The point is that you must be able to draw from multiple disciplines and connect dots that might seem unrelated at first, but in fact aren't. And this I believe, is what the future of education must accomplish, as an integrated, multidisciplinary and holistic approach towards everything, especially since everything keeps getting more and more connected.
At present, many people specialize by virtue of market demands. But many of these market demands are and will continue to be met with increased levels of automation, and so human-beings who specialize in one particular thing or field, are particularly at risk of becoming unemployed. Consider a PhD student in chemistry for example; someone who has basically only studied chemistry for years. How much mobility in the system does such a skillset warrant, in terms of participating in domains outside of chemistry? Whereas someone with skills and understanding in science, communication, psychology, group behavior, history, leadership and law has a lot more mobility and flexibility in terms of capacity to execute, problem solve and effectively operate in various domains and disciplines, as well as cooperate with people of very diverse culture and specialty. Even such demanding and complex professions as those relating to chemistry, programming, medicine, engineering and law are at risk. With enhanced diagnostics by means of machine learning/artificial intelligence and 3D printing, there is a great chance that even such meticulous and demanding work will become automated to a considerable extent. What this means is that a specialist has a very limited future in the system.
As the world gets increasingly more interconnected, various disciplines are integrating, overlapping and intersecting, which will increase the level of complexity, and so obviously problem solving will become a very important skill, as it always has been. So why is a multidisciplinary approach to education so important in order to develop the skill of problem solving?
Because it gives you a more deep and wide reference framework for considering the causes and effects of problems, and thus find alignments between these points in order to articulate solutions. It improves your ability to consider things from multiple perspectives at the same time, as well as measure various ripple effects, as you can consider how those manifests through different domains and collective relationships. It also makes you more able to consider seemingly diametrically opposite views in terms of similarities. Because as a multi-disciplinarian, you will recognize how two opposite views can be accurate at the same time, from different perspectives (something that might illuminate the political debate?). You learn to think more holistically around problems and solutions. You become someone that can integrate things, which means you will make sense out of things. And this is something that will always be in demand. Especially in a highly complex and interconnected world that in many cases - does not make sense.
The current approach to education is largely based on specialization, which is obviously a very foundational problem when the markets are evolving faster than the education systems; as the education is meant to prepare the student for the marketplace, but alas - the student finds that there is no alignment between the education/preparation he/she went through and the actual market place grim physical reality.
And it is particularly difficult for an eager young mind that is trapped in this type of preparation system. Because based on the current and collectively accepted and allowed market conditions, and the education systems that are supposed to be designed to serve as infrastructure in creating/improving the marketplace, we directly and indirectly force children as well as adults to define themselves within one specific category of work or field, which is frustratingly limiting for a person that might care about many different types of disciplines and want to use all of them in their work life.
And I would further argue that this type of education, that is primarily based on specialization, really limits the self-image of the student. A student who sees him or herself as a specialist, will inevitably become trapped in a comfort zone, not only of the mind, but also professionally. A multi-disciplinarian will on the other hand have mobility, confidence and flexibility, by virtue of approach. Because in the multidisciplinary students head, there are considerations of many different things and opportunities, outside of the current circle of competence. Because the self-image is not restricted to one thing or field. All in all, the multi-disciplinary approach creates a psychology of creativity, self-trust and competence. The multidisciplinary mind can walk through a lot of human territory without the dissonance of feeling totally insecure or out of depth, and it is in such a state a human-being gets real productive and constructive.
I also want to emphasize that this is actually not particularly unusual a preference for a human being, but commensurate to the natural. Everyone naturally wants to expand in their understanding, application, capacity, experimentation and responsibility. It is just a matter of encouraging and imprinting this type of mind-set early on. The beauty of humanity is that we forever more want to expand, grow and realize our potential. And if you look at various people who have made successful contributions to mankind, there is this underlying pattern of a multi-disciplinary approach. They read everything they could get their hands on, not just things that seemed relevant based on their current knowledge and understanding. In short, they read because of the thing they didn’t know, as oppose to about the things they knew.
