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Specialization versus generalization


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Here is a mind example to ponder in psychology. It has to do with how reality can be seen differently, depending if one is a specialist or a generalists. A specialists will narrow their focus so they can see things close up in all its details. The generalist has a wider view and sees more of the picture, but because of the wider field of view, often misses out on the details. Both are important, providing both details and context.


Here is an illustration of this contrast. We have a photo. The specialist will use a narrow beam of light to focus on one part of this photo. This will allow him to look at its many details. As we zoom it, we notice a female who, by her pose and thin athletic build, looks like a dancer. Being close, we can see the anguish on her face. We also notice, by the label on her sweats, that she is wearing bargin mart. Based on this data one may logically conclude she is a struggling dancer who appears to be practicing, with her anguish suggesting her losing her motivation.


Next, we open up the field of view to see more of the picture. We lose some of the tiny details but now we can see more of the picture. What now appears are other dancers. Some are sitting and talking. Others are stretching. Many appear more stylish than are original dancer. Based on this wider field of view our logical conclusions now change. Now she is not practing but maybe she is at a dance try-out, with the calm stylishness of the other dancers, suggesting her new, not that good or even having a bad day.


Next, we open the angle of view, to see the entire picture. The details are fuzzier still but now we can see the entire picture. We notice that our dancer is now at a premier dance theatre. We also notice there is a man in the front who is yelling at her. She is the center of his attention. That explains the anguish on her face. It turns out she is the prima dancer who is being pushed to her limit by her coach. Maybe her bargain mart sweats reminds her of her early days when she was hungry.


If the person with the widest view (generalists) was to suggest to the person with the narrowesr view (specialist) the girl in their sight was a prima dancer, they would think that he was off his rocker. The two different views of the same picture, close or far, lead to different things. Both are consistent with what they see but both see different things.


We live in a world of specialists who can see the details of closeness. Often theory is created based on this close-up view. A generalist may see a different picture, but may be too removed to see the details. There should be more emphasis in the generalist view, since it can help get rid of some of the logical bias created by looking too close for too long. But there is not really a good generalist track in science to help this along. What we have may require much improvement.

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Your point is true about the importance of different levels of analysis. But I think this kind of system already exists in science, pioneer. We have atomic physicists, chemists, microbiologists, organismal/physiological biologists, ecologists, evolutionary biologists, astronomers - from the tiniest particles to the structure of the universe at large. Tell me, what over-arching view are we missing? I have a feeling that this thread, like others you've started, is really about your hydrogen modeling theory, and how important you think it is, or at least will be. How much profound enlightenment do you think hydrogen potentials will bring to the study of broad evolutionary trends? Don't overstep yourself.

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You are right about the fact there are way more people 'specializing' now then ever before...but you are definitely misguided to think they are narrow minded. Many of the 'specialists' will advice people to be aware of as many thing as you can while focusing in your tiny corner...both are necessary...you can formulate much about you specialty without having broad picture... you won't have enough audience nor money(funding) if you just apply what you learn to your specialize field. I think this trend for a mix of specific and general have really evolved in the last 10 years. Now a days a biologist or geneticist does not just really on molecular/biochemical/genetics for solution then turn to mathematician...computational modeling and to do science at this level you really need broad picture as well as information about little stuff.

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Sorry about the slow response. I was off in other areas. The two approaches of specialization and generalization can be compared to building a car. Two specialization teams are asked to build the motor and the body for the car. Both teamsmight be able to build the latest and greatest designs, exceeding all expectations. But will the motor fit into the body? We can end up pushing the frontier in two areas but they may not interface very well. Now we need more specialist to fix the problems that the two first specialists just created by going too far in one direction.


Now a generalist would have to design compromises right at the start to make sure they both fit together. This means the engine may come out of much lower quality than the specialist and the body not as aerodynamic, but the ensemble will nevertheless be designed to fit together in a way that it is functional. One can end up with lower quality parts. After the two specialty teams grudging make the needed compromises they end up about the same place but after a lot of after the fact revisions.


Let me give you an example that is easy to see. Particle physics has made this beautiful engine for matter that is the new state of the art. But if we extrapolate it, it doesn't really fit into the body of chemistry very well. Once they finish that motor, the next logical extrapolation will be to make that interface so we can tweak the quarks and make a new molecule. Once that attempt is made, it will require major revisions to get it to fit. It will have to skinny down and may even appear to be going backwards. Once it finally fits, then it may start going forward but in a new direction.


