28 March 2010

"Specialization is for insects"

"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."

--Robert Heinlein

Via La Mia Bambina e Tecno

Addendum:While checking the source, I just found an outstanding compendium of Heinlein quotes at Wikiquotes.


  1. Robert Anson Heinlein was great. Even though the technology is a bit dated, most of his science was sound and his views on humanity are spot on.

  2. I love Heinlein - was reading "Friday" (again) today by coincidence and found the following prophetic passages where he anticipates the internet (in 1982!) including the addictiveness of random browsing:

    [all in Chapter 20]

    "There wasn't anything special about the equipment except that there were extra keys giving direct access to several major libraries such as Harvard's and the Washington Library of the Atlantic Union and the British Museum without going through a human or network linkup - plus the unique resource of direct access to Boss's library, the one right beside me. I could even read his bound paper books if I wanted to, on my terminal's screen, turning the pages from the keyboard and never taking the volume out of its nitrogen
    environment. -
    That morning I was speed-searching the index of the Tulane University library (one of the best in the Lone Star Republic), looking for history of Old Vicksburg, when I stumbled onto a cross-reference to spectral types of stars and found myself hooked. I don't recall why there was such a cross-referral but these do occur for the most unlikely reasons."


    "I went to my room and went on with French history since Louis Onze and that led me to the new colonies across the Atlantic and that led me into economics and that took me to Adam Smith and
    from there to political science. I concluded that Aristotle had had his good days but that Plato was a pretentious fraud and that led to my being called three times by the dining room"


    "The question was so complex that I might be left alone a long time while I studied it. That suited me; I had grown addicted to the possibilities of a terminal of a major computer hooked into a world research net"

  3. What political tag gets attached to that posted quote?
    --Spartan, perhaps?

  4. Friday was, I feel, the last authentic Heinlein the Writer of Sci-fi.

    I grew up on and adored his stuff, and I still enjoy going through it now and then, but the whole uber-mensch undertone displeases me these days.

    Some people are born to be specialists, and do amazing things with their specialties.

    That said, is anyone *A* specialist? Doesn't everyone acquire a range of skills? Some more than others, but still.

    I recall a discussion on a post a few weeks back where we debated aboriginal/traditional methods versus other methods. Some folks like things to Stay the Same; some need Something New every day.

    I am one of those persons whose hair prickles when someone says "A human being should be able to" anything. Only thing we have to do is live and someday die. The rest is optional.

  5. I first read this quote in "The Notebooks of Lazarus Long", a wonderful compilation of Mr. Long's best. One of my favorites -- "Rub her feet."


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