I have been trying to understand how people can be intelligent and accomplished in their areas of expertise and yet be so ignorant in everything else. I have come up with at lease some clues to this particular phenomenon.
The answer lies I think in the advancement of technology. We - and by this I mean society and/or people in general - were generalists. By this I mean besides being expert in one particular area, they had to have some general knowledge of nearly everything that had to do with living and surviving where they were. Raising crops, hunting, building etc.
When the industrial revolution started and more mechanical apparatus appeared, they had to learn about that to. You simply could no just own an automobile, you had to know something about how it functioned as well. Or your tractor or electric appliance. There were few mechanics and service personal to maintain it for you. And most could not afford to have some one else do this for them. Even the rich had to know how to fix their cars if they broke down as this generally happened far from any service facility.
People built their own houses, ran the plumbing and when electricity came in, quite often wired them as well. You had to know something about you heating system to keep from freezing in the winter.
This was even the case up through the 1950s and even part of the 1960s. It was very common for people to do at least some repair on their radios and television sets. After WWI housing was quite scarce so if you wanted or needed a house, you bought the land and built it yourself. Building even electronics form kits was very popular up through the late 1960s. Companies like Heath and Allied Electronics, Eico, Dynaco and even the Fisher Radio, H.H. Scott and Harmon Kardon all offered kit forms of the audio equipment.
But by the 1970s this all changed. People stopped having to know how to do these things. In fact servicing and/or building most things was difficult if not impossible by the 1980s. There became a bigger and bigger disconnect. There general knowledge and desire to find things out the existed also cultivated a general interest in other respects of life as well. The country, politics, medicine, science.
Thanks to technical advances we not longer need to be generalists and can focus on specifics but this I think has a down side in that we have in general learned to ignore or
at least do not wish to learn about anything that we do not want to or do not feel is relevant to or lives. This attitude seems to be advanced in higher education where one is expected to choose a very specific major.
Even within a discipline this is the case. Specific areas of engineering, computers, medicine, physics and on and on. People have become ignorant of the world around them because it is no longer required to be knowledgeable about it to function in society.