Friday, May 24, 2019

Tyler Cowen — *Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World*

I sometimes say that generalists are the most specialized people of them all, so specialized they can’t in fact do anything. Except make observations of that nature. Excerpt:
In an impressively insightful image, Tetlock described the very best forecasters as foxes with dragonfly eyes. Dragonfly eyes are composed of tens of thousands of lenses, each with a different perspective, which are then synthesized in the dragonfly’s brain.
I am not sure Epstein figures out what a generalist really is (and how does a generalist differ from a polymath, by the way?), but this book is the best place to start for thinking about the relevant issues.
Generalists are a subset of polymaths, since one must be a polymath to be a decent generalist. One definition of philosophy is the study of the whole. Plato and Aristotle were such generalists that they were able to establish the foundational structure of the Western intellectual tradition.

Keynes was a generalist whose training was in mathematics. Adam Smith and Karl Marx were also generalists trained in philosophy. Marx was responding to Hegel who was an über-generalist. Economist Kenneth Boulding was also a generalist and a co-founder of general systems theory. He also contributed to the study of conflict and conflict resolution.

Marginal Revolution
*Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World*
Tyler Cowen | Holbert C. Harris Chair of Economics at George Mason University and serves as chairman and general director of the Mercatus Center

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