3.22: The Need for Generalists

Corresponding to the need for a broad model, as argued in Section 3.1, there is a need for people who can deal with broad models - that is, for generalists.

Traditional education has trained specialists. We learn more and more about less and less until, as the cynics say, we know everything about nothing. We are able to speak to fewer and fewer fellow specialists until, as the cynics say, we can speak only to ourselves. When R. Buckminster Fuller sought training as a generalist, he had to join the U. S. Navy. In those days before telecommunications, a lowly lieutenant in command of a mine-sweeper at sea had a mini-universe to control and, therefore, had to be a generalist. Now telecommunications ensures that wars are waged between admirals on shore and even this limited means of training generalists was cut off.

There is a danger that the centralization of control due to further proliferating telecommunications and the apprehension about increasing information overload will further increase the trend to specialization. It is in turbulent transitional times such as those that we need people who can have a broad (albeit admittedly shallow) view of things as well as those who have a narrow and deep view.

Future studies, the domain of my work at GAMMA, and communication studies, the domain of my work at Concordia University, are among the very few disciplines which permit the training of generalists. They do so because their subject is not a system but an aspect of all systems. Future studies focuses on the future dimension of all systems and communication studies on the communication aspect of all systems. It is to those disciplines that we may look for the introduction of training of generalists in the university system.

The rest of this book will zero in on categories within this broad model. It is important, however, that we retain the bird's-eye view provided in this chapter to supplement the various worm's-eye views which follow. We have to be like artists working on a large canvas, alternating between moving in close to work on details and standing back to see the whole picture. The whole picture of the current transition from an industrial to an information society can be seen only by stepping back and seeing things in one "eye gulp", by means of a general model such as provided in this chapter.