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Thread: The end of the Renaissance man

  1. #1
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    The end of the Renaissance man

    Quote Originally posted by Duke Of Dystopia View post
    The problem, is that the body of knowledge the world acquires doubles about every 18 - 24 months at this point. It is hard to stay current.
    This is another phenomenon that a number of different sci-fi authors have delved into at length. This process really began in earnest during the 19th century and has rapidly gained momentum ever since. We have increasingly become a society of specialists. At one point in history it was possible for a particularly gifted individual to be an 'expert' in many/most fields of human endeavor; the quitessential 'Renaissance man'. The sheer volume of knowlege/data has long since made that impossible. Colleges and departments within university have with some consistency trended towards greater autonomy and less interconnection (certainly within the administrative realms) - no longer do we have 'science', but rather sciences.

    This trend should cause folks a fair amount of anxiety when you consider the implications in terms of leadership that this enormous fracturing of knowlege imposes. It's hard to devise intelligent rules or direction when one individual's capacity to comprehend the totality of how it alll 'fits together' diminshes daily.

    This idea alone is probably worth its own thread. In fact I think it just became one.

    I once heard a scientist at a local pharmaceutical company complaining that their bosses had bachelors or masters degrees in business and were 'calling the shots', whereas they held PhD's in various disciplines and therefore those 'dummies' in management should have no right to order them around.
    Last edited by Maister; 06 Jan 2009 at 1:13 PM.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Should I rant on the "People are just Lazy" topic? Nah, I'll go a different direction while conveniently placed my laziness comment at the top...


    SIMPLY PUT: There's just too much going on.

    I saw something on History Channel the other day that said that the 20th Century had more inventions and advancements than all the combined centuries preceding it.
    Also, we are constantly bombarded with information: new diets, new fitness plans, new knowledge bases, new lifestyles.

    It is hard to keep up. With all this new knowledge, it is hard for people to grasp it all therefore specialization comes in.

    I am remembering my Dad and Grandfather around the house or work when I was a kid. They seemed to know everything. I marveled at my father’s seemingly endless knowledge of fixing things around the house. A landscaper by trade, he worked on our cars, built our deck, fixed plumbing and electricity, even helped with putting in a tile floor.
    Now, when a problem around the house comes up, you call a "specialist" (electrician, plumber, etc) to fix it for you. This has disappeared.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  3. #3
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by zmanPLAN View post
    I am remembering my Dad and Grandfather around the house or work when I was a kid. They seemed to know everything. I marveled at my father’s seemingly endless knowledge of fixing things around the house. A landscaper by trade, he worked on our cars, built our deck, fixed plumbing and electricity, even helped with putting in a tile floor.
    Now, when a problem around the house comes up, you call a "specialist" (electrician, plumber, etc) to fix it for you. This has disappeared.
    But there are probably many, many things that you understand and know how to do that your Dad or Grandfather couldn't comprehend.

    We don't need to be our parents. My Dad can do anything around a house. Sure, it would be nice for me to be able to do it, but my time is more valuable in other areas. My Dad never took me to the park and rarely to a movie, maybe because he was so busy fixing things around the house. Luckily, I have enough money to pay someone else to do these things and I get to spend more time with my kids. It's all about tradeoffs.

    That being said, there is no excuse for not having a basic understanding of things.

    (done playing devil's advocate to Zman )
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

  4. #4
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by btrage View post
    (done playing devil's advocate to Zman ) [/SIZE]
    I like it, Friend, don't worry. It is good to have a counterpart.

    And what you say is true; thinking about my dad around a computer, or dealing with a room full of HOA people, or writing an insightful and knowledgable post on Cyburbia would be difficult for him.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Duke Of Dystopia's avatar
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    Reading something like Discover Magazine and learning to use some tools is a GREAT start. Then adding a hobby or two where you try different construction techniques is the next step. Hell, knowing it can be done is half the battle.
    I can't deliver UTOPIA, but I can create a HELL for you to LIVE in :)DoD:(

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    Cyburbian ofos's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Duke Of Dystopia View post
    Reading something like Discover Magazine and learning to use some tools is a GREAT start. Then adding a hobby or two where you try different construction techniques is the next step. Hell, knowing it can be done is half the battle.
    Agreed. Acquire and learn to use and maintain a full set of hand (non-electric) tools. I'd suggest saws, chisels, axes, planes, and of course, hammers and screwdrivers at a minimum . Good quality used ones are relatively cheap. If (when) there are prolonged major power outages, you'll be a renaissance man while everyone else is looking for batteries.
    “Death comes when memories of the past exceed the vision for the future.”

