only factory that matters right now (this week) is the Penny Factory and as yet the process of Generalization has not reached the Penny Industry.

It’s partly because a couple of highly successful Nobel Generalists by the name of K and S have been so influential that the Penny Factories and their printing presses are running at full capacity.

The Penny Industry is still operating with the post-Fordist Italian Cluster Model (you remember the one that was going to change the world for the better). I’ve heard that this may because Nobel Specialists like Scholes, Selten, or Mundell haven’t made the epochal transition to Generalism.

Bloggers matter as much as Statesmen in the Great Generalization!

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-08-27/nobel-economists-back-austerity-as-europe-u-s-slash-budgets.html

Generalists are foxes:
http://www.overcomingbias.com/2006/11/foxes_vs_hedgho.html

The thing is, the more complex a system is, the better to approach it from different angles, the simpler it is, the better to focus on the "grand theory" underlying it. So economics is particularly ripe for being interdisciplinary. So If you understand history, culture, psychology, evolutionary theory and a little bit of physics, it would suit you well as an economist!

One book written by a good generalist that I've read recently is "Poor Charlie's Almanac" by Charlie Munger.

At the end of "Six Degrees", Duncan Watts references "The Second Industrial Divide" for identifying a move from Smith's specialization to generalization.

"Instead of sinking large amounts of capital into specialized production facilities that subsequently produce a restricted line of products quickly and cheaply, flexible specialization relies on general-purpose machinery and skilled workers to produce a wide range of products in small batches."

This seems to be esp. true within IT. People who just know how to do one technical thing seem to struggle more than those who "get" the business and can combine business and tech knowledge to deliver real value across multiple technologies.

In one way, I'd disagree. That generalists prosper once they're hired is probably true, but getting hired as a generalist can be very difficult. HR practices in larger companies are about matching checkboxes and generalists often don't fit nicely into those checkboxes. In fact, there might not exist checkboxes for the hard-to-quantify skills that you want in a generalist,

Completely agree. I'm a generalist manager in logistics. I can't even count the number of times during a phone interview when the HR person doing the initial screening gets to "How much experience do you have with SAP?"

I have none.

During my time in this business I've participated in the transition from centralized mainframes and paper based systems to state of the art RF driving automation. I've managed (as a user) system selection and implementation. I've been responsible for training new hires how to use technology. I'm an intelligent inquisitive generalist who bought a personal computer in 1982. So, it's not like I can't learn SAP. And really, it's beside the point. I'm a manager who leads people. I transform resources into results. Technology is just a better way of automating routine administrative tasks that used to be done by an army of specialists with number 2 pencils. (see how I came back to the main point)

It's not that it's hard to quantify generalist skills, it's more that evaluating someone in those areas is subjective and carries career risk for the decision maker.

My experience in software is that the team of generalists will beat the team of specialists 9 times out of 10. That 10th time is luck, as the problem just happened to align with the specialists' strengths, and what strengths you'd want at the end are nearly never predictable at the start.

But HR systems are designed for specialists.

As a generalist, you can fill more boxes -- if you put in the time to acquire knowledge and certifications. If you can plausibly fill more boxes, you can get into more doors.

Plus. this tends to signal to employers that you are both trainable and willing to take on additional tasks outside your main responsibilities. This tends to be hepful in a lot of situations where companies want to support something that usually only needs a few hours of work a week.

specializing in multiple areas, then?

I'm not sure I get his point. My computer and cell phone can do all kinds of things, but the supply chain from their design to assembly to transportation to me is far more complex than that of the old pins, and requires many more people and much more knowledge. Doesn't the variety of tasks that they perform simply allow people to use them to specialize in whatever they want?

Davis and Tomasz are right; the quote is pure BS. The "generalists" who are getting paid are programmers: find me a non-programmer who gets a round of VC funding, I dare you.

Specialization is a specific kind of human capital, where you get extra returns by successfully adapting your human capital to what will be needed in the future. Think of someone becoming an oncologist--we're talking about spending 8+ years being trained (though once they get out of medical school, they're at least getting paid something). At the end of that, the oncologist will make a very good salary, but he started out by investing a huge amount (years of very high value labor working long hours for not much money). If the world changes so much that his investment doesn't pay off, he loses big.

As technological and social and economic change accelerates, it becomes harder to predict the future. The guy becoming an oncologist doesn't know whether change to the medical care payment system or to technology will massively cut the demand for oncologists. In that world (basically the world where you're getting closer to the singularity--the point past which you can make no useful predictions about the world), returns to specialization fall.

