Range
“Urgent and important. . . an essential read for bosses, parents, coaches, and anyone who cares about improving performance.” —Daniel H. Pink“So much crucial and revelatory information about performance, success, and education.” —Susan Cain, bestselling author of Quiet A powerful argument for how to succeed in any field: develop broad interests and skills while everyone around you is rushing to specialize. Plenty of experts argue that anyone who wants to develop a skill, play an instrument, or lead their field should start early, focus intensely, and rack up as many hours of deliberate practice as possible. If you dabble or delay, you'll never catch up to the people who got a head start. But a closer look at research on the world's top performers, from professional athletes to Nobel laureates, shows that early specialization is the exception, not the rule.David Epstein examined the world's most successful athletes, artists, musicians, inventors, forecasters and scientists. He discovered that in most fields--especially those that are complex and unpredictable--generalists, not specialists, are primed to excel. Generalists often find their path late, and they juggle many interests rather than focusing on one. They're also more creative, more agile, and able to make connections their more specialized peers can't see.Provocative, rigorous, and engrossing, Range makes a compelling case for actively cultivating inefficiency. Failing a test is the best way to learn. Frequent quitters end up with the most fulfilling careers. The most impactful inventors cross domains rather than deepening their knowledge in a single area. As experts silo themselves further while computers master more of the skills once reserved for highly focused humans, people who think broadly and embrace diverse experiences and perspectives will increasingly thrive.

Range Details

TitleRange
Author
ReleaseMay 28th, 2019
PublisherRiverhead Books
ISBN-139780735214484
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Business, Psychology, Education, Self Help

Range Review

  • Michael Perkins
    January 1, 1970
    The story of the new U.S. Open golf winner illustrates part of the thesis of this book. A range of experience is sometimes better than over-specialization. In the book, Roger Federer is another example.https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/17/sp...=======================This passage describes a key finding that is central to the book....James Flynn, is a professor of political studies in New ZealandFlynn’s great disappointment is the degree to which society, and particularly higher education, has resp The story of the new U.S. Open golf winner illustrates part of the thesis of this book. A range of experience is sometimes better than over-specialization. In the book, Roger Federer is another example.https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/17/sp...=======================This passage describes a key finding that is central to the book....James Flynn, is a professor of political studies in New ZealandFlynn’s great disappointment is the degree to which society, and particularly higher education, has responded to the broadening of the mind by pushing specialization, rather than focusing early training on conceptual, transferable knowledge. Flynn conducted a study in which he compared the grade point averages of seniors at one of America’s top state universities, from neuroscience to English majors, to their performance on a test of critical thinking. The test gauged students’ ability to apply fundamental abstract concepts from economics, social and physical sciences, and logic to common, real-world scenarios. Flynn was bemused to find that the correlation between the test of broad conceptual thinking and GPA was about zero. In Flynn’s words, “the traits that earn good grades at [the university] do not include critical ability of any broad significance.”“Even the best universities aren’t developing critical intelligence,” he said. “They aren’t giving students the tools to analyze the modern world, except in their area of specialization. Their education is too narrow.”As a patient, I see this in medicine. My father practiced medicine for 40 years. He used to say that medicine was as much an art as a science. The art is gone. No doctor I've encountered knows how to take a good patient history. Many times, as a result of my own research, I've asked my doctors "what about X?" "Oh, good idea!" Shouldn't they have the ability and knowledge to bring these issues up themselves? But this is true in many fields. I have a friend who has been teaching a Western Civ course (among others) for many years now. He tries to make it entertaining to keep the attention of the students. They learn factoids about Socrates and Napoleon (that are likely to be quickly forgotten after the final exam), but not how to think. Meanwhile, the longer he has been at this the more he has lost his own critical thinking capacity and been cut off from the real world.---------in late 2014, a team of German scientists published a study showing that members of their national team, which had just won the World Cup, were typically late specializers who didn’t play more organized soccer than amateur-league players until age twenty-two or later. They spent more of their childhood and adolescence playing non-organized soccer and other sports.It's not about the mythical 10,000 hours. The reason that elite athletes seem to have superhuman reflexes is that they recognize patterns of ball or body movements that tell them what’s coming before it happens. As the greatest hockey player in history, Wayne Gretzky, said: “I skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” Same is true of Steph Curry, who views the basketball court as a rapidly moving chessboard. He sees several moves ahead. ----------When we know the rules and answers, and they don’t change over time—chess, golf, playing classical music—an argument can be made for savant-like hyperspecialized practice from day one. But those are poor models of most things humans want to learn. Meanwhile, advances in artificial intelligence have already shown that rules-based human jobs will be the first to go the more A.I. is implemented. This reality was made shockingly obvious when a computer defeated the world champion Gary Kasparov in chess. ----------RE: parents, psychologist Adam Grant noted that creativity may be difficult to nurture, but it is easy to thwart. He pointed to a study that found an average of six household rules for typical children, compared to one in households with extremely creative children.Darwin's father was a doctor who wanted his son to become a doctor. Darwin lasted only half a semester in med school. He turned to the church. He was a Bible literalist at the time, and figured he would become a clergyman. He bounced around classes, including a botany course with a professor who subsequently recommended him for an unpaid position aboard the HMS Beagle. After convincing his father that he would not become a deadbeat if he took this one detour, he experienced perhaps the most impactful post-college gap year in history. Decades later, Darwin reflected on the process of self-discovery. “It seems ludicrous that I once intended to be a clergyman,” he wrote.----------A recent international Gallup survey of more than two hundred thousand workers in 150 countries reported that 85 percent were either “not engaged” with their work or “actively disengaged.” In that condition, according to Seth Godin, quitting takes a lot more guts than continuing to be carried along like debris on an ocean wave. The trouble, Godin noted, is that humans are bedeviled by the “sunk cost fallacy.” Having invested time or money in something, we are loath to leave it, because that would mean we had wasted our time or money, even though it is already gone.----------There is “perverse inverse relationship” between fame and accuracy. The more likely an expert was to have his or her predictions featured on op-ed pages and television, the more likely they were always wrong. Paul Ehrlich's "Population Bomb" is an infamous example. He appeared on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show" (20x), gave congressional testimony, and his theory was heavily sold in a cover article in The New Republic. The end result of this crisis, Ehrlich asserted, would be global nuclear war.----------The hedgehogs, according to Tetlock, “toil devotedly” within one tradition of their specialty, “and reach for formulaic solutions to ill-defined problems.” Outcomes did not matter; they were proven right by both successes and failures, and burrowed further into their ideas. It made them outstanding at predicting the past, but dart-throwing chimps at predicting the future.---------the opposite of flexible intelligence is cognitive entrenchment.....Researchers in Canada and the United States began a 2017 study by asking a politically diverse and well-educated group of adults to read arguments confirming their beliefs about controversial issues. When participants were then given a chance to get paid if they read contrary arguments, two-thirds decided they would rather not even look at the counterarguments, never mind seriously entertain them.---------I liked the first 10 chapters of this book. In chapters 11 & 12 the author turns it into business book with some extremely tedious cases studies that they do in MBA programs. It reminded why I don't like and never read business books. So this a caveat for this book that removes one star from the rating.==================I'd like to recommend this excellent companion book which is some aspects is better than the one above. But both go nicely together.https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4...
