What careers are best?

If a young person is just starting out, and is wondering what career choice to make, what would you suggest?

How would this advice differ, for a person who has been laid off from their current work, and wants to make a career change?

1) Career choice...engineering. Some other type of applied science degree for starters maybe a close second?

2) Career change....hmmmm....nursing, trucking, teaching, retail management of some sort perhaps? Banking and insurance have been around forever and will probably stay that way for quite some time to come.

1) Career choice...engineering. Some other type of applied science degree for starters maybe a close second?

I have twin boys just starting their college careers in the engineering field. They are beginning to witness the filter effect that mathematics has on the wanna-be engineers and scientist, half of their calculus classes are flunking, and will soon be looking at career change before their choosen career has even started. Fortunately the kind of math talent and work ethic they posses means they should easily pass through the filter. But it is a reminder that ones choice of career must be a reasonable match to ones natural skills and to ones personality.

They are beginning to witness the filter effect that mathematics has on the wanna-be engineers and scientist, half of their calculus classes are flunking, and will soon be looking at career change before their choosen career has even started.

Yup. My freshman year in college there were 700 declared engineering majors. 40 of us graduated. They smacked them pretty hard 2nd semester freshman and sophomore years, zapped'im mostly with math, a couple of engineering courses and some organic chem. Presto....career change for the bunch.

Should Petroleum Engineering even be considered an engineering discipline, and not just some votech trade school offering?

I can't think of another engineering discipline that has narrowed its focus so much and created such a dead end career choice. An engineering field built around dead liquified organisms, what's up with that?

Oh, but they always rank as the highest entry-level salary ....

We didn't have a Petroleum Engineering degree, which are usually in Universities near oil country, but I can tell you that most of the engineering students who couldn't hack it went over to geology or maybe business. Can't argue this because what else did we talk about between classes but which kids flunked out and what they ended up majoring in. Called them Rockheads -- even Richard Deffeyes refers to the classes as "Rocks for Jocks". Hey, just telling it like it is.


It sure seems like a high percentage of your posts are much more about massaging your own apparently shaky ego...than adding any meaningful input to these threads.

Web has issue with the petroleum industry in general. He won't discuss what it is, but its apparent from the way he belittles at every opportunity those of us who have been doing it our entire adult lives. Because he won't speak of the "why", we don't know if its a general, "big oil is bad because I ride a bike" angle, a distaste for those of us who have ventured out of the cocoon of academia he appears so familiar with, and proven ourselves in an environment where pay for performance is the norm and therefore we do better financially, or just some generic hate for those who have provided the mechanism for the world to be a better place because of our ability to continually find, develop and provide the energy necessary to run the planet.

But he certainly does project quite a bit, doesn't he?

No, I think it is plainly obvious and all I am doing is putting my thesis out there as any internet pundit would.

The fields of study dealing with finite resources have a fundamental problem of dealing with their own mortality. The practitioners can't admit to limited resources because it would point to all incoming freshmen that their industry holds no future. Or perhaps everyone already realizes this. That essentially explains why the salaries start so high: the implicit message is get yours while the getting is good.

Look again at the title of this Campfire: "What careers are best?"

If a career adviser or counselor told an undecided freshman exactly what I stated above, would you consider that wrong and hateful?


...No, I think it is plainly obvious and all I am doing is putting my thesis out there as any internet pundit would.

Your thesis seems to be that all petroleum professionals are idiots.

If a career adviser or counselor told an undecided freshman exactly what I stated above, would you consider that wrong and hateful?

If an advisor or counselor said to a student "Should Petroleum Engineering even be considered an engineering discipline, and not just some votech trade school offering?" then yes, I would consider it wrong.

Your statement:

The practitioners can't admit to limited resources....

is obviously bullshit with respect to most of the industry pro's here on TOD. Almost all of us admit to limited resources, else why would we be here? We might debate the details, but I don't recall many geos or petroleum engineers on TOD suggesting that resources aren't limited, or that petroleum production either hasn't peaked...is peaking...or very soon will peak.

Salaries are high because the demand for well qualified people exceeds the supply. No company pays more than they have to to get qualified people. If my employer could get someone to do my job for half the pay, they would do it in a heartbeat.

I stand by my earlier statement. Far too many of your posts are all about stroking your own ego. When you get into fields outside your own experience you either distort things or just make stuff up. Too bad, because when you stick to "the maths" you have some worthwhile things to say.

Too bad, because when you stick to "the maths" you have some worthwhile things to say.

Most of the stuff I do relating to oil has to do with quantifying oil depletion.

I am trying to rationalize why no other geologist or petroleum engineer has been able to come up with an analysis approaching anywhere near the novelty or uniqueness of anything I have done. Is it just luck, or something that fell through a gap in knowledge? I have no idea.

I think that people have talent but that the disciplines of petroleum engineering or geology never encouraged anyone to think about constraints and finite limits. Its all a self-fulfilling prophesy. Get your degree, make your money, don't worry about the future. Next crop of students and teachers that comes in, repeat the cycle.

Someone else said "in 50 years you may have a point". No, that is my point. You just don't want to see anyone talking about it.

What you say is likely true, but not restricted to this field. Few disciplines encourage people to think outside the box, and many of the biggest breakthroughs and changes of direction come from people completely outside of the academy--think Rachel Carson or Jane Jacobs.

Silos of all sorts promote narrow thinking. That's why forums like this can be so valuable. So rail all you want at petro-engineers, but keep in mind that they are little different in their narrowness from most others trained in academia (and I speak as an academic myself).

Few disciplines encourage people to think outside the box, and many of the biggest breakthroughs and changes of direction come from people completely outside of the academy... Silos of all sorts promote narrow thinking.

And the breakthroughs that did come from within the academy often come from people who are working across disciplines, or even totally outside their discipline.

Just one example. Wegner, a climatologist, had the insight to envision continents breaking apart and moving, even though the tools to really develop that idea didn't yet exist. Later, in the '50s and '60s, geophysicists who also understood geology, and geologists who could work with geophysical data led a revolution in the earth sciences.

Anyone who still bothers to read books, and wants to see how paradigm shifts happen might want to look at:

The Rejection of Continental Drift: Theory and Method in American Earth Science
Plate Tectonics: An Insiders History of the Modern Theory of The Earth
both by Naomi Oreskes.
The Road to Jaramillo: Critical Years of the Revolution in Earth Science
by William Glen.

Murray Gell-Mann who was at Cal Tech in the 1960's said this, which I think was pretty common knowledge:

Only thirty years ago most geologists, including almost all the distinguished geology faculty at Caltech, were still contemptuously rejecting the idea of continental drift. I remember because I often argued with them about it at the time. They disbelieved in continental drift despite mounting evidence in its favor. They had been taught that it was nonsense mainly because the geological community hadn't thought of a plausible mechanism for it. But a phenomenon may perfectly well be genuine even though no plausible explanation has yet turned up. Particularly in that kind of subject, it is unwise to dismiss an alleged phenomenon out of hand just because experts can't think right away of what might make it happen. Planetary scientists a couple of centuries ago committed the notorious mistake of debunking meteorites. "How can rocks fall from the sky," they objected, "when there are no rocks in the sky?"

