Sometimes I think that one of the bummers of humanity is that most of us are overqualified for what we do. I guess that’s not a big problem compared to starvation or war, but I think that getting each person to achieve — and then apply — their human potential is a laudable goal for a society. (That is, if you’re like me and think societies should have goals.)

I often feel overqualified for the tasks I’m asked to do. In part, that’s my own fault because I’ve made it hobby to pick up bits of unrelated knowledge that more or less cannot be simultaneously applied to any particular project. But still, I find it a thrill to be working on a particular problem that is at the limit of my capability. I think we would all benefit from being at the limit of our capabilities more, but our employers might feel otherwise.

I’m not bragging about being overqualified, mind you. The “sandwich artist” at Subway is overqualified, too. A thousand years ago, the farmer with his shoulder to the plow was overqualified. We’ve all got these amazing state-of-the-art computers in our heads that can solve all sorts of problems. Sure, some of them are better at certain things than others, but I think it’s safe to say that the vast majority of them are grossly underutilized.

Sometimes I envy medical doctors. They probably spend a lot of time doing routine things, but they must occasionally be presented with a patient that they will have to work hard to treat. As long as there exist ailments that cannot be cured, I think it’s fair to say that physicians will never be overqualified.

Airline pilots are also an interesting category. Jets are highly automated these days, and a lot of flying is just “minding” the machine. But every once in awhile a pilot is called on to apply judgment in an abnormal and unforseen situation. They might spend most of their professional lives quite bored, but there will be those times, I’m sure, when they feel just adequately — if not inadequately –qualified.

Anyway, there’s not much point to this post. One of the things I admire about the fictional Star Trek universe is that each person seems able to work in the field of their choosing, pushing the boundaries of their abilities, without a care or concern other than excellence for its own sake. (That is, unless you’re a “red shirt.”)

Until we’re Star Fleet officers, let’s put our shoulder back to our plows and hope for better for our kids.


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