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  • Mark
    January 1, 1970
    Disclosure: I won this pre-release copy in a drawing from the publisher.The book wasn't badly written, but for me it was something of a slog. I've enjoyed similar books in this genre more, the sort of pop-psychology-self-help mashup including books like "Willpower" (Baumeister/Tierney), "The Upside of Down" (McArdle), "The Power of Habit" (Duhigg), among others. There was nothing distracting in the style of "Range" that failed to work for me. But the presentation often left me wanting more, argu Disclosure: I won this pre-release copy in a drawing from the publisher.The book wasn't badly written, but for me it was something of a slog. I've enjoyed similar books in this genre more, the sort of pop-psychology-self-help mashup including books like "Willpower" (Baumeister/Tierney), "The Upside of Down" (McArdle), "The Power of Habit" (Duhigg), among others. There was nothing distracting in the style of "Range" that failed to work for me. But the presentation often left me wanting more, arguing in my head against the point the author was making. It often felt like being led down a garden path, and asked to ignore things on the edge of the trail as meaningless distractions.Part of the challenge confronting the author was in tackling a deconstructed subject. In the opening chapter, Tiger Woods and Roger Federer are presented as juxtapositions in how to become the best in their respective sports. Woods is raised on golf obsessively from an early age, while Federer is allowed to explore all sports, until he settles on tennis much later. Woods exemplifies the narrow specialist, while Federer stands in for the generalist. As a reader, I kept complaining that they were both raised on sports generally, and that both were clearly encouraged to develop talents by sports-obsessive homes.And the reading went on in this spirit throughout, with quite impressive, accomplished individuals described in broad outlines, predominantly having achieved success as apparent outsiders rather than very, very narrow specialists who had rarely been permitted to pursue interests beyond the narrow confines. This often felt like an anecdote held up as a contrast to a caricature. The supporting research mentioned frequently felt more vague than persuasive. And as a result, for me the book was mostly frustrating.It was not all a loss, however, as the author certainly shows significant benefit of applying far-flung knowledge to unanticipated problems. He clearly demonstrates the tendency of narrow specialists in our increasingly specialized society to become blinkered by their own learning to the point that they can no longer step outside their fields for a fresh view from a different perspective. He also shows how institutions like NASA can succumb to a narrow-minded, specialist group-think.I can't say that I regret pushing myself to read all the way through. But I felt I didn't get any particular insights from it, much less suggestions for how to get greater range, or how to make better use of my own more generalist background. Yet it may well benefit readers who've come to believe that specialization is all there is or should be in life.
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  • Katy
    January 1, 1970
    I received my copy free through Goodreads Giveaways
  • Lou
    January 1, 1970
    Some non-fiction can be boring and even useless, but this is a work of non-fiction that everyone should read; I certainly got a lot out of it and feel many others will too. Offering a wide-ranging wealth of information and research Epstein shares data, as well as his opinion, on how to become and stay successful in a constantly evolving world. What surprised me a lot was how compulsively readable it was and despite being a work of non-fiction Epstein can sure engage you in an almost mesmerising Some non-fiction can be boring and even useless, but this is a work of non-fiction that everyone should read; I certainly got a lot out of it and feel many others will too. Offering a wide-ranging wealth of information and research Epstein shares data, as well as his opinion, on how to become and stay successful in a constantly evolving world. What surprised me a lot was how compulsively readable it was and despite being a work of non-fiction Epstein can sure engage you in an almost mesmerising way with his narrative.For many years we have been told that specialisation in a certain area, whilst foregoing most or all others, is the key to success — theories such as the 10,000 hours rule prevail for now, but this book goes some way to rebutting and changing that view. Citing the latest research and referencing famous figures the author pens a thought-provoking and essential read for our times. It's an intensely engaging and fascinating book packed with accessible tidbits of knowledge and Epstein explains things in an understandable and eminently readable fashion. Range is a book I will remember for it's helpful, novel ideas and its important message that all is not lost should you not have spent those hours plugging away in a specialised field. Highly recommended. Many thanks to Macmillan for an ARC.
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  • Peter Mcloughlin
    January 1, 1970
    Covers the idea of having a wide range of knowledge outside one's specialty helps people succeed. Often new ideas come from thinking analogically about things unrelated to what one is looking at. Has lots of case studies that make the argument that having a wide range of experiences can help with one's endeavors.