Murray Gell-Mann who was at Cal Tech in the 1960's said this, which I think was pretty common knowledge:

"Only thirty years ago most geologists, including almost all the distinguished geology faculty at Caltech, were still contemptuously rejecting the idea of continental drift. I remember because I often argued with them about it at the time. They disbelieved in continental drift despite mounting evidence in its favor. They had been taught that it was nonsense mainly because the geological community hadn't thought of a plausible mechanism for it. But a phenomenon may perfectly well be genuine even though no plausible explanation has yet turned up."

Webb, so I see you are saying that Murray Gell-Mann confirms what I said earlier?

Back in my post four days ago at http://www.theoildrum.com/node/7021/729756 I said:

Geologists in many parts of the world (Europe, S. Africa for example) began to at least acknolwedge the possibility of Continental Drift quite early. (Plate Tectonics is actually a later, rather different idea.) Unfortunately a highly influental group of geologists in North American resisted much too strongly for way too long.

So let's parse Gell-Mann's comment, against mine. He was at Cal-Tech in the '60s, and is talking about "thirty years ago", which would mean in the 1930s. Last time I checked, Cal-Tech was in North America. He calls them "distinquished", whereas I said "influential". He said "rejected", whereas I said "resisted". He said "mounting evidence", whereas I said "Geologists in many parts of the world...began to acknowledge the possibility ...quite early".

It sure seems to me that Gell-Mann was saying pretty much the same thing as I said. What then is your point?

By the way, for your education, it is worthwhile to make a distinction between "Plate Tectonics" which is the term you used in your initial post, and "Continental Drift". They are related but not quite the same. Coniinental Drift as proposed by Wegener envisioned continents "drifting" through the mantle like boats. Since the idea of isostasy was by then well established, the coninents weren't like any old boats, they were like sailboats with a deep keel that would have to plow through the mantle. The problem wasn't so much the lack of mechanism, as it was that it seemed to defy what was then understood about the mechanical properties of continents and mantle. The geophysicists of the day calculated that the continental rock would be crushed trying to push through mantle material.

Also note, that at the time ('20s and'30s) science truely knew more about the topography of the moon than about the bathymetry of the deep ocean basins. All the features of the deep sea floor that make the idea so compelling now (symetry across mid ocean ridges, continental shelves that match better when restored than the shorline that Wegener used, etc) were almost totally unknown. Much of the "mounting evidence in its favor" (per Gell-Mann), was compiled by geologists . Paleontologists found that the idea of drift helped explain puzzling features in the distribution of fossil species. Geologists doing regional mapping found notable similarities in the rock record that seemed to match up if continents were restored The only problem was that these geologists were mostly located in Europe and the Southern Hemisphere. As I noted, and Gell-Mann before me, North American geologists and geophysicists stubbornly refused to go along. Some of Naomi Oreskes' work that I suggested your read helps explain (but hardly excuses) that resistance.

The concept of "Plate Tectonics" is different in that we are now talking about "plates" which are in part decoupled from the mantle, and move somehwhat passively in response to mantle convection. Also, Plate Tectonics is a unifying idea in world wide geology. Continental Drift really only explained the symetry across ocean basins. Plate Tectonics explained why mountain ranges are where they are, why ocean basins are where they are, etc etc. The earliest aspects of what would become Plate Tectonics started to emerge in the '50s, and by about 1968 it was firmly established as the dominent theory, including in North America. And North American geologists and geophysicists were among the key players in developing Plate Tectonics.

If you want to talk about stuff other than "the maths" I suggest you educate yourself, rather than just spouting off about things you know little about. I've given you a couple of good references to educate yourself about the history of Continental Drift and Plate Tectonics. I suggest you do your homework.

Gell--Mann wrote that in 1994 so he was referring to the 1960's. Which is what I wrote.
See The Quark and the Jaguar.
So they were rejecting the theory just a couple of years before it was accepted, which you say was 1968. When did they accept peak oil?

....they were rejecting the theory just a couple of years before it was accepted...

In the morning it's dark....just a couple of hours before it gets light.

Paradigm changes are usually messy, whether in global tectonics, or Peak Oil.

October 11, 2010 - 7:27am--In the morning it's dark....just a couple of hours before it gets light.

It is 7:47 am here, AK Geo, and I'm just starting to see the trees outside emerge through the gloom. Some places it's dark longer than others :-{

300+ million spoiled Americans are about to get their consciousness raised and their paradigms shifted. We're going to need a lot more counselors.

Yup, it was pretty dark out when I wrote that. Still is kind of gloomy now (0843 local), and cloudy. Getting to be that time of year again in Alaska! I hope we have good snow in Anchorage this winter, for skiing!

Ha, 0905 and the sun is still stuck on slow behind the mountains. I did my snow dance Sunday at Eklutna, but I was in shorts still. La Nina winter . . . . Time to get the waxing bench out or not?

Pulses maximize productivity, and Alaska pulses big. Unfortunately that means Anchorage gobbles somewhere between 6 and 10X as much natural gas in the winter, depending on who you believe? Bye-bye, Sun King.

Front page of the ADN today--Jobless Find Old Jobs Need New Skills. This is how "despecialization"(TM) will occur, at least in the short term.

They're running into a trend that took root during the recession. Companies became more productive by doing more with fewer workers. Some asked staffers to take on a broader array of duties — duties that used to be spread among multiple jobs. Now, someone who hopes to get those jobs must meet the new requirements.

As a result, some database administrators now have to manage network security.

Accountants must do financial analysis to find ways to cut costs.

Factory assembly workers need to program computers to run machinery.

The broader responsibilities mean it's harder to fill many of the jobs that are open these days. It helps explain why many companies complain they can't find qualified people for certain jobs, even with 4.6 unemployed Americans, on average, competing for each opening. By contrast, only 1.8 people, on average, were vying for each job opening before the recession....

Take Bayer MaterialScience, a unit of Bayer. When the company sought earlier this year to hire a new health, safety and environment director for one of its plants, it wanted candidates with a wider range of abilities than before. In particular, it needed someone skilled not just in managing health and safety but also in guiding employees to adapt to workplace changes....

That shift, across multiple industries, has caught the eye of David Altig, research director at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Workers aren't just being asked to increase their output, Altig says. They're being asked to broaden it, too.


I was in Anchorage 2 weeks ago. STUNNINGLY beautiful weather...my first time there.

Were you up here for the Alaska Oil & Gas Congress?

Yes we've had some really nice weather this fall. Makes up for some of the rain earlier in the summer. However, today it looks like we may be headed for some more normal fall weather. :-(

Nope, no Oil and Gas congress for me.

I've been up to Prudhoe before in June, but this was my first Anchorage trip. Loved the place, wish I had an excuse to stick around an extra day or two. Probably next time I wrangle just that and it'll rain all the time or something.

Nope, no Oil and Gas congress for me.

Me neither. On the few occasions when I've gone to that sort of thing nobody said anything I didn't already know. Seemed like the purpose is more about "Meet and Greet" for the movers and shakers. I'd much rather spend my time at a scientific or technical meeting like AAPG or somethng similar. As Garth Brooks says "I have friends in low places....", I'd rather hang with them.