Many of our innovations came to be by total accidental flimsies of man’s hunt for the unknown. Someone broke the rules of the classroom by thinking outside of it and crossing, blending and mixing disciplines. All of a sudden in the middle of a classroom for example, when he or she should’ve paid attention to the chemistry teacher; started thinking about how to create an interface between the mind and the physical that could stabilize the world in a long term strategic way. This thought would most definitely not have occurred unless the person could draw connections between various disciplines. The point is, we get to major breakthroughs and realization when we let go of our ideas and preconceived notions of how to get there and we jump from discipline to discipline. And it is in this process of integrating seemingly unrelated disciplines we got to innovation and creativity.
Think about it this way, if you look at a singular variable; not for long you will see that it is connected to an additional point/variable, then a network, that is part of systems and so it goes. Everything becomes part of a greater picture, and it is through understanding how it fits together, we see opportunities for solutions, alignments and creativity, interaction and cooperation. Life is about making connections. Its about integration.
Context is everything, and you have to understand the context you are in; in order to make connections. So anything that helps you understand the context you are in is relevant and as a multi-disciplinarian you have so much more to draw from in order to deduce that context.
But let me clarify, obviously you can be a multi-disciplinarian even though you specialize, and I would argue that it would in fact help you specialize, by virtue of the contrast it affords your perspective. But I mainly wrote this article because I want this to be considered in terms of early stage development, as education control self-image. And self-image controls everything you do. So if you see yourself as a chemist, truck driver, leader, expert or perhaps just a humble student – you will behave in ways that are commensurate with those self-definitions. And it is here we want to emphasize that you should see yourself as a multi-disciplinarian, for then your self-image may be deep and broad. And as such, so will your actions. At length when we really begin to challenge the current state of education, we will look at how to create effective self-definitions that empowers people, and that are based on facts, not perceptions. But for now this is sufficient to argue the importance for a new more multidisciplinary approach towards ones education.
Below are some of our current public considerations for policy suggestions.
A subject need to be created as a means of support in helping one deal with all other subjects. Let’s call it a toolkit for intellectual self-defense, shall we?
This toolkit should be designed based on factual awareness and understanding of how determining factors of human judgment influence perception when one study things unknown.
In other words, what are de common denominators that make a person a good student no matter in what field the student focus? This is the question that shows that what is required is not specific knowledge, but attributes that help one deal with all kinds of knowledge; attributes such as humbleness, teachability, critical thinking, attention-span, pattern-recognition, judgment, delayed-gratification, patience etcetera. These are the type of qualities that help you excel in all fields of endeavor and it is thus the type of stuff that makes for a framework that inspires a multi-disciplinary mindset and way of life that can support you in all fields and areas of life.
I am talking about a subject that will cover all subjects, to a certain extent. Take cognitive biases for illustrative purposes. There are standard causes for human misjudgment that are unconscious and thus automatic, such as cognitive biases. If you do not understand or even know about these inherent blind spots in psychology, you will naturally be ruled by them.
So what is needed are multi-disciplinary frameworks based on the determining factors for how human beings relate to things. This framework must be able to be applied in relation to everything, not just one field, which is the marvelous thing with psychology. You can't really avoid it.
It’s time we get to the causes of things and that is impossible without a toolkit to discern the truth. Because as we all deeply know, just because one believe something to be true, doesn't make it so.
We must think in terms of how to see through the mind, not merely because of it. Education should teach the student to see through her own limitations, perceptions, reactions, thoughts, emotions and feelings. But to get at least some practicality in to this very abstract subject of the multidisciplinary approach, let’s consider what this framework needs in order to help people operate more like multi-disciplinarians in a beneficial way.
Let’s first list all the subjects we need to integrate into this one subject, for the development of a multi-disciplinary approach.
- Cognitive Biases
- Intellectual Accountability
What we are talking about is the development of self-awareness based on facts, not perceptions. This article is meant to serve as a hint of what’s to come. We will be more forthright with specific suggestions for how to create this subject and then naturally, we want to test it and thereby discover what is worthy to keep.