1st Nugget – As We May Think

“There is a growing mountain of research. But there is increased evidence that we are being bogged down today as specialization extends. The investigator is staggered by the findings and conclusions of thousands of other workers—conclusions which he cannot find time to grasp, much less to remember, as they appear. Yet specialization becomes increasingly necessary for progress, and the effort to bridge between disciplines is correspondingly superficial.” -Vannevar Bush

Leonardo Da Vinci was a “painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer.”

But as knowledge grows, we can also go further and further into specific studies. This paragraph mentions something that I think about frequently, specialization. Specialization intrigues me particularly because one day, I want to have a career in science. To give an example, in the VCU biomedical engineering program there are numerous areas of study; bioinstrumentation, biomaterials, biomechanics, tissue and cellular engineering, medical imaging and rehabilitation. Then if you continue going to school you get even more focused on one category that you research and write a large paper about and then that is your specialty.

There is real benefit in specializing in things, you are able to further research specific things in the field, be en expert in things, pioneer techniques and inventions. But there are also huge downfalls. Once you’ve committed to studying specific things, you probably don’t know that much about other stuff! And this is when Bush’s ideas about easy and traceable access to knowledge become important, there are means by which a specialist can get informed about other things important to their studies, but they need to be able to access these things quickly.

This also raises an important issue (one that I think needs to be better implemented at VCU), interdisciplinary collaboration and communication. (A great example of an outline for interdisciplinary work is here)


We can’t all be like Leonardo Da Vinci (sadly), so we need to figure out how to create better relationships between disciplines so that we can increase productivity and creativity.

12 thoughts on “1st Nugget – As We May Think”

  1. I believe specialization is very important and something that will help you a great deal in whatever career you decide to go in. I also think you should never stop learning. Once you finish college you’ll be in your early to mid 20’s, in most cases. But just because you’re out of college, why should you stop there? Communication plays a key part in learning new things. Communicate, share your interests with someone who isn’t in your department and they are likely to share back. Soon you’ll know a lot about something, and a little bit about everything.

  2. This is one thing I really like about college, you are able to study whatever you want and get as in depth as you please. I am a political science major. In a public policy class I am currently taking, we discussed how some businesses are granted the right to self regulate themselves. This happens because the government is not necessarily expert in businesses like law, hair cutting, and medicine. The businesses are then given the right to self regulate because they are specialized in whatever subject. This proves that specialization is necessary to a successful society.

  3. Specialization is a reality of this mechanized world we live in but I often find myself jealous of people like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle because they lived in a time where they could be well versed in a multitude of studies. Each of them was an expert of Mathematics, Biology, Physics, and more, albeit in those studies more primitive form. I agree with the idea that we need a way to allow multi-discipline expertise to become more widespread. I think that is the best way to help us move towards what Bush describes.

  4. Specialization is vital to advancing in any career path. If people learned about multiple subjects collectively, they would be unable to focus on a particular subject . With specialization, multiple people are able to focus on a specific subjects, creating a society filled with professionals who are well educated. This type of knowledge allows communication between individuals who are specialized in a specific fields to discuss different aspects in their distinct subjects. I love how you touched base on the positive and negatives of specialization, and I also completely agree on Bush’s concept on accessible knowledge. Increased productivity is the direct result of accessible knowledge for experts in all fields.

  5. Specialization is necessary in all aspects of life. We need to understand what we actually need and want. If we want to be successful, we need to be specialized in our area.

  6. Specialization is great but it shouldn’t be a limitation to how we can expand and grow. Once one has gained general knowledge, he/she will be able to use that to specialize in what they want and be great at it. So in order to have general knowledge , we will need to be willing to learn and become well-rounded like Leonardo Da Vinci.

  7. Specialization, as with all things, is useful only to a certain point. If one has no specialized field of knowledge, then he/she will never be any more skilled at a task than another. This would, for example, make job hunting very difficult. On the other hand, the practical application of any specialized skill requires one to draw from his/her other fields of knowledge. If a person were to have knowledge only of their specialization, then they would never be able to apply this knowledge in any practical way.

  8. Specialization is very important, but I offer to your final point that Interdisciplinary work is very important and a vital use for specialization. I am Computer Science, and had the opportunity to take a Kinetic Imaging class where I made games with 3D modelers ans animators and the like; and now I am part of the Bioenergetics project which is cross-disciplinary between engineering and artsl having CS, BME, and ME as well as Medical Illustration, sculpture, and KI students. That being said, I find cross-disciplinary work vitally stimulating creatively and educationally.

  9. Specialization is important as it can help enhance one’s career as well; however to what extent is specialization ok? Yes, you can go so much in depth with your subject however what about the knowledge that’s surrounded around you, you can’t always be dependent on others for it. I feel that specialization is necessary; however there should be a set ground for general knowledge in a deeper level.

  10. Sounds great, VCU does need more interdisciplinary collaboration and communication. Based on the site you provided as an example and @collinsag ‘s experience mentioned in the comments above, amazing things are happening concurrent with these collaborations. I agree with Bush, specialization is essential to progress and an individuals success, yet these collaborations seem to be the extremely progressive

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