If you ever plan a trip to Anchorage, early summer (June - early July) is typically the best weather. However, our "typical" weather tends to span a wide range. Bring both your shorts and good rain gear!

i was also been Anchorage its amazing
residential treatment virginia

Delete duplicate post.

As a practical matter, thetre is likely to be plenty of work for petroleum engineers for several decades at least.

Trucking companies with new trucks that trade them often don't need very good or very many mechanics;companies with old worn out trucks need LOTS of mechanics.

As the oil fields get older, smaller, and harder to develop and operate, the need for engineering expertise may explode rather than shrink for some fairly long period.

If young guys are not entering the field, the oil companies will just have to pay enough to keep the old guys working a few more years.

This is not to say that at different times there might not be a glut of petroleum engineers.

In the long run we are all dead of course.

As a practical matter, thetre is likely to be plenty of work for petroleum engineers for several decades at least.

Made my point again! It is the only engineering discipline with a built-in obsolescence. Name another field that will disappear in "several decades".

How long do YOU expect to live and work,WHT?

I don't know anything much about your chosen specialty, but you must admit that any given career choice might turn out to be a poor one, as we don't know, other than in very general terms, what the future holds;and we only THINK we KNOW that much.

Swans and all that sort of stuff , you see.

You could really do all of us a good turn by actually posting some RESULTS of all your modeling instead of just focusing on the techniques you use in your comments.

What career choices are you reccomending to anyone who might ask you personally, such as a niece or nephew?

Can't put too much results in comments, the moderators don't appreciate it.
I have gathered much of my analysis in several top-level TOD posts.
I put everything in my blog http://mobjectivist.blogspot.com, all the nitty-gritty.
Is that what you are asking about?

No, but it sure was a nice way to avoid the question, sell the blog stuff a little more and pretend its relevant all at the same time!

You sure you aren't in sales?

It's my hobby -- observing nature and making sense of it with models.

I am trying to rationalize why no other geologist or petroleum engineer has been able to come up with an analysis approaching anywhere near the novelty or uniqueness of anything I have done.

We aren't allowed to just make stuff up.

All new analysis is made up. It just needs to stand the test of time.

Certain disciplines reward creativity. Goes for the sciences and engineering as much as for the liberal arts.

How about any relationship to reality, shouldn't that count in this world view somewhere?

I am deeply connected to reality. I understand the idea of sunk costs and that anyone that rocks the boat and comes up with something simple needs to be marginalized. Got to keep those consultancies and narrowly-focused engineering degrees going after all.

And like I said elsewhere Petroleum Engineers have never been able to predict their own reality and raison detre. What other discipline would blithely ignore the idea of bootstrapping from their own theories to produce some incredibly useful prediction concerning decline?

To a computer scientist: For that programming language you just created -- you should write a compiler in that language and then you can really test it out. "Wow great idea, thanks."

To a Petroleum engineer: For your great heuristics that you just created -- you could use that to estimate some statistics on global oil depletion .... crickets.

I am deeply connected to reality.

Good. As soon as you can iron out connecting that statement with "knowing as little about something as possible before pretending to understand it" maybe we can say we're making progress.

What other discipline would blithely ignore the idea of bootstrapping from their own theories to produce some incredibly useful prediction concerning decline?

Just because specialists in not knowing anything before they pretend to understand something say it is so, doesn't make it true.

Arps, J.J., 1944, Analysis of Decline Curves, AIME 160, p. 228-247

Some guys even occasionally threw in diffusivity equations!

Fetkovich, M.J., 1980, Decline Curve Analysis Using Type Curves, JPT, p. 1065-1077

All I can say is that knowing something about a topic before pretending to understand it sure can come in handy when it comes to references!

Don't make me laugh. Those references are the demented heuristics of people that have no idea of what they are doing. Pure GIGO.

One of the primary references in the second paper is of L.P. Dake, who wrote this in 2001 in a standard Petroleum Engineering textbook (The Practice of Reservoir Engineering):

The reader may feel that the physical laws governing the subject of reservoir engineering are sparse.

Writing in the third person, he later says:

The author has always believed that there should be a place in reservoir engineering for the very basic theory of physics which is (perhaps unfortunately) the Heisenberg “Uncertainty Principle” of quantum mechanics. This is not an original thought in the subject because as long ago as 1949 the ultimate reservoir engineer, Morris Muskat, had flirted with the same idea but concluded that: “In its operational sense the principle of uncertainty, which is usually considered as limited to the realm of microscopic physics, constitutes the very essence of applied reservoir engineering as a science.”
An excellent thought - but what can be done about it?
Nevertheless, the subject is vulnerable to change, the latest approach being the adoption of “Chaos Theory”. This would seem to be a convenient concept to hide behind in reservoir engineering but at the time of writing is still in its infancy - thank goodness

These are not the writings of people that have a good handle of what is going on. I can do at least as good as that!

These texts are classics of delusional thinking as well. More from Dake:

“Much of the [price] increase can only be defined as a self inflicted wound on the fabric of western society arising from policies which reflected the unsubstantiated belief in an inevitable scarcity of oil.” “the world is running into oil, not out of it”

This is really wild reading. That, my friends, is what is taught in Petroleum Engineering.

RGR, I don't think you should have gone there. But you finally took the bait.

Freshmen, this is what awaits you if you decide on Petroleum Engineering as a career.

Don't make me laugh. Those references are the demented heuristics of people that have no idea of what they are doing. Pure GIGO.

I never said you would like them, only that every time you imply someone hasn't done something, its just WAY too easy to point out how knowing something about a topic comes in handy when dealing with someone who doesn't. I gotta tell ya Web, my opinion on what they teach for logical thinking in whatever branch of academia you frequent which isn't qualified to even support a basic petroleum engineering program doesn't say much for the company you keep. Want to give us a hint as to where to NOT send our kids, should they decide to become math teachers or circuit repair technicians? If you are embarrassed to mention the name, then give us just a state or locality perhaps?

These are not the writings of people that have a good handle of what is going on. I can do at least as good as that!

Thats what you claim all the time...and then you have to go and post something proving otherwise.

I noticed that you don't have anything to say regarding the substance of the quotations that I pulled.
I have many more where those came from.

I noticed that you don't have anything to say regarding the substance of the quotations that I pulled.

Are you kidding? I could expound for hours on the topic. But when you are presented with evidence showing how ridiculous your claims of "dose dum enguneers dont does da bootstrapping stuff" and you ignore the evidence within another post or two and repeat the same nonsense, whats the point? Conversing with someone requires that they don't live in some bubble wrapped cocoon of ignorance...and worse yet...LIKE it that way.

But you won't expound on the topic on anything but the most generic level.
To do so would give away your identity, and you can't have that can you.

I am happy with anonymity.

You could start asking her direct questions - she did claim she'd answer them.

I would ask RGR to post a paper to relevant RGR work but RGR won't do that.
I could learn something but that would come at the expense of revealing RGR's identity.

RGR did say that RGR would answer any direct question asked of RGR.