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  • Mehrsa
    January 1, 1970
    This book is a useful mythbuster--grit, 10,000 hours, deliberate practice, tiger moms--this book says forget all of that (*sort of). Try lots of things, read broadly, and fail lots of times. I agree with this formula for success. Specialization is boring. *I think there is something to being obsessive once you are in the right track. Once you figure out the project or sport, you need to focus. This doesn't go against the thesis of the book, but he wasn't explicit about it
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  • Anmiryam
    January 1, 1970
    Everyone--butcher, baker, candlestick maker; teacher, student, scientist, business analyst; parent, job hunter, retiree--will get something motivating and useful from this book. No matter where you are in life, you will see the world a bit differently after you read this energetic and energizing look at how we solve problems, how we learn and how we succeed, regardless of what field we are working in. Seriously, I haven't stopped recommending this since I finished it several weeks ago. I don't t Everyone--butcher, baker, candlestick maker; teacher, student, scientist, business analyst; parent, job hunter, retiree--will get something motivating and useful from this book. No matter where you are in life, you will see the world a bit differently after you read this energetic and energizing look at how we solve problems, how we learn and how we succeed, regardless of what field we are working in. Seriously, I haven't stopped recommending this since I finished it several weeks ago. I don't think I will stop recommending it for years.
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  • Josh
    January 1, 1970
    One of my favorite quotes by Albert Einstein is, “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein is about the latter half of that quote. Range introduces the concept of wicked domains (or as I like to them, reality) where you are faced with imperfect information and erratic feedback yet must somehow still devine a solution, preferably a successful one. Furthermore, learning occurs mostly One of my favorite quotes by Albert Einstein is, “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein is about the latter half of that quote. Range introduces the concept of wicked domains (or as I like to them, reality) where you are faced with imperfect information and erratic feedback yet must somehow still devine a solution, preferably a successful one. Furthermore, learning occurs mostly through a coherent yet completely inaccurate summary of events, the narrative fallacy. So how can we better ourselves? How do we solve the most pressing issues of our time when there is no evidence that our solutions are working? Range doesn’t provide any easy answers but suggests the solution is, at its heart, to follow evolution. Take opportunities to expose yourself to new thoughts and ideas to supplement deep and purposeful learning in a narrow course of study. Range is a thoughtful and well-researched book with examples spanning from athletics to academia to business to government. Range is further proof that sometimes the best ideas come from outside the box.
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  • Bjoern Rochel
    January 1, 1970
    A good read in the style of "Team of Teams" or "Barking up the wrong tree". Debunks the general applicability of the 10000h rule and deliberate practice for knowledge work (e.g. the wicked world) and shows with a lot of case studies that often top performers are the result of a larger broad experimentation phase, followed by late specialization. I pretty much enjoyed all of them from Roger Federer, Vincent Van Gogh, Gunpei Yokoi (the Gameboy inventor), Johannes Kepler (the father of modern astro A good read in the style of "Team of Teams" or "Barking up the wrong tree". Debunks the general applicability of the 10000h rule and deliberate practice for knowledge work (e.g. the wicked world) and shows with a lot of case studies that often top performers are the result of a larger broad experimentation phase, followed by late specialization. I pretty much enjoyed all of them from Roger Federer, Vincent Van Gogh, Gunpei Yokoi (the Gameboy inventor), Johannes Kepler (the father of modern astronomy), Frances Hesselbein (a CEO by accident who took over the Peter F. Drucker foundation) and others.Also follows Kahneman/Tversky (Thinking fast and slow) and Chip Heath (Decisive) regarding the quality of expert forecasts and predictions. One star less because the last third felt a bit low on insights to me (mostly because I've already knew them from other books). So take the 4 stars with a grain of salt. It's a great book :)
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  • Pete
    January 1, 1970
    Range : Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World (2019) by David Epstein is an interesting book about the value of not being overly specialised and focused on one thing.The book starts by pointing out how Tiger Woods took up golf at an early age and how this example is picked by many as an example of how mastery of a subject needs to be done. Epstein compares this to Roger Federer who played many sports before focusing on tennis. Epstein states, with some evidence, that stars like Federer Range : Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World (2019) by David Epstein is an interesting book about the value of not being overly specialised and focused on one thing.The book starts by pointing out how Tiger Woods took up golf at an early age and how this example is picked by many as an example of how mastery of a subject needs to be done. Epstein compares this to Roger Federer who played many sports before focusing on tennis. Epstein states, with some evidence, that stars like Federer are more common than stars like Woods.Range then looks at how some tasks like chess, that have great feedback and that are well defined can be suited to specialising and diving deep into one thing. However a lot of what we value highly, like creating new companies, scientific breakthroughs, writing interesting new books and management is more 'wicked' in nature with immediate feedback being poor and requiring synthesizing knowledge for a myriad of sources.There are interesting digressions into the world of music where it's shown that many top musicians played multiple instruments with great skill and moved skills from one area to another and found new insights doing so.Epstein also talks to a number of scientists, academics, managers and people in many other roles who have had careers that moved from one area to another and he points out that this often benefited them greatly.Range is a well written, interesting book that makes its points with style. Epstein makes a strong case for trying lots of things and deliberately trying to widen our horizons. The book is also filled with interesting stories about people in many different fields. Range is well worth a read.
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  • Catriona
    January 1, 1970
    Experience is never wastedI found this riveting in all the best ways non-fiction can be: extremely readable, endlessly fascinating, thought provoking, leaves a lasting impression and you see the world a little differently on the other side of it - things once in darkness are illuminated. Personally, Epstein made me feel comforted that all was not lost if i hadn't completed my 10,000 hours in a highly specified domain by now and that a gradual whittling of specialism, rather than a laser focus fr Experience is never wastedI found this riveting in all the best ways non-fiction can be: extremely readable, endlessly fascinating, thought provoking, leaves a lasting impression and you see the world a little differently on the other side of it - things once in darkness are illuminated. Personally, Epstein made me feel comforted that all was not lost if i hadn't completed my 10,000 hours in a highly specified domain by now and that a gradual whittling of specialism, rather than a laser focus from an early age, can be just as (if not more) likely to work to your benefit in the long run. Our world is more complicated than ever, full of ever changing and nuanced problems where analogies from other domains can help us tackle problems in novel ways (treating tumours with ancient military strategy anyone?) that can lead to greater, faster leaps in understanding and measurable progress. Epstein argues that those who haven't narrowed their experiences prematurely will provide the biggest benefit to the modern world around them, at least in terms of creative and complicated problem solving. Should the urban legend that is the 10,000 hours to greatness, finally be put to bed? Does rigid repetition of procedure make us less likely to be successful in a unfamiliar situation? I'm not sure who is right, or who is right for me - but i do know i am as inspired after reading Range as i was with Gladwell's Outliers and i reckon it deserves the same level of curiosity to be applied to it.
