Maybe it's because we live in the city, but these days we seem to be living in a world of specialists rather than multi-skilled generalists. We pay people to do stuff we used to do ourselves, either because we no longer have the skills, or the tools, or the time to do the job. And this worries me a little. It’s one of the reasons I wrote Sunstrike, to look at how stuck we might be if our present comfortable world shut down because solar flares had wiped out our technology. How many of us now know the basic survival skills we’d need?
Those highly-skilled IT specialists would be out of a job for a start with no functioning computers to work on. What other skills would they be able to trade if all their training had been focused on one small area of expertise? They’d have to learn fast or starve.
Stripped of our technology, we’d be functioning as physical human beings again rather than intellectual ones. Our daily needs would be food and water, not a faster internet or newer smart phone. Our social circle would reduce to those in our immediate vicinity because there’d be no way to contact anyone else. We’d actually talk face to face instead of texting, Skype or Facebook. We’d depend on the shared knowledge of just a few people.
In that situation, generalists would thrive. We know a little bit about a lot of things, so with no recourse to Google or a range of handy experts we’d still be able to muddle through. I guess what I’m saying is that everyone, no matter what their situation, should know how to look after themselves – to find and prepare food that doesn’t come out of a packet, to identify and deal with basic health problems, to be mentally and physically equipped to survive. It may not be the Sunstrike scenario that takes us down – it could be a localised natural disaster or some sinister human action, but we should be ready to cope.
These are the thoughts I cling to when feeling increasingly marginalised by younger, cleverer specialists who dazzle with their highly-skilled online interaction. Tweet that, you smart bastards!