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Seems to be much written in praise of polymaths these days, which makes me happy.

bbc.com/worklife/article/20191

During my undergrad I nominally studied literature but somehow got away with taking classes in 15 departments. I wound up working in Linux automation (though I never took a CS class). Any other aspiring polymaths out there?

@bkam Well, I developed a relativelly shallow knowledge of a wide breadth of things, but since I don't have a paper saying I know anything in particular detail, I ended up unemployed, and now I'm on a retraining program for factory labour.

I think polymathing is awesome if you can program, because pure programming skills without anything else is actually kinda useless.

@machado Sorry to hear that. I'm unemployed too, and don't know whether I can go back to work. It's my hope that the tide is changing for generalists though. Maybe the qualification thing will change too.

Interesting perspective about programmers. But do you not think that cross-domain knowledge is always useful?

@bkam Not really. Most of my knowledge pertains to things I have no way to interact with. And if you aren't gonna do anything with the information, being right is almost never worth disagreeing with the people around you, especially if you have no way to change their minds.

@bkam For example, my job training is in a very rural town, where people still believe in a very old meme that chinese women have a "sideways pussy". Nobody even knows what exactly that's supposed to mean, but trying to argue is only gonna make people not like you.

@machado @bkam Odd coincidence... I was just trying to convince my wife that people seriously say that and she thought I just made it up.

@machado What kind of subjects, if you don't mind me asking?

@bkam Useless subjects? International politics for the working class, developmental psychology for people who don't have kids, history and sociology for almost everyone, engineering for people who can't afford the relevant tools/toys.
Also, knowing the commercial/criminal back-end of popular stuff makes you a major buzzkill.

@bkam @machado Getting back to the topic. How does one cross from being a generalist to being a polymath? I'm above average at a great number of skills but does that count. Does absolute skill even matter? I've definitely got a polymath attitude if that's a thing.

@octesian @machado That article suggests what's required is a career which spans either 2+ or 3+ fields, depending who you ask.

I'd say there's no strict definition though (a bit like "expert" or "intellectual"). Here are some I've noted recently on Wikipedia, to give an idea:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Y
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benoit_M
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexande

@bkam @octesian I agree with that definition.
Polymath = expert in two or more unrelated fields
Generalist = basic level in many fields

@bkam @octesian However, I'm open to argument on whether the tool maker + tool user combo can be considered true polymathing. (for example, engineer musicians, or programmer anythings)

@machado @bkam What about Programmer / Industrial Engineer... They're unrelated academically, but they're both degrees in processes (broadly speaking).

@machado @bkam What I'm getting at is how different do they have to be to count? Can they be similar but differently recognized fields or do you basically have to win at the goat-crow-rat triangle? ribbonfarm.com/series/goats-cr

@bkam I've never taken a single computer-related workshop or course until this year, when I got sent for an "upgrading course" so I can start teaching Computing at senior high level next year. But everything they taught in that class I already learned from somewhere on the internet.

And to think it all started with anime fansubs ... I credit most of what I know about computers to the single-minded pursuit of anime, haha!

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