Hyperspecialization and Nanotech Lawyering

Friday, March 17, 2006

One of the perils of being a lawyer is that these creatures are being forced to deeply specialize in their particular branches of law. So specialized so that he may know a slightest change of coma and dot in parking tickets. Specialize, Specialize, Specialize! Specialization is always being perceived as the Prometheus of knowledge and the source of comparative advantage. Is that so?
The dei-fication toward specialization was probably triggered by Peter Drucker's statement quite a long time ago:
"Whatever the base, knowledge in application is specialized. It is always specific, and therefore not applicable to anything else. Nothing the X-ray technician needs to know can be applied to market research, for instance, or to teaching medieval history. The central work force in the knowledge society will, therefore, consist of highly specialized people. In fact, it is a mistake to speak of generalists. What we mean by that term, increasingly, will be people who have learned how to acquire additional specialties, and especially to acquire rapidly the specialized knowledge needed for them to move from one kind of work and job to another, e.g., from being a market researcher into general management, or from being a nurse in a hospital into hospital administration. But generalists in the sense in which we used to talk of them are becoming dilettantes rather than educated people."
I am afraid that Drucker statement above has been misinterpreted and misapplied by managers, partners and CEOs, so that it leads to hyper-specialization. There's a good post by Francois Gossieaux's in hist blog a couple of days ago:
"First off, hyper-specialization may very well stand in the way of breakthrough innovation. Indeed, most breakthrough innovations happen not at one level of specialization - but they increasingly happen at the confluence of multiple disciplines. People who have the capacity to scan across multiple businesses or vast amounts of information, and who can translate innovations from one field to the next are as likely, if not more, to come up with breakthrough innovations as the specialists.... Worse, in hyper-specialized environments, you could conceive that the hyper-specialists will not understand the impact of their actions on the broader picture - which can have especially dire consequences when it comes down to environmental impact of innovation."
The Brand Builder say it in a more cogent way:
"Don't get me wrong: Hyper-specialists make fantastic technicians. They know no equal when it comes to performing highly precise repetitive tasks - from calibrating sensitive machinery and preparing your taxes to applying clean sutures or landing an F-18 on a wind-tossed carrier. But when it comes to strategy, innovation, leadership and creating lasting brands, hyper specialists tend to have little to offer outside of their narrow range of expertise."
Sounds familiar?
Nanotechnology, I believe, is not about chemistry, physics, computer science or biology alone. Nanotechnology Law, I believe, is not only about intellectual property, environmental or personal law separately. We are going to enter the future where sciences are defragmenting and un-localized. Let's not forget that our very own "science" of the law existed because of intersections between areas of sciences. There will be no banking law without finance. No space law without astronomy, no environmental law without ecology, no computer law without computer, and certainly, no Nanotechnology Law without nanotech.
Creativity and Invention started by thinking outside the box (I'd prefer to call it "thinking without the box"). It's like seeing how bird flies can be applied to aeronautics by Wright brothers. Its like seeing how enzyms and DNA manufacturing in our own body system can be applied to "dry" physics in Molecular Nanotechnology. The key of these ideas is one: analogical-divergent thinking. A level of thinking done by getting out of our own comfort zone and apply other's point of view to ours.
And thats how Nanotechnology Law will develop. In order to create the legal infrastructure for the world of tomorrow, creative lawyers have tried to build models of parenthood law from IP law and Nanotech Law from Space Law.
As the Brand Builder concludes:
"When you don't stop to look around once in a while, when you only stick to what you know, you lose your ability to see anything outside of what you want to see. You stop learning. You stop innovating. You stop growing as a professional. As a person. As an artist. As a leader. It's the hyper-specialist's trap, and it's a dangerous one. This is the kind of stuff that can invalidate an illustrious career in one misguided speech or article. It can destroy brands inside of a couple of years....Scary? You bet."
Of course, Drucker's relevance will need to be reexamined to adopt to the future world. But I guess he wasn't mistaken when he said that we need specialization. Specialization and interdisciplinary approach is required but hyper-specialization is wrong. In one of his statement, Drucker did said:
"This is particularly important as innovation in any one knowledge area tends to originate outside the area itself..... The new approaches to the study of history have, for instance, come out of economics, psychology and archeology all disciplines that historians never considered relevant to their field and to which they had rarely before been exposed....... By itself, specialized knowledge yields no performance."
Mohamad Mova Al 'Afghani