In Six Specializations Makes You World-Class I wrote about how combining just a few skills can give you an unassailable competitive advantage. However, not all skills are equally synergistic.

My experience dealing blackjack has basically no synergies, but I learned it in a single afternoon. The same goes for the other low-skill jobs I have had. Low-skill jobs have low skill transference because there isn't much skill to transfer.

Challenging domains require you to learn things. It is hard for me to think of a challenging skill I possess that is without synergies. Magic tricks are useless if you are not a magician, but being a magician taught me business and how to entertain an impromptu crowd. Reading Tarot cards improves my empathy and my fiction writing. I am including only practical skills. Stamp collecting (e.g. "history" and "English literature") does not count.

I was going to write "backpacking doesn't have much transference" but then I realized backpacking is useful for commandos, insurgents, adventurers, writers, spies, tour guides, park rangers, geologists, prospectors, conservationists, hippies, survivalists and biologists. I just don't think about the outdoors much when I'm at my keyboard.

Scientific fields like physics, biology and chemistry are like backpacking. They have broad synergy across a cluster of human experience but they cannot be usefully combined with everything. A degree in physics isn't very useful when you try to combine it with writing erotica.

Wait a minute. I would totally read that.

Susan Lovelace oscillated against the scintillating crystal. It sparkled with the energetic radiance of her beauty.

"My passion for you burns like magnesium," said her principal investigator. He hovered at the dangerously unstable distance where electromagnetic repulsion perfectly balances nuclear attraction. One nanometer closer and they would entangle. One nanometer farther and they would pushed each other away forever.

"We can't," said Susan. She knew it would destroy her if she gave in to Dr. Anti-Lovelace's attraction.

What was I writing about? Oh, right. Skill synergies. Some skills can be combined with basically anything.

  • Entrepreneurship
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Personnel Management
  • Writing
  • Videography
  • Drawing
  • Teaching & Training
  • Computer Programming
  • English language
  • Chinese language

What these universally synergistic skills have in common is that every single one is a communication skill. No matter who no matter who you are; no matter what you are doing; you can benefit from being a better communicator.

The reason physics + erotica works is because half of the equation is communication.

I should draw more.

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This is a great example of the type of content I do not want to see more of on LessWrong. A dumb clickbait title and random sneers at fields the author doesn't (edit: seem to?) respect (history is very important) obscure what is actually an interesting and relevant point with respect to communication skills.

I respect history and English literature. I have written multiple posts about history and the importance of history. I write fiction too. When I read the opening paragraphs of Lord Jim I am blown away by how good of a communicator Joseph Conrad is.

Stamp collecting is valuable. It's like 90% of science. I just think it's more of a "field of knowledge" than a practical "skill" with immediate applications.

Strong agree on the title.

Stamp collecting (e.g. "history" and "English literature") does not count.

Interesting to see your perspective change from this post and it's comments, which suggested that history is a useful source of world models. Or am I misinterpreting past/current you?

My perspective hasn't changed. I value history. I'm currently reading The Gunpowder Age: China, Military Innovation and the Rise of the West in World History (2016) by Tonio Andrade. I just feel history is more of a "field of knowledge" than a "skill" with immediate practical applications. This post is about immediate practical applications.

FYI that wasn't my takeaway from that stamp collecting link

Can confirm, I love communicating in drawings yet my drawing skills are not good. (Even worse: the time it takes to get good at drawing, through deliberate practice, is long enough to make it not really worth it, compared to more productive skills, and I don't find it fun enough to deliberately practice it anyway).

The reason physics + erotica works is because half of the equation is communication.

I should draw more.

Draw more physics, draw more erotica, or both?

Just drawing in general.

It's not clear if communicating science would be one skill or two here. Or one with two pre-req.s.

The boundary were you delineate a skill can be arbitrary.