June 21st, 2005

red panda eating bamboo

Specialization is for people but we still have to know a lot of junk

Via various people (several answers stolen from janetmiles) - observations on a list of things that Robert Heinlein's character Lazarus Long thinks "a human being should be able to" do, because "specialization is for insects."

Personally, I think "every individual has to know how to do all the same things (or else they aren't really a member of the species and must be eradicated)" is for insects, and "having lots of options for how to live" is for human beings. Also I think "being able to work in groups so that different people can contribute their different talents and don't need to do things they're not good at or are physically incapable of doing" is for human beings. (It seems to work pretty well for some insects too.)

The only sense in which I agree with the spirit of the list, if not the letter, is that I think trying to learn and do a variety of things is good for most individual humans, and I think refusing to do or learn something because it's beneath you is not an attitude that helps most individual humans be better people.
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