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A generalist’s view of the world

["Walt's World with Walter Jones"]
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Walt's World with Walter Jones

Who do we put our faith in this hectic new world of instant communication, talking heads and so called experts, or perhaps the generalist?

I make no claim to be an expert on anything. I would describe myself as a generalist, or someone who knows a little about a lot of things. I will qualify this a bit if the experts stick to the here and now and don't go off on a need to predict the future. I find them the most believable, after all they are the people who know their field. It is just when they get into the prediction of future events I become a skeptic and with good reason here are some examples.

Time magazine back in 1966 predicted that although remote shopping is possible it will flop. I also remember that during the 1950s the Reader’s Digest predicted that when the earth's population reached 3 billion that world starvation would result and we would all perish. We are now over 8 billion.

The movie moguls, in 1946, predicted that television was a fad that would perish. Richard Flordia wrote the book,The Rise of the Urban Class, in which he preached that if cities worked to attract the artistic crowd to the slums they would transform them by renovating old buildings and bringing in new business to these areas.

He was right to a certain extent the slums were erased, but this drove out the poor who were barely surviving as it was. He has since written another book called, the new urban crisis, and in this book he admits he got it all wrong in his first book and says sorry.

Then there are doctors who take it upon themselves to tell the critically ill how long they have left to live. I am sure these health professionals mean well but they are not always great at getting it right.

An example was my wife's father who was sent to Halifax with very enlarged kidneys and was told by experts that he had cancer and six months to live. A few years later he had a bowel operation and was told there was no evidence of cancer in his kidneys, but that they were humongous in size.

As I see it an expert is blinded by what he knows and is not so apt to look outside his field of knowledge to try to see what other effects might happen. A generalist, and I put science fiction writers at the head of the class, are much better at seeing the future, than experts.

 

Walter Jones column appears weekly in the Amherst News.

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