A lot of the returns to specialization are based on some social or legal structures that guarantee that the specialization gets good returns--think of tenure, civil service employment protection, medical licensing, union contracts, regulations that keep industries in a certain shape (pre-S&L crisis bank regulation, airline regulations before they were opened up). And because technology and society can change so quickly, those structures can also change quickly. For example, the internet and related technology are, right now, undermining the big media's control over what issues and facts will be discussed, and that can lead to tremendous political changes that nobody could have predicted ten years ago. (I'd say the Arab Spring, los indignados, and the Tea Party are partly the results of those changes.) Companies that seem unbeatable can simply be wiped or made massively less important and powerful by technological change, and that can undermine any number of regulatory or contractual arrangements designed to ensure a payoff for specialization. (Think about how different the position of IBM is now as opposed to 30 years ago. And IBM has survived as a big and important company! Contrast them with CDC or DEC or Data General.)

I have been working as an electrical engineer in the electronics industry for 25 years. I have seen all flavors of hardware and software engineer. Not a one of them knows how to build a phone, only tiny portions of it. I can assure you specialists rule.

Reminds me of Leonard Read's 1958 paper "I, Pencil", which illustrated that no single individual on the planet could make a whole pencil from scratch!

I manage software developers, a mix of Java, HTML/CSS/JS, and PL/SQL. Though each of my employees has a specialty, I don't want to hire specialists. The best employee for me is a technologist. Ideally, I want someone who can develop or at least understand code at every level of the web stack, and understands networking, and can build and maintain their own PC, and so on. In a small(-ish) organization, you can't predict what you'll be doing tomorrow, which means over-specializing will leave you without the capabilities you need when you need them.

Now, I'm glad that specialists exist, I just don't want them working for me. I want the guys that are experts in relational theory, and compiler design, and search algorithms -- but that can't install their own printer drivers or know how to rack a server -- working for the Oracles and Microsofts and Googles of the world.

I'm a software developer, and you're a technology manager with a clue, Noah. At one time, I thought people like you didn't exist. I thought good software development managers were mythical, like unicorns and honest politicians. Eventually, I met a few effective managers, but hunting for the next one often feels less fruitful than hunting for a unicorn.

Ideas are a dime a dozen. Execution is hard. Edison's "1% inspiration and 99% perspiration" remains true today.

The world is full of "idea guys" with a mad gleam in their eye. Guys with a brilliant storyline for a bestselling novel, they just need to hire some writer to mechanically churn out the actual text, piece of cake really. Guys with an awesome business plan, they just need a coder to write an operating system over a long weekend. Our hypothetical Captain Pin-head is usually obsessed with secrecy and paranoid that someone will steal their infinitely valuable idea.

Here's the thing though: if nobody else in the history of the universe has ever thought of your idea, it's probably a dumb idea. Impractical and unworkable. The best ideas are usually an open secret: floating under the radar of mainstream consciousness but in fact known to thousands of people, and often discussed on specific websites and discussion forums.

Karl Smith really ought to read up on the history of Friendster. They "got" the idea of a social networking website and spent a lot of time on high-level strategizing and articulating the vision of where they wanted to go with it. The trouble was, their damn website took 45 seconds to load the homepage and users eventually deserted in droves, first to Myspace and then Facebook.

The devil is in the details and the prize goes to those who sweat the details. You can't compartmentalize the idea and the implementation: they evolve together. You need serial specializers who dive deep but can occasionally step back and look at the big picture, not generalizers with a "vision thing" who have no idea how stuff actually gets done.

But don't waste too much time executing your idea, anon, because you're likely to discover, after all your trouble, that you had no right to execute it, that the fruits of your 99% perspiration belong to some authority over the 1% inspiration to which you also have no right. Don't tell anyone about your inspiration either, because others likely have a faster track to the front of the line at the patent office. If you know what's good for you, you'll forget about entrepreneurial creativity and get a job with a well established corporation ... or with the government ... same difference.

A little more than 100 years ago, specialists declared physics practically a solved problem. Today they once again admit the profundity of their ignorance. Now global society develops a library at such a rate that it is exceedingly difficult to label any person a polymath. Reading blogs should quickly demonstrate the specialization in each of us.

Ultimately it's a tale of two extremes.

Generalists have a greater opportunity to weave together disparate technologies and create new innovations. However, what labor they do need tends to be much more specialized than in the past.

Most great generalists seems to have their roots in specialization. They're just specialists that have lots of cross-domain intelligence and got the big picture.