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  • Jennie
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 stars. This ended up being very interesting and engaging. It definitely gave me a lot to think about, more than the typical pop psychology book. The author weirdly inserts himself in a few places and it wasn't really seamless in those areas, but he did do a good job of telling engaging stories. I think this book will change how I go about learning things in the future.
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  • Mart
    January 1, 1970
    Specialization. Expected by bosses, parents and university faculties. But does it work? There seems to be good scientific evidence to the contrary. Dabble in everything. Follow your curiosity. Leads to discoveries and is antifragile. Much recommended book by a great science journalist.
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  • Erik Germani
    January 1, 1970
    Like a Gladwell book, Range has a bunch of scientific anecdotes that would do well at a cocktail party. Which is perfect, because the warmly parental thesis statement is one that anyone will drink to. To wit: "don't worry if you aren't hyperspecialized, there's value in being a generalist." I found that advice timely, but the self-improvement monster in me didn't find a lot of red meat in here. Once I came to grips with that, I enjoyed the anecdotes for what they were. Here's a fun one: Finnish Like a Gladwell book, Range has a bunch of scientific anecdotes that would do well at a cocktail party. Which is perfect, because the warmly parental thesis statement is one that anyone will drink to. To wit: "don't worry if you aren't hyperspecialized, there's value in being a generalist." I found that advice timely, but the self-improvement monster in me didn't find a lot of red meat in here. Once I came to grips with that, I enjoyed the anecdotes for what they were. Here's a fun one: Finnish doctors gave people fake meniscus surgeries, to see if these trims were really helping patients. So they knocked them out, made incisions, did nothing to the meniscus, and sent these folks off to rehab. They had the same outcomes as people who actually got surgery!Here's one that drove me nuts. Chapter 6 is devoted to Vincent Van Gogh, but Epstein refuses to call him by his name for a full five pages, apparently to build suspense. "The boy from the Netherlands", as if that could be anyone but Van Gogh, is, to Epstein,"an example of match quality optimization, Robert Miller’s multi-armed bandit process come to life. He tested options with maniacal intensity and got the maximum information signal about his fit as quickly as possible, and then moved to something else and repeated, until he had zigzagged his way to a place no one else had ever been, and where he alone excelled. Van Gogh’s Grit Scale score, according to Naifeh’s assessment, was flush with hard work but low on sticking with every goal or project. He landed in the 40th percentile."So that should indicate there is some "TED talking" happening in this book, but it's much more tolerable when Epstein is on his home turf of sports & science.
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  • Thomas
    January 1, 1970
    An enjoyable book - plenty of fascinating stories/studies and Epstein demonstrates plenty of range of his own (I enjoyed his earlier Sports Gene, but this book goes far beyond the world of sports, even if it starts there). I think there are two different books packed in here - one provides examples of people who have developed breadth thriving in different fields and explores some of the contours of what that looks like, and the sorts of "wicked" world (disordered, unpredictable) where that rang An enjoyable book - plenty of fascinating stories/studies and Epstein demonstrates plenty of range of his own (I enjoyed his earlier Sports Gene, but this book goes far beyond the world of sports, even if it starts there). I think there are two different books packed in here - one provides examples of people who have developed breadth thriving in different fields and explores some of the contours of what that looks like, and the sorts of "wicked" world (disordered, unpredictable) where that range is put to good use (as opposed to orderly, predictable "kind" worlds). As a counter to the 10000 hours/Tiger Woods narrative that Epstein describes, I think this is pretty good. In many ways, it's a both/and narrative, just pointing out that there are places where range is valuable, and narrow specialization is less so (and how we often mistakenly prize specialization at the expense of breadth).The second book that sits somewhat uneasily with this first book is a sort of pseudo-self-help book that describes how developing range may improve performance in different areas. I didn't find this aspect of the argument convincing. Epstein points out, for example, that many elite athletes played multiple sports when they were young (in contrast to the practice of some parents pressuring children to specialize early in a particular sport in hopes of elite success). But, I think there's some sort of causation/correlation confusion here. Aren't world class athletes the very ones one might expect to excel at all sorts of different sports? I had a friend who was an elite volleyball player who seemed, with very little effort, able to excel at almost any sport he tried. This included basketball, a sport that I, a poor athlete (I was, in technical terms, slow, small and uncoordinated) spent countless hours practicing (because I enjoyed it). For every three hours I spent shooting jump shots in my driveway, my friend probably only needed to spend a half hour to achieve a similar success in a game. Epstein did explore some of these talent/nature/nurture sorts of questions in the The Sports Gene (if I am remembering it correctly), and so I was slightly disappointed that these sorts of questions seemed to drop out of view a little bit in this book in favor of the range vs. specialization dichotomy. To put it another way: it could be that people with more "talent" in a particular domain are better able to express that talent across a wider range of disciplines with less effort than the less gifted person who must expend significant effort in a single area to try and achieve competency (let alone excellence). I do think "range" is often worth pursuing, by the way, just not as some sort of life hack - it's a good in itself, one that needs to be weighed alongside the good of digging deep into a particular area - and probably we all end up leaning one way or another, at different times and given different circumstances, and to the extent that Epstein brings the goods of range/breadth/generalization into view, it's a good book.