Saying "I'm not gonna show you" is an answer.

Then RGR is just as useful as, say the people who claim they can't show ACTA negotiations language because it is a state secret. The readers can then decide if RGR is just a poser.

It's like he's pleading the 5th

I refuse to answer that on the grounds that it may incriminate me.

What other discipline would blithely ignore the idea of bootstrapping from their own theories?

All of them.

Truth is, I don't personally know any Petroleum engineers.

But I do know a number of "Computer scientists" and "Electrical engineers".

And I strongly suspect that if I asked any of them (except for the deep thinking PhD ones): "What is electricity and where does it come from?"

... Most wouldn't have a clue and most would not be the least bit upset that they do not have a clue even though their livelihood (and our to-be-continued way of life) depends on that fundamental question.

As for most "Computer scientists", they do not even understand what "software" is.

It's just another second hand emotion thing. Not to be worried about.

It only takes a few enlightened engineers to realize the benefit of this approach. How a whole group can universally miss this concept is what boggles the mind.

Listen, I am only trying to rationalize what I have been able to uncover via oil depletion modeling. It seems as if someone has done something similar. How else to explain the apathy? (I know you will respond with more apathy)

How a whole group can universally miss this concept is what boggles the mind.

See what I mean? I'm sitting right here, I do the things you claim petroleum engineers don't do all the time and occasionally on weekends, and within a post or two you pretend that your make believe version of the world is the real one.

Yet you don't add anything to the discussion since if you did then it would reveal your identity.
So you assert the most general pablum.

My identity is not required to state for the record that bootstrapping into distributions is built into half the work I do, assuming I haven't already figured out the distribution and sample into that instead.

Bootstrapping is an overloaded term. You have used it incorrectly.

You guys need to pull yourselves up by your bootstraps and use all your great knowledge to evaluate oil depletion and present some policies that we can use. If you think it is too late ....

Fine, bootstrapping into the actual uncertainty within the data then. Shoot me. Lets make a bet, how far back in time can I find bootstrapping technical papers in either AAPG Bulletin or my SPE library? What with them never doing it, according to you, the answer should be, "you can't", right?

Just find some papers describing the kind of work I am doing. That will do it.

Oh now thats just cherry. How am I supposed to find irrelevant gibberish in premiere science rags when the entire point of being a premiere science rag is to make sure the irrelevant gibberish stays on blogs and such?

Just provide the references. I don't have a deadline.

A reference to what? First it was engineers or geologists using a bootstrap technique (some I know without even looking it up) and now its someone publishing stuff on the distribution of things they don't have any data on, so they make it up while pretending its real? I said I would search some premiere science rags, not textbookss for shrinks on the topic of "delusion of grandeur".

You assume value where none has been demonstrated, its as ridiculous as saying "find someone as clever as I think I am" and I would be perfectly within the domain of answers by handing you a chimpanzee.

A Petroleum Engineering textbook that discusses global oil depletion and puts some quantitative estimates to a projection.
That is the reference.

Thats not what you originally asked for, or what I said I would look up. Petroleum engineering textbooks didn't even exist back when they were passing laws in the US dealing with depletion related issues, or quantifying 100% depletion back in the 19th century.

Here we go again. What kind of profession are you in, some sort of guild society?
Where knowledge is passed along via stone tablets?

a few enlightened engineers


Honestly. I do understand what you are driving at.
However, in many fields, this "bootstrapping" idea makes no sense.

For example, in the micro-computer and nano-computer arena, the goal is make a very small, very energy efficient computing device; sometimes giving up on performance speed to gain in mobility and battery life for example.

Why on Earth would an "enlightened engineer" use an iPhone computer to run his simulations (perhaps at the HDL level, perhaps at a different level) in order to "bootstrap" to the next generation of iPhone (or Android, or other mobile PDA) when instead he could use the room-sized supercomputer at work to get to that next step so much faster?

Do you see what I'm saying here?
Bootstrapping for the sake of itself often makes no sense.

Today Vs. Ages ago: "Imagine an iPod more powerful then what's pictured above."

You're most likely making a statement about the quality of post secondary education in your jurisdiction rather than the grasp of knowledge for a particular profession. I know plenty of EE's that can accurately describe what electricity "is". I've had discussions with EE profs (the PH-dee-y types) and took them to school on aspects of power utility engineering, especially telecom and broadband, and substation automation.

Now try and get a short and simple answer to "the grid" and I'll bet there are plenty of power engineers would have difficulty. The problem isn't the education, but the exposure and perspective. It's not unlike four blind men trying to describe an elephant.

But, as I've been reading this thread with the debate between the geologists and WHT, I am convinced it is a matter of "My lady doth protest too much". There is a significant and discriminating difference between the worlds of geo-science and electricity. Electrical engineering tends to be a very closed system, and hence, very predictable lending itself to simple and elegant math. Geo-science is largely an open system and doesn't lend itself to tight formulations and outcomes. Once we accept those principles as the fundamental difference we can stop quibbling over whose brain is bigger, or whether one's area of career and study fall into mostly arbitrary scientific disciplines.

This also opens up the philosophical question whether an academic discipline should be universal and transcendent, or purposeful and self limiting. Truths can be universal or have a life span due to examination and revision. Does it make one less a Truth than the other, or are we really discussing belief systems?

I did read a fictional novel based on Wegner and he was laughed out of academic circles for his heretical notion of continental drift. (Drift is the consequence, plate tectonics are the mechanics; cause and effect). He was a career adventurer and died in Greenland as a result.

The problem isn't the education, but the exposure and perspective. It's not unlike four blind men trying to describe an elephant.


Very much agree with you.

The real problem is "specialization".
We each cannot easily see that we are but a tiny cog in a much bigger system.

Consider for example, a PCB board level digital design engineer who is tasked with populating a printed circuit board with various ICs (CPU, RAM, PROM etc.) and then handing the task over to the software people to program the thing and integrate it into a larger system and so on.

Does this engineer care about how the +3.3Volt power gets to his DC power terminal? No. That is somebody else's headache. And even the guy that designs the switching power supply, does he care where the 120V 60Hz input power comes from? No. That is somebody else's headache. And on it goes.

Oh so, I forgot to pose the next question in this thinking out loud stream of consciousness:

Does this engineer care about Peak Oil?
Hell no.
That is somebody else's headache.

Not in my case. I am now the walking reference around the office when someone bumps into a reference from an "expert" saying we're running out of this or that, the application of bell shaped religious symbols to everything under the sun, etc etc. 8 out of 10 times I can provide a rundown on the reference without cracking a book. My hobby of participating in these cocktail party level conversations has been pretty lucrative for vacuuming up what little there is of the alleged "science" behind the claims, plus I keep track of the amateurs as well...maybe I should say primarily amateurs because those are the majority of the building blocks for the dogma involved.

saying we're running out of this or that

The only ones using the "running out" quackery are you and the ducks lined up behind you.

Even the amateur Peak Oil "theorist" can come to quickly understand that we will never "run out" because of left behind oil drops stuck between unreachable rock.

