A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.  Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, I present one of McLuhan’s observations and talk about its relevance today.  300 ideas. 300 days.  300 posts.

Beware the specialist!

Marshall McLuhan (1967, age 65/66). What is a specialist?

As I was telling Howard Gossage just as a drama is a technology for delivering tragedy, a specialist is a technology for delivering his specialty.  Architects solve problems with buildings, surgeons solve problems with surgery, and lawyers solve problems with law suits.  Generalists have a great advantage over specialists because they are not committed by their training to particular solutions.

Me (June 2010, age 57). Howard Gossage explains …

Marshall McLuhan liked to assert ideas but he did not like to explain them.  In McLuhan: Hot and Cool (pp. 28-29) Howard Gossage makes an attempt to provide an explanation for McLuhan’s idea that the specialists goal is to advance their specialty not to solve your problems.

“Once you take a problem to a specialist you are wired in to a specialist’s solution.  However well executed it is, the odds are against its being a real answer.  Let us say your company is having growing pains, and is uncomfortable in its present quarters.  So you go to an architect.  Let us also suppose that he is a very good architect …  So he inquires after your needs, your ambitions, your hopes, your fears, what manner of people you are, etc.  Do you know what you are going to end up with?  A building.  Now, a building, however nice, may not be the answer to your problem at all.  Perhaps the real answer is to stop expanding,  or fire the traffic manager, or [have] everyone stay home and do cottage work connected by closed circuit TV.” (pp. 28-29.)

Cordially, Marshall and Me

What do you think?  Should we beware of specialists?


Reading for this post

Howard Luck Gossage, “You can see why the mighty would be curious.”  In McLuhan: Hot and Cool, edited by Gerald Emanuel Stearn.


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Michael Hinton Friday, June 25th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Business, Education, Vol. 1 1 Comment

1 Comment to Beware the specialist!

  • The Winnipeg School of Media Ecology says:

    “the answer is always in the question …

    The Winnipeg School of Media Ecology


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