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  • Rhys
    January 1, 1970
    I enjoyed this book, advocating for more generalism in education, science, and other bastions of silo-ism and reductionism. It is a good antidote to Nichol's The Death of Expertise."Beneath complexity, hedgehogs tend to see simple, deterministic rules of cause and effect framed by their area of expertise, like repeating patterns on a chessboard. Foxes see complexity in what others mistake for simple cause and effect. They understand that most cause-and-effect relationships are probabilistic, not I enjoyed this book, advocating for more generalism in education, science, and other bastions of silo-ism and reductionism. It is a good antidote to Nichol's The Death of Expertise."Beneath complexity, hedgehogs tend to see simple, deterministic rules of cause and effect framed by their area of expertise, like repeating patterns on a chessboard. Foxes see complexity in what others mistake for simple cause and effect. They understand that most cause-and-effect relationships are probabilistic, not deterministic. There are unknowns, and luck, and even when history apparently repeats, it does not do so precisely. They recognize that Foxes see complexity in what others mistake for simple cause and effect. They understand that most cause-and-effect relationships are probabilistic, not deterministic. There are unknowns, and luck, and even when history apparently repeats, it does not do so precisely. They recognize that they are operating in the very definition of a wicked learning environment, where it can be very hard to learn, from either wins or losses" (p.229).
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  • Minwoo
    January 1, 1970
    Often when I learn new things, I find myself hearing contradicting claims. Specialization vs generalization is one of those topics where I've heard a lot of contradicting arguments, both side supplied by facts and captivating anecdotes. What I appreciated about this book is that it provided under what context each side can hold true. The delineation of "Kind" and "Wicked" environment provided an aha moment as to when each wisdom/axiom/perspective makes sense. There's more to the book than that, Often when I learn new things, I find myself hearing contradicting claims. Specialization vs generalization is one of those topics where I've heard a lot of contradicting arguments, both side supplied by facts and captivating anecdotes. What I appreciated about this book is that it provided under what context each side can hold true. The delineation of "Kind" and "Wicked" environment provided an aha moment as to when each wisdom/axiom/perspective makes sense. There's more to the book than that, and I thought this book made a great companion to Adam Grant's Originals. A few other thoughts I wrote down that I'll take with me as lessons:- Learning is the most efficient in the long run when it is the most inefficient in the short run- Headstart comes fast, but deep learning comes slow- To fight biases, use the outside view- Let them torture the cucumber - embrace range an efficiency
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  • The Artisan Geek
    January 1, 1970
    23/4/19A someone who has always considered themselves a generalist through and through, I am really interested to have a read! Riverhead books was so nice to send me over a copy, so a sincere thank you to them! :DYou can find me onYoutube | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Website
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  • Liz
    January 1, 1970
    This may not have needed to be book-length, but it is kindly ego-assuaging for those of us who feel like meandering generalists (or at least generalists within a specialty). I also cheered on the findings that children do just fine if they aren't pushed into violin, ballet, or travel soccer at the age of four. We should all be willing to try new things, accept failure, and spend more time collaborating with people who aren't just like us.
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  • Joseph
    January 1, 1970
    Felt it was a easy read with some very entertaining examples. The authors storytelling definitely draws you in and makes it difficult to put down. Instead of arguing against specialization the author points out where depth still works. But provides cautionary tales and environments where being a specialist could go very wrong. In extreme cases specialization has lead to death or at least been a main contributor. If anything these cautionary tales should cause some to pause and rethink their appr Felt it was a easy read with some very entertaining examples. The authors storytelling definitely draws you in and makes it difficult to put down. Instead of arguing against specialization the author points out where depth still works. But provides cautionary tales and environments where being a specialist could go very wrong. In extreme cases specialization has lead to death or at least been a main contributor. If anything these cautionary tales should cause some to pause and rethink their approach. And if you bounce around to various vocations and hobbies this will reinforce your current behavior.
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  • Phil Simon
    January 1, 1970
    Epstein checks all of my boxes for a compelling text. First, he clearly did a great deal of research. Second, he is a gifted storyteller. Third, he supports his claims with plenty of data. For a long time I've argued for an interdisciplinary approach to problem solving. Unfortunately, many higher-ed institutions discourages this at many levels. To this end, I hope that decision makers in colleges and universities heed Epstein's timely and essential advice. Just a joy to read.
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  • Benjamin
    January 1, 1970
    As eye and ear catching as a Malcolm Gladwell book, but better researched and far, far more conscientious than any Gladwell I've ever read. Epstein, who comes to this book from journalism, in particular sports journalism, writes a series of brilliant articles, loosely coupled into a book, with a common theme of the benefits of general knowledge, experimentation and persistence, and change.
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  • Christian Sodergren
    January 1, 1970
    Lots of great stories but unsatisfying when it comes to making a claim for the central thesis.
  • Ivan
    January 1, 1970
    A slog of a book. Not what I originally envisioned; it’s less practical and the research seems vague. Still, several helpful tidbits throughout. I just wish the takeaways for how to be a generalist had been more developed.
  • Joel Wentz
    January 1, 1970
    This is a quite enjoyable book in the vein of Gladwell-style journalism/self-help/pop-psychology (though I would put it slightly higher than much of Gladwell's work, who I also generally like). It's a breezy read, full of interesting anecdotes and well-synthesized research, that makes a good counter-argument to the currently fashionable 10,000 hours/grit/specialization line of thinking.As someone with a "generalist" personality type, and who has had a bit of a meandering career path, I found it This is a quite enjoyable book in the vein of Gladwell-style journalism/self-help/pop-psychology (though I would put it slightly higher than much of Gladwell's work, who I also generally like). It's a breezy read, full of interesting anecdotes and well-synthesized research, that makes a good counter-argument to the currently fashionable 10,000 hours/grit/specialization line of thinking.As someone with a "generalist" personality type, and who has had a bit of a meandering career path, I found it validating and encouraging, though not quite mind-blowing or paradigm-shifting. It reminded me a bit of the work of Taleb, especially in its sharp critique of narrow-minded expertise and confirmation bias that pervades so much academic culture.So, if you enjoy writers like Gladwell, this is an easy recommendation. If you can't stand that type of writing and argumentation (journalistic, with lots of interviews and reporting second-hand research, sprinkled with stories to pique the interest) then this won't change your mind. I, however, am glad I read it.
