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The World Will Be Saved by Polymaths

by Daniel Goldman about a year ago in humanity
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The solutions to the problems that we face today, and in the years ahead, will be implemented by skilled professionals, but they will be discovered by polymaths.

The World Will Be Saved by Polymaths
Photo by Giammarco on Unsplash

I can see what most other people cannot. I can truly see the big picture in the way that few can. I am not boasting here. It’s simply because I’m a polymath. I have a solid understanding of a lot of topics, which allows me to see a broad picture of how things are and how they should be, as well as how to get there. I see how all parts of the puzzle fit together, though my ability to actually move the pieces around is limited.

I’m not a polymath because I’m a genius, or at least I don’t think that my intelligence has all that much to do with it. I’m probably of average intelligence. However, our society destroys polymaths. I was lucky, or unlucky, that I didn’t fit into the standard education program. I had some rather unusual experiences that caused me to go about things differently. I ended up learning about the world in a very different way. But it wasn’t always such an unusual way.

Many researchers up until the early 1900s were to an extent polymaths. Hooke, who perhaps is best known for his work in physics, including optics and mechanics, is also the same person who coined the term “cell” for the basic unit of life. A great many thinkers throughout history were polymaths. But it’s simply not the case anymore, because even in academia, there is a tendency to train people for incredibly narrow fields.

A Crypto Example

A good example is my work with cryptoassets. A lot of people that develop so called cryptocurrencies are solid programmers. It’s been a real headache trying to make some basic contracts in solidity. People do this kind of stuff for a living and are wholly comfortable with it. However, they don’t necessarily understand economics and finance. Monetary theory is a complicated beast. There is a lot of disagreement between what constitutes good money.

I could go on for hours about the different views of monetary theory expressed by Aristotle, Plato, Marx, and so many others. I can explain the difference between money and currency, and what actually makes something a form of money rather than just an asset. But I’m also not as well versed in all of the theory as many economists in the world.

But what I can do is take my understanding of both of these fields and integrate them together to not only design a cryptoasset, but ensure that it has a high chance of becoming an actual cryptocurrency. And that’s the kind of thinking that I’m employing in projects like World Builder.

Anyone Can Do It

Okay, so maybe not anyone, but I honestly think that the major difference between whether someone becomes a polymath or not is upbringing, rather than some kind of inherent trait. But even if there is a certain degree of aptitude or comfort level associated with why one might become a polymath, our education system really does make it prohibitive, as does our system of employment. Our entire childhood, into our early adult years is little more than grooming for a profession these days. We’re trained to focus on a single task, and do it efficiently and inexpensively so that companies can maximize results.

It’s useful for certain things, and there’s nothing wrong with being an expert in a single field. I’m amazed at the level of skill and dedication that some people devote to a profession. The traditional way that Japanese sushi chefs is a great example. But there are so many problems that we’re facing, and while it will likely take such trained people to implement the solutions to these problems, it will take polymaths to find them.

Final Thoughts

I really do think that the world is in need of more polymaths. There are just too many problems, and as many problems as have been solved over the years, the greatest test for humanity’s survival is very likely yet to have come. We’re not going to survive those solutions without more people who can see the bigger picture.

Originally published on Medium


About the author

Daniel Goldman

Visit my homepage. I am a polymath and a rōnin scholar with interests in many areas, including political science, economics, history, and philosophy. I've been writing about all of these topics, and others, for the past two decades.

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