If we look at socialology of the past 30 years, it tried to evolve out of the context of the historical traditions of conversativism. It did optimize the needs of exploratory living styles, but are the children better off since the optimization of the exploratory styles required breaking the family? Often one thing get fixed into a better state, but typically breaks something else. The specialist can't always see very far beyond his own optimization. One can't hold them accountable since they didn't do it on purpose. It was just a result of a narrow vision that couldn't see very far beyond itself. What we now need is a whole new batch of specialists to fix these problems. They will break something else, requiring more specialists. I suppose in that respect, specialization is a better way to create jobs.

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I don't buy any of this distinction. In the sciences one studies broad subjects in the undergraduate years. I'm a geologist and haven't cast off my ability to tell if a particular formation was formed by deposition via one type of force or via another. 'The generalist' knowledge can take in the larger situation and then focus on to the more specific. One hasn't taken the eye off the general situation but acknowledged it as the foundation for further investigation. After the undergraduate year I specialized in sedimentary biostratigraphy and narrow this to Upper Paleozoic studies as a post doc.


I don't need to study 'a mountain' to know it is a mountain. I understand if it's of sedimentary origin and the origin or formation, age, etc. I don't ignore this by focusing in on a narrower subject such as the invertebrate fauna in a particular strata.


A doctor doesn't need to treat you as a general entity when you have a broken finger. He knows you are a human and that as an organism you have various sytems. He fixes the finger.


The very essence of science is building on the credible science that comes before. We don't need to reinvent the wheel every time we do research. If you look at an accepted part of any scientific paper there are dozens of reference that lay the foundation for every assertion made. In fact, sometimes the documented references make up the largest part of the publication. This documentation places the research in a wider more general context.

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You are a geologist, so your generalist range only needs a practical limit. It assumes the theory of plate techtonics is valid in all its assumptions. Beyond that, there may not be any need to go further. But if that theory had a problem and a slightly different theory was to appear, what followed logically, may now has some new hidden kinks.


Let me give you a for instance. The plates float on supercritical water. This lowers the adhesion between the solid crust and the molten mantle. The logic for this is that hydrothermal water can dissolve into the mantle.


This assumption is based on a technique for making hydrothermal quartz crystals. The seed crystal is placed at the top and the raw stock is at the bottom. The bottom is at higher temperature than the top. The water dissolves the stuff more at the bottom, due to the higher temperature, and then deposits it at the cooler top, because the cooler temperature results in super saturation. The critical water will keep dissolving downward until the raw stock gone and displaced upward to the top.




This is often counter intutitive to most physicists but make sense to most chemists ,since chemical potential drives things toward lower energy and can even appear to defy gravity if the potential is strong enough. If the final crystal, at the top of the device, was to break its little platinum string, it would sink due to gravity. But as long as this material stays attached to the cooler ceiling, the water keeps working downward.


With the earth, the water keeps seeing higher and higher temperature as it dissolves downward toward the mantle. The temperature above is cooler allowing the water to get rid of dissolved minerals due to supersaturation. It sticks the minerals onto other solid strata renewing its capacity to keep dissolving downward. When it reaches the mantle it now becomes grease for plate movement. It dissolving ability is still in affect.


This can be demonstrated or simulated in the lab, but it alters many of the existing extrapolations. For example, since water would be dissolving downward, using chemical potentials, which makes minerals net displace upward, then volcanos would become part of the upward displacement. In other words, the direction of the water, due to the thermal gradient, sort of makes the water acts like a heavier material that is sinking. The same potential causes the minerals to become net displaced upward as though they seem lighter. At the mantle, the upward displace creates volcanos.


Using some further chemical considerations, we can use that same water to assist both the making of new crust and its subversion back for recycle. If we assume the mantle is too hot to sustain the covalent bonding of water, what we get is O and H acting sort of independantly. The hydrogen is too hot to form H2 but would form something more like H+.


There is nothing carved in stone that indicates the mantle has the correct proportion of atoms and O to make perfect oxide crystals. The O of the broken apart water could provide the extra O that is needed for stable minerals. For example Si2O is not as good as SiO2 to form more crust. If O is lost by such a process, than that would imply that H+ would begin to accumulate in that zone. It can't do much there, since O is its best companion, so it will need to diffuse to where there is more O. The best place are the subversion zones, where crust is coming back into the mantle for recycle. There the H can help release the O for their own needs.


To come up with this I had to go much further in many directions. I had to figure out how to break the density/gravity hold by using chemistry. It works but is was counter intuitive to the island called physics. But that assumption created a entirely different set of conditions for theory.

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