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  • Hariharan Gopalakrishnan
    January 1, 1970
    2.5-3 stars.Moderately interesting, but light-weight and flawed read. Fails to consider some obvious counter-arguments to the thesis arguing for the conscious development of 'range' - for eg: the increased 'range' of a person's skillset could just be a signal of innate ability and not an easily tunable factor. Also, my understanding of the current state of research in educational psychology is that there is no consensus around a case of actual `far transfer` (transfer of skills across diverse do 2.5-3 stars.Moderately interesting, but light-weight and flawed read. Fails to consider some obvious counter-arguments to the thesis arguing for the conscious development of 'range' - for eg: the increased 'range' of a person's skillset could just be a signal of innate ability and not an easily tunable factor. Also, my understanding of the current state of research in educational psychology is that there is no consensus around a case of actual `far transfer` (transfer of skills across diverse domains). And this book does not present a convincing argument to prove far-transfer but nevertheless that idea is pretty central to its claims. This lack of evidence is a serious flaw. But this did point me to some interesting primary sources/researchers such as Dunbar on creativity, Gertner on analogical thinking etc. which seem to be worth following up on and there are some intriguing anecdotes/stories.
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  • Randall Wallace
    January 1, 1970
    I’ve staked my entire adult life on following the generalist’s path instead of the specialist’s, so I hoped this book would answer my basic questions: What about the role Neuroplasticity plays with keeping the following people analytically extra-sharp: The Polymath, the Multi-Instrumentalist, and those like Noam Chomsky, composer Elliot Carter, Aristotle, Leonard da Vinci, or Bertrand Russell all deeply learned in multiple fields (range), yet known for changing how we understand, hear, or see th I’ve staked my entire adult life on following the generalist’s path instead of the specialist’s, so I hoped this book would answer my basic questions: What about the role Neuroplasticity plays with keeping the following people analytically extra-sharp: The Polymath, the Multi-Instrumentalist, and those like Noam Chomsky, composer Elliot Carter, Aristotle, Leonard da Vinci, or Bertrand Russell all deeply learned in multiple fields (range), yet known for changing how we understand, hear, or see things? Zero on Neuroplasticity. Ok, then what will David say about how generalists best can pull deep multi-disciplinary analogies through their multiple points of reference? Meh, nothing of note. How about this: Generalists can see the big picture. They can see the forest for the trees. They can tell us deeper stories of our times. They are more apt to see macro. Society is further atomized by specialists, while further integrated by the generalist. How do you make systemic change to avoid extinction without generalists? How do local areas survive economic collapse without generalists? How do you prioritize at the highest level of society without generalists? I’m just making stuff up fast that I wanted to hear but this book had none of it, so what did this book teach me? Some cool facts like:When you think your favorite Van Gogh’s paintings, you are thinking of only the last three years of his life. Wow. At his death, Michelangelo “left three-fifths of his sculptures unfinished”. Edison had over 1,000 patents, most were unimportant. “Sandwiched between King Lear and Macbeth, Shakespeare quilled Timon of Athens.” Jackson Pollack “was literally one of the least talented draftsmen at the Art Student’s League”. That led him to writing his own rules. Lots of stumped creative teams benefit from bring in outside knowledge like InnoCentive (google them). Iowa, not traditionally known as the hot bed of American music and culture, once had more than 1,000 opera houses! MRI scans of jazz musicians show that during improvising, their internal criticism was suspended, unlike during practice, when they identified errors and corrected them. “There is no entrenched interest fighting on the side of range.” – Well, that is because elites don’t want oppressed masses with “range” out-lobbying corporate lobbyists by sheer endless volume (as Ralph Nader discusses in depth with Chris Hedges on In Contact – RT). If you have true range, you are more likely to want to oppose corporate power, capitalism, militarism, and all undeserved power, because your outlook becomes bigger. Luckily for elites, even though everything from ancient pre-history to today is all at your fingertips, the average American can’t find Europe on a map of the world - there’s today’s range. A lot of this book is telling the reader that, when involving techniques of problem solving, there is no one answer, nor is there one place to look for answers. David uses “quitters never win” as an example. Many top minds quit what they were doing and changed jobs to finally succeed, and so for them, quitting made all the difference. With this mindset, you fail when you don’t have the courage to leave a dead-end situation. In other words, there are strong advantages if you don’t consider your path fixed. Although, some say Einstein was “destined for fame” as a Swiss patent clerk, others say he made a good call in switching. Premature optimization means, specializing in a field before you know yourself well-enough. For many Americans, their jobs didn’t exist when they were kids and so to reach them they took many paths. As David says, those many paths travelled gave us range.In conclusion, this book has no stories of activists with range, nor stories of progressive or radical change makers who affected great change by linking many disciplines: MLK linking racism, capitalism, and militarism, Noam Chomsky linking language, power structure analysis, foreign affairs, journalism, economics, and all social and economic and social justice initiatives, Cornel West and Chris Hedges linking Theology to Social Justice, Radical Prophets and Philosophy. David never even mentions Intersectionality once. So, if you are reading this book to learn how humans are right now solving the climate crisis, fending off extinction, or any kind of activism through the range of of generalists, sorry, you are out of luck. Instead, this book is about how generalists help innovation, capitalism, and even the military. In one of David’s stories, a U.S. military team is requested to gain a speed advantage over “the enemy” in Afghanistan. Not “the opponent” but “the enemy”. Let’s invade a sovereign nation and give it the longest war in American history and after refusing to leave, let’s label anyone actively resisting our invasion and never leaving as “the enemy”. One reviewer called this groundbreaking and other called it breathtaking - what nonsense – the subject of this book is so important and yet I see it as a massive opportunity squandered. Range is needed in hundreds of ways to save the planet, why not mention it once in your book?This is a great defanged book for US elites to exploit – by employing generalists, both the military and multi-nationals can better pry open business opportunities in countries that can’t defend themselves. Each chapter starts with an easy story and there’s some People Magazine worthy quotes inside about tennis players, musicians, chess players, Darwin, Girl Scouts, and the Challenger disaster to keep the average reader quite content. If I wasn’t so busy hugging my American Flag made in China, I be saluting this brave book which, after giving minor nods to art, sports and culture, will keep any conservative or centrist reader on the straight and narrow of focusing on business and military applications (where the money to pay generalists is), without any embarrassing talk about applications for social or economic justice.
