Thursday, December 15, 2022


The other day on Twitter I ran across a Robert Heinlein quotation. The quotation was: "Specialization is for insects."

Now, Heinlein is probably my favorite author. I've read everything he's written (almost, there was a recent release I haven't read yet)(After reading his first postmortem release, not sure I want to). 

Heinlein had a huge influence on me, not just my writing but my life and politics. I wanted to name one of my kids "Alexander Heinlein Townsend." (My wife put the kybosh on that.)

So, it was hard for me to admit that, in this case, I don't agree with Mr. Heinlein!

The full quote is:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

And in a way, he has a point. People should be able to do lots of things to live a full life. But that list is... long. I can do maybe half of them. But I don't agree with the last sentence. Specialization has given us the civilization we have today. People specialize in their field and improve our lives. I don't want Elon Musk to be my doctor, for example. That's not his specialization. Doctors specialize and for good reason. Scientists specialize. You wouldn't want a biologist running the James Webb Space Telescope.

And there's a reason insects are so successful (there's thought to be 10,000,000,000,000,000,000* of them): specialization.

So, yes, be able to do a lot of things, but also specialize in your field to become the best you can be in that field. 

Do you agree with me or with Robert Heinlein. Let me know in the comments below.

*That's 10^19


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