Even the home-amateur Peak Oil "theorist" can also quickly understand that the Hubbert bell-shaped curve illustrates a concept and not a guaranteed future.

That alleged "science" you quack fun at is otherwise known as the law of conservation of mass and conservation of energy.

'Nuff said.


If you are talking about your posts on GOM field size distributions or well rates, then I'm afraid to say I wouldn't blow that trumpet too loudly - there wasn't anything novel or unique about them (except ultimately their uselessness as I think I pointed out at the time).


Having said that, I do appreciate your manifest enthusiasm for your subject and I have hugely enjoyed this exchange on the merits of Petroleum Engineering, so please keep it up!

Unfortunately you did not invalidate anything I said.
About all you stated is that the data is not the best (which it never is).
Your comments are useless because you said that my idea was not novel or unique yet you could not come up with a reference to refute the novelty.
Please try again because if someone else has done this I would like to know.

RGR does this all the time. He says it has all been done before but he never gives a good prior art reference.

Note to freshmen, this is not the way to do research: refutation by assertion.

Hey, if you can call your stuff "reservoir size" without actually having any, seems like my sutff (author,year, title, journal and page) is much closer to "reference" then your stuff. I can smell a Bayesian analysis from here!

To incoming freshmen:
Would you like to have a nicely laid out argument describing how over the course of millions of years that oil can migrate into reservoirs and form a mathematically precise distribution of volumes? Of course you would because you have a intellectually curious mind. This argument uses ideas from the maximum entropy principle, a truly scientific approach that has become amazingly useful over the years.

Unfortunately you won't get this from any geology or petroleum engineering course as they would rather shove a formula down your throat. That is what RGR had to suffer through and he has become a bit bitter over this.


Perhaps you can clarify where it is that you find the efforts of the industry to be lacking? And where it is that  your work fills such an essential gap?

1) I initially took your various posts to mean that you feel the industry is not interested in statistical analysis  of field size distributions. This is not true of course; performing such an analysis is standard practice for  companies interested in entering a new basin, and I have personally sat through many presentations where such  techniques were employed as part of a tool set to help establish basin maturity and assess further exploration  potential. It is often demonstrable that a particular region has passed its peak, though particular companies may  target such regions if their particular strategy is to develop small fields to existing infrastructure or extract  revenue from tail production by rehabilitating existing large fields.

2) I then wonder if you refer specifically to using such analysis to predict resource scarcity on a global scale.  Companies may or may not do this; I suspect that large companies do. To the extent that long term stragegic planning  is conducted, large IOCs will be well aware of their impending mortality. Again, I have sat through enough  presentations on production versus reserves replacement to know that regardless of the public face required to  massage shareholder confidence, few in senior positions are under any illusions about how difficult it is to add  reserves with the drill bit, and how much easier it is by acquisition. Outside of the major resource owning  countries, competition for dwindling and often high cost opportunities remains intense. The pathetically small  amounts spent on trying to move company focus towards other areas of energy supply may be partly testament to your  points about the very narrow nature of the industry expertise base, but also a function of the large profits that  can still be made from oil and gas projects.

3) Perhaps then you mean in particular the application of maximum entropy theory (MET) to resource distribution? 
MET is certainly not new to the industry. In fact it was an oil man that expanded its visibility :

"In his landmark 1967 paper, John Burg was the first to apply Jaynes’ Maximum 
Entropy Principle as an inferential principle outside of the realm of statistical 
mechanics. He presented this paper, which was titled “Maximum Entropy Spectral 
Analysis” at the 37th Meeting of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists in 
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where it won the Best Presentation Award."


I've come across MET when looking at uncertainty ranges for individual fields. Indeed thirty seconds with Google  turns up this :

https://www8.imperial.ac.uk/content/dav/ad/workspaces/earthscienceandeng.... pdf

Pragmatically, whether resource distributions are generated using log normal, pareto or entropic dispersion  formulations is I think rather academic given the uncertainty in the underlying data. No-one is going to be laughed  off the stage for using something other than MET.

My beef with your field size posting was that you committed the cardinal sin of blindly applying a statistical  methodology without bothering to understand the underlying data you were matching. This led to your completely  erroneous conclusion that the Macondo discovery was of very significant size. So I am most definitely invalidating  what you said. And there is another lesson for the freshmen.

My beef with your field size posting was that you committed the cardinal sin of blindly applying a statistical methodology without bothering to understand the underlying data you were matching.

Thank you for noticing. But watch out...he'll just go and make something else up next....quantifying a global resource estimate by analyzing the frequency of 4 leaf clovers in nearby pastures or something. And then he'll dare you to find someone else so original in the scientific literature.

And then he'll dare you to find someone else so original in the scientific literature.

You oil guys are all the same. You can't provide a reference to a paper in the scientific literature. Which BIG NERD was unable to do, just like you have not been able to do.


You have no idea what you are talking about with regards to Maximum Entropy.
Of course Maximum Entropy can be applied to different problems.

The oil industry sponsored some of the early work of Jaynes, the orginator of the MaxEnt principle.

I wrote about it here:

This is Maximal Entropy Spectral Analysis, which has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with what I am talking about.

Why don't you go and do your homework before you just spout off something you heard at some oil meeting?

BTW, The link that you provided goes to a secure location that requires a login:

Wht, my intention was to demonstrate that concepts like maximum entropy had in fact entered the dinosaur infested corners of the oil industry. 

Here is another attempt at the corrupted link. This had the same objective as the above, though I expect you to dismiss it immediately as it does not directly parallel your own treatment. In fact it is barely explicit about the method it does follow.


I was also trying to establish what elements of your work you consider novel. I understand very well that you are using MaxEnt to generate probability density functions and that you think this has an important application to oil field size distributions. 

Can you please state succinctly why you think it is so important?

My contention would be that common treatments using lognormal or Pareto fits are entirely adequate, especially given the uncertainties in the input dataset. 

The paper you supplied is interesting but completely irrelevant.

#1: Pareto and Log-Normal don't work. That is very clear, and they don't explain anything, which gets to the second point.
#2: Where is the understanding? I can explain how things happen and why a distribution comes about. All you guys do is blindly fit to statistical distributions without having any kind of understanding in real random processes.

If you have to ask whether this is important, I don't know what to say.

It gets back to my original contention is that Petroleum Engineering is like a vo-tech offering.
You are taught to blindly use the formulas and never wonder about nature and why things turn out the way they do.


I think your angst about engineering practices is misplaced, but I do understand it to some degree.

My first degree was in physics. I am used to deriving things from first principles, and to placing meaningful error bars on calculated quantities. Transitioning to an engineering discipline was interesting, particularly one like petroleum engineering, where there is for example frequent reliance on correlations to establish useful data. I could hardly believe it to begin with.

In pure science, explanatory power is everything. In engineering, though the foundations of most techniques are of course solidly grounded, recourse to first principles is often not necessary. In petroleum engineering in particular, there are many problems (for example multi-phase fluid flow in tubulars) which are almost impossible to solve from first principles. Correlations based on experimental data do very well, very quickly. It is not remotely important that they make no attempt to address the real physics of the situation as long as they are used within established bounds. The emphasis is on doing, not explaining, and that is absolutely ok in this context. Your scorn is rather naive I feel.