For the most part, it's the middle-man who's getting squeezed out. Those guys are over-priced ornaments on the global supply chain.

I agree with Davis and Thomas: Karl Smith even has his examples wrong. Facebook and Twitter were created by highly specialized and high level programmers, who, at tender age, had already been programming for more hours than most (even PhD) economists ever follow courses. They were not generalists who got social networking, they were the specialists who got it right (we forget the others).

Perhaps the problem is not the great generationalization happening, but the lack of knowledge of the sectors they are talking about by the economists who make up conventional wisdom.

What would have happened if the economists would have done serious analysis of the risks in the financial sector before the crisis happened?
What would have happened with the economy of the US if the companies had valued engineers more than lawyers and financial wizards? The poster child successful companies were until recently led by specialist engineers.

Right. As a mere specialist in making pins, I'm helpless without some General understanding the Big Picture telling me what to do, so let's threaten to shoot specialists making pins without the permission of some General granted a monopoly on the general business of pin making, and let's grant this monopoly to the first General recognized by a state agency. Then we can be just like the Europeans, who are doing so well at innovating to lower their carbon emissions these days.

Oh ... wait ... we've already done that.

The rise of the industrial revolution was due to replacing specialists with generalists.

Spinners were replaced by machines with unskilled workers trained quickly to tend the machines which mechanized the critical skills.

The looms replaced the specialist of knitters and weavers with machines tended by unskilled workers instructed in tending the machines.

Computer science was "invented" as a consequence of an effort to reduce the need for specialists who were skilled in setting up looms for different weaving patterns. (The Jacquard "loom" provided the idea to Babbage for programming his Analytical Engine, Jacquard is known for the punched card for programming looms.)

What we have today is employer after employer complaining they can't find the right specialist to fill jobs, so the crisis today is the high demand for specialist and lack of demand for and excess supply of generalists.

When I started in the computer industry, IBM touted the fact it recruited people from philosophy, religion, literature for its field organization as field engineers, customer engineers, and other technical positions. Their argument was anyone could be taught the technical aspects of IBM computer systems, but the most important skills IBM needed were the ability to reason logically and communicate with others clearly. Theology and philosophy are perfect training for dealing with computers - computers are gods that suffer no fools who do not follow their arbitrary rules even when contrary to common sense or the natural world.

But no one talks of the need for generalists these days, calling instead for specialized training specific to jobs.

You've got it backwards. The industrial revolution replaced less productive generalists with more productive specialists. In spite of what you've seen in Chaplin movies, industrial workers are not mindless screw turners. Designing, building, maintaining and operating automated machinery all require highly specialized skills, and these skills become more and more specialized, not less so.

If you think you need not reason logically or communicate clearly to program a computer or administer a database, you've never performed either task.

Yes, someone with a philosophy, religion or literature degree can learn technical knowledge and work in technical areas. The reverse is also true, but I've rarely needed much knowledge of religion to do my job.

Specialists should do better in stable environments, because they are more efficient at converting scarce resources (rise of economies of scale). They may do more poorly than generalists (overall) in an unstable or declining environment, as certain specialist skills will become devalued due to the collapse of narrow niches or become unsupportable at lower levels of aggregate output. Thus, the collapse of specialization might be associated with traumatic events, like recessions and asteroid strikes.

As Noah Yetter notes above, specialists typically have multiple specialties or one specialty and related knowledge of other specialties. Enterprise software developers know their away around a relational database management system. Web developers know something about administering a web server.

Specialists necessarily move from one specialty to another over their careers. Software development in the seventies was very different from software development today. The two specialties are not the same. They overlap in the way that writing science fiction overlaps with writing a cookbook but hardly more than that. Even in the seventies, developing firmware for an embedded device and developing accounting software were very different specialties.

Software development is even less a single specialty today than it was in the seventies. It is many different specialties. A generic software developer isn't worth much these days (is entry level in the profession), not because more generalized knowledge is more valuable but because more specialized software development is more valuable. I work in geographic information systems for power systems engineering. I need knowledge of geography and power systems and all sorts of information technology, most of which I didn't learn in any school. I also play with web development and free banking, but that's my pastime.

But I'm not a generalist. I'm a specialist interested in many specialties.

"I deal with the god damn customers so the engineers don't have to!" - Office Space

Anyone else find this ironic: the specialists of specialists, software developers, who need to know A LOT to write reasonable code, favor the generalist approach, whereas the generalists of the generalists, economists (especially macroeconomists), who attempt to synthesize all activity everywhere in terms of rather simple equations, or when that fails, statistical regressions, favor that of the specialist?

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