Since the dawn of reflective thinking, knowledge has been broken down in more and more categories, becoming more and more complex. This age will see the new man, one who is synthesized.
Looking At The Details
When I first looked into college academics, I became scared of the notion that so much emphasis is placed on what I chose to study. “What is your major?” They would ask me this question over and over again. I was frightened. It seemed as though I was being forced to make a choice, the choice of what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
I chose Philosophy, but it was not specificity that drove me to it, it was its range. The philosopher’s of old were masters of knowledge in general. They studied just about everything. There’s that joke about how all of recent philosopher is just a footnote to Aristotle, yeah, that’s not a joke.
I didn’t want to specialize, I told myself, because I wanted to knowledgeable about everything, and what better archetype than that of those ancients.
Specialization is not a sin, it is the thinking, scientific mind in action. We want to get close to the picture, examine every detail, every brushstroke, every speck of dust. We want to break it down into style, medium, ink, strokes, etc. We want to have such a strong working knowledge about those specific aspects of it that we can innovate; we want to create new ways of acting.
The breaking down of different areas of study into sub-areas of study and sub-sub-areas of study allows for focus; for understanding something down to the last detail. This is useful in creation, in practical action.
By understanding the properties of chemicals, we were able to create vehicles. Advances in those that have diseases have come from examining the details of the body. There is no question that the breaking down of things has produced astounding progresses for the human life.
Stepping Back From The Picture
“This is garbage.” The kid might as well have said stop to everybody in the room, because that is what they did. With his legs straight and his back rounded, the skinny assed adolescent might have been mistaken as a flamingo from the side. His pink jacket and long neck didn’t help his case.
“It’s just a hand, not even painted in an innovative way. Is this from the 1700’s?” The question wasn’t serious. He straightened his spine and turned his gaze to meet the artist, who was the only one in the room not worried about the confrontation. More worried about tooth-picking the food out of this teeth, he dropped the tiny wooden spear and walked over to the kid. With a smile on his face it was obvious he had missed his mark with the toothpick, and a speck of some unknown spice was stuck right on his front tooth.
“What’s wrong with it?”
“The style is old and drawn out. Those brushstrokes look like my four-year-old brother painted them, and the hand….just looks…disproportional.” The kid stood tall, legs still perfectly straight, looking now like some indie-anime-drawn cartoon character.
“Well the hand thing, that’s easy to explain.” Already turned away while saying this, the artist drew the kid away from the wall and had him turn around. “A baby’s hand is quite different than an adult’s.”
The kid turned back towards the wall and slumped. His knees gave way a bit and his back slouched. Now he just looked ridiculous. There upon the wall sat sixteen paintings, spread apart but all one picture, that of a woman holding her newborn baby. Each painting had a different style to it, each using popular styles to their perfection.
Without a sound, the young man made his way for the door, pulling up his pants with every step, seeming to get smaller and smaller at each stride.
Stepping back from the picture lets you see what you were missing while you were too close. You miss out on the connectivity of the things around you. You miss out on the greater significance of what is going on.
We are becoming more and more productive each day. We are able to generate massive amounts of food, income, products, etc. And yet, more and more, we are constantly stressed, constantly worried about the trivial things in our lives. We are so focused on the main character, ourselves, that we forget there are other characters in the story.
Now Synthesis is Possible
With the growing rise in technology, we are becoming more and more ready for this synthesis to occur. Aristotle was able to form coherent ideas that took consideration from all of his different areas of study. For this to occur, it takes years of reflective thinking over a broad range of ideas.
With all of the specificity that currently exists, taking a broad approach becomes exceedingly difficult. It no longer pays to be a jack of all trades. But advances in technology, such as that of the Ipad or smartphone, allows for the distribution of knowledge at such a quick rate, that having an Aristotle-like capacity for critical thinking is necessary for sifting through all of the mess.
That is why synthesis is not only possible, it may be necessary if we are going to continue advancing. The future worker will need skills in all areas, not just one specific task.
We are accumulating all of our ways of communicating into single devices, such as the Ipad. Things like this are capable of being books, phones, video chats, and information searchers. They are capable of being carried around like a pair of keys. The future man will need to be able to take all of this information and make a meaningful whole out it. He will need to be able to judge, reflect, and observe many different kinds of perceiving and many kinds of values going on in his world.
He will need to be able to do this because the problems that he faces will have these characteristics. The amount of knowledge and capacity to think logically required is ever-growing. To be able to solve these problems the future problem solver will need to take all of this knowledge and direct it towards a single solution.
While all of these skills have always been required of man, as we continue to grow in specificity we will need to balance that with taking a step away from the picture every once in a while. The need to do so is at its highest. But we also are growing in our technology to deal with this. These are very exciting times.