Almost the defining feature of the oil industry is the management of the huge uncertainty in the subsurface resource for which facilities are designed. It is often much more important to characterise and to plan effectively for a range of possible outcomes than it is to calculate a particular case to multiple decimal points. Again, this is not a weakness, it is a harsh reality.

As I understand it, existing techniques for looking at field size distributions (particularly the truncated pareto) are fit for purpose, regardless of their explanatory power. And regardless of whether your approach is new or not, I strongly suspect that its adoption would not change a single decision ever made in any company.

I don't expect that I can tempt you from your ivory tower, but I wish you well.

Your naivete is rather touching, and quite sad.
By your standards studying cosmology would also be hopeless.

What a glorious non-sequitur! 

I am beginning to wonder if a petroleum engineer stole your girlfriend at college! :-)

You said :

I will keep on plugging away at this because the vast majority of geologists seem to show very little intellectual curiosity on any of this kind of analysis.

I am trying to rationalize why no other geologist or petroleum engineer has been able to come up with an analysis approaching anywhere near the novelty or uniqueness of anything I have done.

I think we have established that in the context of their work they have much more important things to do with their time. 

This does not detract in any way from your own pursuits which I'm sure are very interesting. It is only your prejudices which can detract from those. A characteristic of most good scientists that I know is a tendency to fairness and open mindedness. It's part of being a truth seeker. 

We didn't have a Petroleum Engineering major at my school.

Take your t-bit psychoanalysis elsewhere. Since you and your colleagues have "much more important things to do with their time", you clearly won't be helping this effort out any.

No analysis performed wht! 

Plotting field size distributions is a microscopic part of normal business activity. Oil industry pros generally don't have enough time even to do their basic work let alone finesse decimal places in the tail fit in these relatively rare studies. So I remain perplexed at your castigation of them and your obvious hatred of the disciplines involved.

I do however find it genuinely admirable that you spend your private time thinking deeply about things like the relationship between entropy and the observable world. You have stimulated me to find out more about it.

If you are interested I found today a decent paper on the use of the Pareto distribution to model oil field sizes. But I suspect this conversation may have run it's course. 

Of course I hate it. I hate the fact that no one has ever figured out how to do the analysis and thus potentially generate a smoother landing than what we will experience. It is depressing as all get out and I hate that.

I am beginning to wonder if a petroleum engineer stole your girlfriend at college! :-)

I was beginning to wonder the same thing. There is something in his projection of disdain that has more than a little personal flavor to it. Maybe a geologist from his school went out, discovered an oilfield somewhere and got rich before he/she was 30? It has happened before, and that person now rubs elbows with Bill Gates whereas Web is stuck doing "science" (roughly defined at trend fitting) on the web because they won't let him play with the oscilloscope knobs at work?

I am perfectly happy with my life. I worry about the younger generation and the fact that we didn't plan well for them.

You don't have a clue what we are taught, you've already said so, your school isn't even qualified to teach petroleum engineers.

The fields of study dealing with finite resources have a fundamental problem of dealing with their own mortality. The practitioners can't admit to limited resources because it would point to all incoming freshmen that their industry holds no future. Or perhaps everyone already realizes this. That essentially explains why the salaries start so high: the implicit message is get yours while the getting is good.

Look again at the title of this Campfire: "What careers are best?"

If a career adviser or counselor told an undecided freshman exactly what I stated above, would you consider that wrong and hateful?

In 50 years you might have a point. Today I'd fire you for providing insanely bad advice.

No, I think it is plainly obvious and all I am doing is putting my thesis out there as any internet pundit would.

Well, thats hardly the quality of group you appear to believe you belong in.

If a career adviser or counselor told an undecided freshman exactly what I stated above, would you consider that wrong and hateful?

No. Neither would I consider it accurate. Which brings up the point, why would you advocate lying to freshman trying to decide what career is best for them by asking a question which imposes your personal criteria on how they should decide what to do with their future?

Of course it is accurate. There is no other engineering discipline that has as narrow a focus as Petroleum Engineering.

It is the equivalent of structuring an entire academic program around bird guano engineering.

Petroleum contains a complex mixture of hydrocarbons <=> bird guano contains phosphates

These are equally important in many peoples minds, but it would seem absurd to create something special for bird guano.

What in the hell is wrong with pointing out to freshmen that petroleum isn't some fundamental invariant concept of nature, and that petroleum engineering is just a trade that exploits a quirk in the earth's historical timeline.

What in the hell is wrong with pointing out to freshmen that petroleum isn't some fundamental invariant concept of nature, and that petroleum engineering is just a trade that exploits a quirk in the earth's historical timeline.

Written this way, not as much as your last philosophical rant against the industry which has empowered mankind.

I would recommend the following caveat however, you should include the expected lifetime of crude oil and natural gas production ranging into the next few centuries so they understand that you certainly don't mean there will be any natural limitations during THEIR career.

Perspective is everything.

the industry that has empowered mankind

Well if it is important as that, then you would think that somebody would have slipped something in to a textbook pointing out the eventual limitations of this "empowerment".

if it is important as that, then you would think that somebody would have slipped something in to a textbook pointing [it] out

But that would be blasphemy and treason.

Textbooks are usually written by teachers/ professors.

Their continued way of life depends on perpetuating the myth.
So it is incomprehensible that one of them should suggest that the myth might not go on forever and ever.

"the industry which has empowered mankind"

And that brings up a whole other set of issues.

Empowered mankind to do what?

Trash the planet?

Is it the responsibility of those providing enormous quantities of power to a species to try to determine whether said species is ready to handle said vast amounts of power?

Put metaphorically, is it the responsibility of the person holding a live chainsaw to decide whether to hand it to a five year old?

If not, whose responsibility is it?

Is it the responsibility of those providing enormous quantities of power to a species to try to determine whether said species is ready to handle said vast amounts of power?

If not, whose responsibility is it?

All of ours of course. Collectively we have decided that mining, drilling, smelting and manufacturing has a net positive effect on the human condition as compared to sitting around with stone tipped spears grunting at each other while occasionally drawing animal pictures on the wall of our favorite cave.

For the sake of rhetoric, I believe you've missed a few key steps in there. If I recall my history correctly, I don't believe we went from Fred Flintstone to Henry Ford in a fortnight. I seem to recall there was an agricultural era in there someplace...

But what's a few eons between friends, eh?

My bursts of hyperbole can be pretty amazing too!

But sure, we did other things along the way, but my point was WE decided to do those things for all sorts of reasons, undoubtedly some of them were good reasons, and some were bad. Good would be better farming implements, right? Steel plows for example. And we did it for bad reasons, so one group of humans could kill/eradicate/eliminate another group.

But it is what it is, and as a species we choose to do it. Seems like this kind of discussion can only take place AFTER a civilization gets rich enough to have people sitting around with nothing better to do. Any number of which look back and say "oh but look at how awful it was to get here" and maybe they are right...but its what allowed them to now sit around and bash their history. Something intellectually dishonest in here, I just haven't figured it out yet.

