Chapter 6An Alternative System

The previous chapter proposed nothing less than a cognitive revolution – an emancipation of the Self from a policy of perpetual dehumanisation by the system. Ultimately though, the problem of specialisation is systemic and will thus require a systemic solution. So this section is for the attention of those in a position to influence the way we perceive and define society, education, work and, importantly, the future. Do we want a handful of polymaths in control of the future, or do we want to finally unleash the polymathic potential of all human beings?

Society

A community of minds

One of the main reasons so many polymaths were produced by the great civilisations in history (aside from the fact that that is where human achievement was most likely to be recorded) is that most empires (such as the Ottoman, Roman and British) grew to include and assimilate peoples of various cultures, world views, languages and ideas. The diversity of social interaction that an individual would have engaged in would most definitely have triggered a process of social and intellectual hybridity. Ronald Burt concludes the same in his Social Origin of Good Ideas:

People who live in the intersection of social worlds are at high risk of having good ideas … People connected to otherwise segregated groups are more likely to be familiar with alternative ways of thinking and behaving which gives them the option of selecting and synthesizing alternatives.

In his book ...

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