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    It most technological societies, it is hard to be a "Renaissance Man" for the reasons stated above. I think in the less technological societies, it not only possible, but a necessity. I also think in own scoeity it is possible, but you have to make the choice to do so.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Duke Of Dystopia's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ofos View post
    Agreed. Acquire and learn to use and maintain a full set of hand (non-electric) tools. I'd suggest saws, chisels, axes, planes, and of course, hammers and screwdrivers at a minimum . Good quality used ones are relatively cheap. If (when) there are prolonged major power outages, you'll be a renaissance man while everyone else is looking for batteries.
    As a measure to how things have changed. Try finding a complete list of pioneer tools as might have been carried by settlers headed to California on the overland route. I tried a few weeks back and had little success. I did find that most of their tools were made as necessary with just the necessary parts being retained.

    A good discussion of what tools are needed in a pinch occurs in Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land.
    I can't deliver UTOPIA, but I can create a HELL for you to LIVE in :)DoD:(

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    Homer Simpson quote, "Oh, I've eaten eight different meats. I am a true renaissance man."
    "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less" General Eric Shinseki

  10. #10
    Cyburbian ofos's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Duke Of Dystopia View post
    As a measure to how things have changed. Try finding a complete list of pioneer tools as might have been carried by settlers headed to California on the overland route. I tried a few weeks back and had little success. I did find that most of their tools were made as necessary with just the necessary parts being retained.

    A good discussion of what tools are needed in a pinch occurs in Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land.
    If you're really interested in pioneer tools, get a copy of A Museum of Early American Tools by Eric Sloane. Originally printed in 1964 and reprinted a number of times since then, it's profusely illustrated with old hand tools from a number of occupations and also gives you insights into how they are used.
    “Death comes when memories of the past exceed the vision for the future.”

  11. #11
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    I think there may be a new era opening up for a modern type of Renaissance Person. Many of the challenges facing us as a society will require solutions by thinkers who are able to bridge the territory among specializations. I feel we have reached a juncture where many approaches to basic issues (like energy and transportation, to take two) need to be rethought in some dramatic ways. Older ways of doing things will not stand much longer and so the new systems, I believe, will be ones that incorporate a vast, cross-disciplinary set of tools, reframing the problems and developing innovative systemic solutions. These solutions may require the efforts of people who know a little about a lot of things - engineering, planning, sociology, economics, construction, design, and other things I am not even thinking of. And it probably won't be one person providing solutions, but teams because the degree of sophistication requires many brains working together. Maybe that is how we evolve - from Renaissance Men to Renaissance Teams (which will include women, too...)

    All that being said, I enjoy a good manual tool, frontier living and growing my own food. I might call myself a neo-traditionalist. I like this get-your-hands dirty work, but I also appreciate being able to learn how to do these things by looking info up on line, for example.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  12. #12
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ofos View post
    If you're really interested in pioneer tools, get a copy of A Museum of Early American Tools by Eric Sloane. Originally printed in 1964 and reprinted a number of times since then, it's profusely illustrated with old hand tools from a number of occupations and also gives you insights into how they are used.

    I have that book. It is pretty neat. You can learn what the heck the old saying "dull as a froe" means.

    My mother's family are sugar cane farmers. Every year on the annual report are the wages paid. Among the workers is a "blacksmith". He repairs the farm machinery, but no engine work. There are mechanics for engine work..

    Back in the day, a blacksmith was a renaissance man. He made horseshoes and put them on the horses, fashioned all sorts of tools from guns to axes and knives, to froes, shovels and plows. The Bowie knife was first made in a blacksmith's shop. Many of the inventors of the Industrial Revolution starts as blacksmiths.

    A town in the West could get along without a lawyer or even a doctor. But every community needed a blacksmith.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  13. #13
    Dick Proenneke was a Renaissance Man, par excellence. If you have any interest in Alaska, nature in general, wilderness, common sense, or self-reliance, I dare say you can't watch 30 seconds of this program and not be hooked.
    On pitching to Stan Musial:
    "Once he timed your fastball, your infielders were in jeopardy."
    Warren Spahn

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