The fields of study dealing with finite resources have a fundamental problem of dealing with their own mortality. The practitioners can't admit to limited resources because it would point to all incoming freshmen that their industry holds no future.

Its just my opinion, but I think its likely that the value of petro-engineering knowhow will probably increase when we are on the backside of peak. Yes we will be producing and using less of the stuff, butthat implies we will value what we do have highly, and any ability to optimize our usage ought to be highly valued.

Should Petroleum Engineering even be considered an engineering discipline, and not just some votech trade school offering?

The value of a degree is determined by what someone is willing to pay you to apply it for them, after you get it. By that measure, if petroleum engineering is a trade school offering, the effective use of all bachelor degree's in the country were just erased and reduced to some course of study you might take as a sophomore in high school. And then those of us going to this "elite" trade school would still out earn them.

We didn't have a Petroleum Engineering degree, which are usually in Universities near oil country, but I can tell you that most of the engineering students who couldn't hack it went over to geology or maybe business.

Most petroleum engineers who didn't become petroleum engineers I am familiar with became math teachers, industrial engineers or computer science people. Engineers in my experience do not fit naturally into the interpretive world of geology any better than interpretive geologists fit into the world of engineers.

Some oil companies would hire mech/EE/chem types and turn them into their own special brand of petroleum engineer, certainly working in the oilfield isn't restricted to PE's.

Another last choice field was civil engineering. A subtext to the discussion is that many of the students chose an alternate course of study because they thought that it would give them an option to a life of cubicle work. They figured that it was somehow more hands on and exciting if you could get out in the field.
This reinforces the notion of these disciplines as empirical sciences with less theoretical naval-dazing than you would get in other majors.

A subtext to the discussion is that many of the students chose an alternate course of study because they thought that it would give them an option to a life of cubicle work.

Then they wouldn't have chosen a petroleum engineering degree in the first place. Until I became a scientist my office was generally a truck. Logging trucks, production trucks, trailers on a wellsite, offshore platforms, spending the night in a frac trailer, sleeping in my personal truck when there wasn't anything else available. While I'm sure some petroleum engineers advance to cubical drone quickly I joined up because I swore I never wanted to wear a suit again in my life, four years in high school was enough.

Worked out pretty good too, until people started asking for presentations at conferences, now I grit my teeth and suffer through it a couple times a year.

My, aren't we all getting a little testy today! Is it "projection"or "My lady doth protest too much"? I'm going to split this one down the middle. Having been through the grinder described by others in this thread, I do get the obnoxious privilege of superior airs. After our ring ceremony my department chair asked how it felt to be graduating. I replied it doesn't feel so much like graduating as survival - and I wish I had taken mechanical.

The program I went through was unique in its day with a three year Technologist (may be on par with some U.S. engineering schools) and a transfer to wonderful Thunder Bay (read "gulag") for a two year program to finish with an engineering degree. First semester in TB we had a definite weed out diffy-calc course. Class average "D". Half way through the Civils were complaining and trying to argue the case they didn't need dynamic math because everything they did was static. Henceforth they earned the moniker "Snivels". Don't know how I pulled it off but I got a "B" and these days I don't think I can get past the text book's table of contents.

In most of our engineering professions the esoteric mathematica is dispensed with and we routinely use tables and established references. About as hard as it gets is maybe a multiple regression. We had some of the first fancy programmable calculators in the mid-80's, (mine was a Radio Shack PC-6 that could actually program in Basic and had 8K of memory - it was huge!). We were told by practicing engineers the only use they have for them is checking over their pay stub. Yet the underlying moral of the story is we don't do the math anymore but we can still read and comprehend the language, and understand the subtext of the numbers.

I've found the engineer's life can be a gypsy. But I've lived and worked in some places that others consider exotic or fantastic vacation spots - like six months living in a beach side hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Spent some of my weekends going over to another island for scuba diving and partying all paid for instead of flying home to a lonely apartment - that was next to TPC Sawgrass thank you very much.

So I really can't complain. Regardless of rank or superior airs, we need all the engineers. I can't design a bridge and I sure appreciate it when Civils do it properly. On the other hand, I usually see the glazed over expression in meetings as soon as we start talking complex power dynamics. EE's are usually considered voodoo magicians and the others keep a distance. That's fine so long as they keep paying the invoices.

Career choice to consider: Naturopath. And in our neck of the woods heavy duty mechanic.

In most of our engineering professions the esoteric mathematica is dispensed with and we routinely use tables and established references. About as hard as it gets is maybe a multiple regression.

Bingo - Seems like the math portion of engineering curriculum hasn't changes in over 50 years. Some calculus is nice to know for those very rare occasions when you have to figure out the guts of a model or derive some new formula. However, statistics, numerical methods, and design related classes are one heck of a lot more useful than all the "weed-out" math classes, especially for bachelor's degree engineers. Rather than weeding out a huge percentage of our US born engineering students in abstract math and then letting in a bunch of cheaper foreign engineers on visas, maybe we should change the engineering curriculum to be more productive.

Regarding the topic, I see the fields related to energy, water, robotics, health care, and resource management as fields of the future. Agricultural technology could also make a comeback. Business, accounting, and marketing will always have good long term demand. Information technology should continue to be a good area, although I wonder if we will start seeing diminishing returns on complexity in the IT field in the next decade or so. Skilled technicians could be in demand in areas where the high schools/junior colleges/trade schools are not producing enough graduates. Most important is to find a field where one's passion can shine through.

Seems like the math portion of engineering curriculum hasn't changes in over 50 years. Some calculus is nice to know for those very rare occasions when you have to figure out the guts of a model or derive some new formula. However, statistics, numerical methods, and design related classes are one heck of a lot more useful than all the "weed-out" math classes, especially for bachelor's degree engineers.

I'm of a mixed opinion on that. Clearly most of the jobs the "survivors" do, won't require much advanced math. On the other hand, demonstrating you can survive in a math heavy type field, means you have some ability to make and deal with models of complex stuff, and that sort of talent is key to many technical tasks. Since my kids are comp-sci, I note that most of their peers only wanna be programmers, rather then full fledged computer-scientists. I suspect in mant technical fields you need more decently trained technicians than engineers/scientists, and only a very small number of top analytic type math wizards. I wonder how many of those voted off the island could have been successful technicians.

Its interesting that a guy I used to wok with, a dam good engineer, went back for an MBA at an elite business school. They really stressed the need for analytic ability, yet he feels like he's about the only student who gets math.

I wonder if we will start seeing diminishing returns on complexity in the IT field in the next decade or so.


Logins used to be a text file with the name/password.
Then the password was put someplace else...for security.
Then the name/password became tokens granted from a different machine.

Now you have an SQL database that stores the name and a (in theory) 1 way hash of the password which is passed though a LDAP layer that goes to the machine.

While the user interfaces have simplified - the code behind them have not.

The key to maintaining IT productivity is the change from supporting people doing business functions at workstations to automating whole business processes and eliminating the people and workstations from the process. This requires more IT staff, but fewer adminstrative, clerical, and lower managerial people.