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  • Sudheendra Fadnis
    January 1, 1970
    The book Range-Why generalists triumph in a specialized world is a book that questions the very foundations of specialization. As a society we are obsessed with specialization of skills. Our world is still living on the foundations of the Industrial model, and it has become outdated long ago. But, unfortunately we are unable to get rid of the cult of specialization because of the thinking that why be a generalist when you can be a purist? And, this distorted thinking is costing us a lot. Take th The book Range-Why generalists triumph in a specialized world is a book that questions the very foundations of specialization. As a society we are obsessed with specialization of skills. Our world is still living on the foundations of the Industrial model, and it has become outdated long ago. But, unfortunately we are unable to get rid of the cult of specialization because of the thinking that why be a generalist when you can be a purist? And, this distorted thinking is costing us a lot. Take the very recent global recession that happend in 2008. One of the main reasons could be attributed to the silos within the finance industry. And these kind of silos emerge within and across the industries only when there are no cross communication between the different departments or the industries. This could be because of the stress on the hyperspecialization of the workforce.Cross functional thinking did not happen because of which trillions of dollars eroded from the global economy. This is something which could have been very much avoided only if the policy makers had encouraged the idea of perspective taking in education which only comes by adopting a generalist approach. The book questions the basic tenets of the specialization. For example, take the very famous ten thousand hour rule. if you want to be a world class in only one area, yes, the famed 10,000 hour rule certainly helps. But, what if you want to develop multiple talents. There comes the dilemma. Take Mozart or Beeethoven for example. They breathed and lived music for the rest of their lives. In this case, the so called deliberate practice certainly helps. But what if you want to be a Renaissance Man like Leonardo Da Vinci or Benjamin Franklin or Herbert Simon. By the time you apply the 10,000 hour rule to develop the repertoire of skills that you develop, you will be dead!(Just kidding).We need a much more sophisticated theory to explain the phenomenon of Renaissance Man. In today’s volatile world of technological change, it is only taking the generalist approach towards having a repertoire of skills that will be able to save us.One should be like a swiss knife (if at all that metaphor helps!) Yes, I know that our society is rife with proverbs such as ‘jack of all trades and master of none’, and ‘if you try to catch two hares, you will end up catching neither’. But,those proverbs should not encourage us to take the narrow path in any way. To negate those proverbs, Winston Churchill also said, “Never,never , never give in, except to the convictions of honor and sense”.And that translates to: Winners never quit and quitters never win is a fallacy.The book is beautifully explained by Seth Godin in the book The Dip. What the author advocates is a T model of learning instead of the I model of learning. Going wide in so many areas of knowledge, and having great depth in one particular chosen field so that you would be able to contribute to your field aided by the perspectives from the knowledge of different subjects. The author introuduces the reader to the concept of SAMPLING PERIOD. Sampling period is a phase where a child experiments with different pursuits to know which suits best for him/her so that the little experience that she has gained in those different field helps her later when she foucses on a field or a wide range of fields to prove her mettle.To corroborate this fact, the famous tennis player Roger Federer, Charles Darwin, and Vincent Vangogh have gone through the same phase. The case of Vincent Vangogh was particularly striking. He tried his painting with when he was a child. He didn’t like it. Later on he tried his hand at various pursuits such as being a librarian, music teacher and miscellaneous others. Later on, at 33 when he wanted to be a painter again, the perspectives he has gained from various purusits helped him to come up with world class paintaings.In a brief period of 4 years he totally redefined the art with his paintings. It is great misfortune that he died at the age of 37. But his legacy will endure for generations. And, that’s the power of having a generalist approach. The point of generalist approach makes sense to me . Because we live more in WICKED environments than in KIND environments(There is nothing wicked or kind about these terms) Kind environments are stable environments. Take sports such as chess or surgery, where the ecosystem is fairly predictable and remain constant. But wicked environments are way different.What about environments such as gambling, war or stock markets. They are very unstable and unpredictable. In that case, the previous experience that one has doesnt help much. Because, every challenge is something that we have not encountered before. And life is way more wicked than kind. That’s why, we rather buck up our socks towards being a generalist. ‘Chose early, focus narrowly and never waver’ approach is not going to help us any more. I have given enough facts. Now the ball is in your court to decide whether to be a generalist or a specialist. Because,generalists will triumph in a specialized world. Signing off for now. Thank you.
