Review: Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Range is one of those books that speak to me as someone who has often had trouble delving so deep into something enough to be called a specialist. The crux of his argument is that while the goal to get kids (and adults) on the right track in life, we have overwhelming moved into the realm of trying to raise specialists and not generalists. The result is that we miss out on a lot since inspiration and breakthroughs often arise through seeing across different domains of knowledge and making connections, often by way of analogy. Thus, the book is peppered with examples time and again of historical and contemporary people who have done this in fields from astrophysics to biology to professional sports to artistic creation and musical talents. Epstein's work reminds me very much of the adage that when all you have is a hammer, every solution begins to look like a nail. In that regard,I thnk he is onto emphasizing the importance of wandering. In a neoliberal capitalist society such as the United States, the opportunity to wander in many learning spaces is increasingly diminished or eliminated (e.g. Epstein points how grants are increasingly focused on a specific tangible product rather than discovery for discovery sake; the result is that we miss the abundant opportunities where Discovery 1 in Field A, leads to Revelatory Discovery 2 in Field B, C, and D), and the result is an increasing stagnation in what can be considered breakthroughs in a variety of fields. For those interested in thinking about human progress, this book provides insights into how it advances and for those interested in their own development, it is useful to keep in mind that having a broad range of knowledge can be equally important.

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