I've never heard of a Nexialist, what's that?

First, here is the formal definition, coined by science fiction author A. E. Van Vogt.

Nexialist: One skilled in the science of joining together in an orderly fashion the knowledge of one field of learning with that of other fields.

He created this science for one of his books called "Voyages of the Space Beagle" which is actually a pretty good book.  It was the classic anthology of stories about an exploratory ship full of scientists visiting planets around distant stars and, of course, constantly finding themselves in trouble.  The main character in the book was the only Nexialist on board and was looked down on by the other scientists because they didn't consider Nexialism a "real" science.  Needless to say, in almost every story the Nexialist character was the hero because of his ability to pull together useful things from several different scientific fields such as chemistry, physics and psychology to produce the gadget or tactic that saved the day.   He was the one person on the ship who had a wide enough grasp of the sciences to "see the forest for the trees" when the specialists couldn't, because they were to focused on just their field of study.  These days we call this sort of thing "thinking out of the box".  Another definition I like to use is that a Nexialist isn't someone who necessarily knows the answer to every question, but they do know where to look to find that answer.  In any case, by the end of the book, he was quite well respected by the other scientists on the ship, and had legitimized his field of study.

After reading through this book I realized that this was just the sort of thing I'd been doing for most of my life, coming up with non-traditional answers to problems that involved dragging in pieces of the solution from a lot of different, unrelated, sources.   There wasn't any accepted title for a person with these kind of skills, so I borrowed Van Vogt's and it's been on my business card ever since.  Interestingly enough, over time I've found that people with this kind of skill all seem to get the same kind of reception that Van Vogt's character got, initial skepticism followed by increasing respect as people get to know how you solve problems.  It's an interesting case of life imitating fiction, almost to the letter.  In any case, this world could use a few more people with these kind of skills, whether they call themselves a Nexialist or not.  If there were more people like this around, and if they were better respected in industry, we might have fewer frustrating products in this world like cable TV boxes that don't work with our VCR's or computer programs that do amazingly handy things, but are so hard to use that nobody wants them.

By the way, I highly recommend all the fiction of A. E. Van Vogt, he has written some extremely thought provoking Science Fiction with some very valid social commentary in it.   He also has a habit of writing time travel stories that are so twisted they can actually give you a headache trying to follow them, but he always ties up all the loose ends in the end.  Some of his better known works include The Players of Null-A and The Weapon Shops of Isher series.  Unfortunately, like most science fiction authors of his period, much of his best work is currently out of print and can only be found in used bookstores.  I'll try to put up some more info on this author in the near future.

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