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  • Jim Robles
    January 1, 1970
    Five stars! Read everything. It is all useful.One of the things I lived through, and benefited from, during my time at Boeing is the rise of the deep generalist. You cannot integrate disparate technologies unless you understand all of them.We also saw that innovative solutions come from disciplines purportedly far from aerospace."Introduction: Roger vs. Tiger" (1)"I dove into work showing that highly credentialed experts can become so narrow-minded that they actually get worse with experience, e Five stars! Read everything. It is all useful.One of the things I lived through, and benefited from, during my time at Boeing is the rise of the deep generalist. You cannot integrate disparate technologies unless you understand all of them.We also saw that innovative solutions come from disciplines purportedly far from aerospace."Introduction: Roger vs. Tiger" (1)"I dove into work showing that highly credentialed experts can become so narrow-minded that they actually get worse with experience, even while becoming more confident--a dangerous combination" (11)."Chapter 1: The Cult of the Head Start" (15)"Chess, golf, and firefighting are exceptions, not the rule" (20).The "chess experiment is on p. 24-25.". . . . the bigger the picture, the more unique the potential human contribution" (29)."Chapter 2: How the Wicked World Was Made" (37)"The more they had moved toward modernity, the more powerful their abstract thinking, and the less they had to rely on their concrete experience of the world as a reference point" (44).See p. 48 - 49 on "the correlation between broad conceptual thinking and GPA," mistaking correlation for causation, etc."Chapter 3: When Less of the Same Is More" (55)."The Calculus I teachers who were the best at promoting student achievement in their own class were somehow not great for their students in the long run" (91)."The cult of the head start fails the learners it seeks to serve" (97)."Chapter 5: Thinking Outside Experience" (99)The description of Kepler's use of analogies (100-108) is reminiscent of Walter Isaacson's "Leonardo Da Vinci.""That led him to claim (correctly) that the moon influenced tides on Earth. Galileo, the embodiment of bold truths, mocked him for his ridiculous idea of'the moons dominion over the waters'" (101)."Evaluating a range of options before letting intuition reign is a trick for the wicked world" (112)."Chapter 6: The Problem with Too Much Grit" (121)"The more likely the Army is to identify someone as a successful future officer and spend money on them, the more likely they are to leave as soon as possible" (138).Chapter 7: Flirting with Your Possible Selves" (147)"Qualities that feel immutable changed immensely" (156).The marshmallow test is on p. 157-159."'I know who I am when I see what I do'" (164). This is what the neurology tells us."Chapter 8: The Outsider Advantage" (171).". . . . the Einstellung effect, a psychology term for the tendency of problem solvers to employ only familiar methods even if better ones are available" (177)."Chapter 9: Lateral Thinking with Withered Technology" (191)."A high-repetition workload negatively impacted performance" (209)."Chapter 10: Fooled by Expertise" (215)"There is a particular kind of thinker who becomes more entrenched in their single big idea even in the face of contrary facts, whose predictions become worse, not better, as they amass information for their mental representation of the world" (218)."Many experts never admitted systemic flaws in their judgment, even in the face of the results" (219)."Yale law and psychology professor Dan Kahan has shown that more scientifically literate adults are actually more likely to become dogmatic about politically polarizing topics in science" (227)."Chapter 11: Learning to Drop Your Familiar Tools" (233)."Reason without numbers was not accepted. In the face of an unfamiliar challenge, NASA managers failed to drop their familiar tools" (245)."As MacLean succinctly put it, 'When a firefighter is told to drop his firefighting tools, he is told to forget he is a firefighter'" (247)."She found that the most effective leaders and organizations had range; they were, in effect, paradoxical. They could be demanding and nurturing, orderly and entrepreneurial, even hierarchical and individualistic all at once" (255)."Chapter 12: Deliberate Amateurs" (269)"False positives on p. 277."To recap: work that builds bridges between disparate pieces of knowledge is less likely to be funded, less likely to appear in famous journals, more likely to be ignored upon publication, and then more likely in the long run to be a smash hit in the library of human knowledge" (282)."Conclusion: Expanding Your Range" (287)"Research on creators in domains from technological innovation to comic books shows that a diverse group of specialists cannot fully replace the contributions of broad individuals" (290).
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  • Alison Jones
    January 1, 1970
    Stories of child prodigies are compelling, as is the 10,000-hour Rule: enough practice, Malcolm Gladwell argued, and anyone can master any skill. There’s a glorious simplicity in them, and we applaud the focus and dedication of these superhuman achievers. It can leave those of who us can’t lay claim to such single-minded commitment feeling like under-achievers. If you’re more of a generalist, if you try out lots of different sports or even careers, you can’t expect real success in any of them, r Stories of child prodigies are compelling, as is the 10,000-hour Rule: enough practice, Malcolm Gladwell argued, and anyone can master any skill. There’s a glorious simplicity in them, and we applaud the focus and dedication of these superhuman achievers. It can leave those of who us can’t lay claim to such single-minded commitment feeling like under-achievers. If you’re more of a generalist, if you try out lots of different sports or even careers, you can’t expect real success in any of them, right? Wrong. Drawing in stories from many different fields – sports, science, education, art, the military – Epstein shows a consistent principle at work: those who can draw on a broad base of experience, who can make connections outside the specialization of their field, are consistently those who solve the world’s most wicked problems. Child prodigies may excel in skills such as golf, chess or music, but in the messy real world, full of ‘wicked problems’, over-familiarity, repetition and pattern-matching can only take you so far, and sometimes it can be disastrous: Epstein gives the graphic example of experienced firefighters dying in a forest fire because when things went unexpectedly wrong it simply didn’t occur to them to drop the 100lb-plus of tools they carry so they could run away more quickly. They saw their tools as essential to their usual fire-fighting routing, and they couldn’t drop the tools of their expertise even when they were clearly not serving them. It’s a powerful metaphor for a cognitive limitation that afflicts most specialists facing a wicked problem. He makes an important point about creativity, one of the most highly-valued skills in a disrupted world, as machines become more capable of taking on routine tasks. Creativity consists of making new connections, and to make a new connection requires experience beyond the domain at hand: ‘Modern work demands knowledge transfer: the ability to apply knowledge to new situations and different domains. Our most fundamental thought processes have changed to accommodate increasing complexity and the need to derive new patterns rather than rely only on familiar ones.’He also has good news for anyone who’s ever quit – a course, a career, a relationship: sometimes, he argues, quitting is the absolutely right thing to do as you accumulate more data about yourself. The ‘Never give up’ mantra has merit, but it can also blight lives: it may well be that in giving up one path for another, the lessons you take with you become your superpower. One point Epstein doesn’t make explicitly is the case for the value of the humanities in a world that currently values ‘hard’ subjects, those that can be immediately and obviously linked to profitable outcomes, even though research consistently shows that schools that prioritise ‘soft’ subjects like music and art see improved results across the curriculum as well as better engagement and social skills. I hope educational policy makers are reading and taking note. It’s a well-written book packed with engrossing (if occasionally over-worked) stories and making an important and timely point – it does occasionally feel as though the focus is more on the stories and less on the point, but that’s a minor irritation. Perhaps a more fundamental problem is that he fails to address the elephant in the room: for every brilliant unlikely connection there are thousands of unhelpful ones. A bit more guidance on maximising the chance of finding the useful connection up front rather than simply recognising it in hindsight would have been welcome...
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