I like the sound of this, over at Bobulate…
Start with the doorknob. Once you become a doorknob expert, you can move on to becoming a room expert, a door expert, a window expert. Make connections, and you can become an expert on how public spaces can foster community interaction, or how city design can alleviate congestion.
…but I wonder if it’s actually true? A couple of things come to mind:
One: In I Am a Strange Loop, Douglas Hofstadter argues against the notion that we’ll derive a useful theory of consciousness from what we know about neurons. His analogy: We know that a hurricane is, at root, a bunch of air molecules swirling around. But we don’t use the physics of molecules to predict hurricane behavior. We use the physics of hurricanes. So even if things are linked—as minds and neurons certainly are, or as doorknobs and public spaces certainly are—it doesn’t mean you should start at the bottom to understand the whole system. Actually: you probably shouldn’t.
(Note that I’m not doing justice to Hofstadter’s argument in my lil’ thumbnail sketch. It’s really thought-provoking and ultimately, I thought, really convincing.)
Two: Hewing a little more closely to the point that Jeff Veen (as paraphrased by Liz Danzico) is trying to make: Don’t super-specialists usually just remain super-specialists? I’m thinking, for example, of movie production: the cinematographer, the make-up artist, the special effects artist, the special effects artist who is really good at spaceships, the special effects artist who is really good at spaceships piloted by lizard-droids… and so on. You’ve seen those credits! And the one in charge of the big picture—the “expert on […] public spaces” in this situation—is in fact the one person who didn’t specialize. The generalist; the ringleader.
This is not to say that super-specialization is not a super-smart strategy! Being extremely good—the best in the world—at a particular thing is actually one of the best strategies for survival and satisfaction. But I just don’t think it necessarily leads anywhere other than… super-specialization. It seems to me, looking around, that the people in charge of cities, public spaces, organizations, and Spider-Man 4 are the people who have gone straight at those more macro levels like an arrow.
Note that Will Smith’s wisdom, noted in the same post, is on the contrary unassailable.