The servers should only interact with people who are performing some hands-on or face-to-face business function, or directly with the customers. And this should only happen when the data cannot be gathered directly from sensors or from other businesses servers.

"Rocks for Jocks" is a term commonly used by senior Geology students assigned to teach an introductory class in Geology for non-majors, showing some disdain for the P.E. type students often found in such a class.

Yeah, well, we make fun of them too, so it all evens out in the end.

Petroleum engineering as vo-tech? Man, you are full of crap. The study of a mixture of hydrocarbons and water through a porous medium, which by the way is a naturally occuring one (rock), composed of various mineral grains, with chemical reaction taking place along the way through the various PVT regimes experienced by the reservoir, is an amazing complex and interdisciplinary field, involving organic chemistry, physical chemistry, fluid dynamics. Your statements reveal exactly what it is you don't know. Do yourself and us a favor and don't spout off about things you know nothing about.

Peter Wang, MSc, PG
Petroleum Geophysicist since 1986

This is the state of transport through a porous medium, and I essentially dispensed with it in a single blog posting:

If you can find something wrong with it, go ahead and try to shoot it full of holes. I kind of doubt you can.

You guys are in the dark ages when it comes to stochastic math.

Oh give the random data fitting excuse for knowledge a BREAK already.

I will tell you a fundamental trait of engineering that most freshmen don't comprehend when they start out. That is, in your own selected discipline, you have to be able to bootstrap yourself. In other words, you have to realize that you should practice eating your own dogfood.

So a computer scientist that writes his own programming language will realize that at some point he should be able to write a compiler in his language and therefore be able to "bootstrap" his own compiler program. If you can't do that the language probably doesn't measure up for general programming use.

And an electrical engineering team working for Intel creating their own CPU will have to be able to use an HDL like VHDL, or Verilog, or a homegrown thing to model their architecture. Then when they synthesize and produce their own chips, they can use that CPU to create the next-generation of CPU. That is a grand example of bootstrapping -- using your own computers to build your next computers.

That's what makes engineering more than an art. It then becomes a world unto its own. In each of these cases the computer scientist and electrical engineer can plan and estimate the schedule and cost for a project because they have perfected the process.

Yet what is the objective of something like Petroleum Engineering? To extract as much petroleum as possible from a region or of the world. Yet they do not know the extent or the costs because no one in their discipline knows what it takes to eat their own dog food. They can't or won't predict their own demise. They can't even bootstrap with their own superior techniques an estimate of how much resources are left in the world. In an engineering sense this is laughable. Consider that the most important element in their own discipline -- the ability to predict output at schedule and cost, and the only thing that keeps it distinct from something like chemical engineering, they have absolutely no clue.

So Petroleum Engineers can't do the bootstrapping equivalent of an EE that designs a computer using his own computer. He can't use his own models to predict how much oil is left. The oil academia is in serious denial and the curriculum requires serious help. Every incoming freshman needs to understand this.

I will tell you a fundamental trait of engineering that most freshmen don't comprehend when they start out. That is, in your own selected discipline, you have to be able to bootstrap yourself. In other words, you have to realize that you should practice eating your own dogfood.

Yeah, thats certainly what we need to tell new engineering students, to eat dogfood, better yet, the homemade kind. Good call there Web.

Why don't you run on down to the EE department and suggest they'll make PE dollars upon graduation if they would just listen to such gems.

Yeah, thats certainly what we need to tell new engineering students, to eat dogfood, better yet, the homemade kind. Good call there Web.

You may have no clue what this means because you don't do this. If Bill Gates told the employees of his company to "eat their own dog food", I guarantee that 99% of them would know exactly what he meant, and would snap to attention and get cracking.

It appears that you want to maintain some type of guild mentality when it comes to your discipline.

You may have no clue what this means because you don't do this.

I may have no clue what this means because no one in the history of the world that I know of has determined there is value in it....except you. If MS employee's think that eating dogfood helps them find oil and gas I would recommend they get crackin...its extremely lucrative for those who do it well and certainly will get them out of cubicles and whatnot.

It appears that you want to maintain some type of guild mentality when it comes to your discipline.

If you mean that us engineers maintain an exceptional degree of BS detection in our profession when it comes to the objective examination of what people with no training or experience on the topic under consideration have to offer, I would agree with you.

You still appear to not understand the concept of bootstrapping.

Here is another example in the engineering profession. Say that I had a design for a Laser-based CNC machine. At some point, once it is up to a certain level of maturity, I could use the CNC tool to create a next generation CNC tool. All the engineering precision that went into the tool would make the next one that much better.

Petroleum engineers do not understand the concept of bootstrapping because they don't comprehend the idea that their own heuristics, when expanded a bit, can be used to predict global oil depletion.

They either don't know it, don't want to know it, or could care less. I am simply pointing out how incredible short-sighted the profession has been to everyone that has an interest in these matters.

Climatologists have bootstrapped their own knowledge and have expanded into serious research concerning climate change.

The brilliance of the concept of bootstrapping is that the additional level of insight that it provides comes at very little expense since you supposedly have all the basic science and engineering at your disposal. Why the oil academia never pursued this strategy we really don't know.

Statistically speaking, I use bootstrapping several times a week. Certainly when you convert it to a philosophical point designed to denigrate a profession you don't know anything about it isn't that kind of bootstrapping anymore, and certainly me pointing out that petroleum engineers like myself use it all the time won't stop you from claiming we don't. Thats where the "denigrate a profession you don't know anything about" part comes from.

Bootstrapping as in statistics, sure. That is essentially eating somebody's dog food over and over again in different sized gulps. Not really the same thing I am afraid. Its usually used to get a handle on errors without having to use the standard techniques.

Bootstrapping as in statistics, sure. That is essentially eating somebody's dog food over and over again in different sized gulps.

Maybe that version of it is what they teach circuit repair technicians who sit around staring at an oscilloscope for a living, and these people then become MS employee's, but if you want people to understand you it might be better to stick to more common references for things.

And an electrical engineering team ... will have to be able to use an HDL like VHDL, or Verilog, to model their architecture.

Sorry WHT, you are going too far and way out of your league with this bootstrapping thesis.

The manufacture of a modern integrated circuit CPU is an incredibly complex process and there is probably no human on Earth who alone knows how the whole thing comes together in all its details.

Hardware Descriptor Languages (HDL) are a useful tool. But they are are hardly sufficient and not really necessary for producing a CPU.

What good does HDL do for the packaging/ thermal dissipation engineer who has to hermetically seal the CPU chip and its lead frame reliably in a ceramic package? (Answer: almost none)

I am not out of my league as semiconductor research is my thesis work...
I wrote a mixed-mode hardware simulator a few years ago.

The manufacture of a modern integrated circuit CPU is an incredibly complex process and there is probably no human on Earth who alone knows how the whole thing comes together in all its details.

You specifically highlighted my use of the word team, yet you claim that I thought a single person can put it together. Strange.

What good does HDL do for the packaging/ thermal dissipation engineer who has to hermetically seal the CPU chip and its lead frame reliably in a ceramic package? (Answer: almost none)

You use bulk analysis. You don't model the heat produced from individual transistors.

More bootstrapping: Most of the wafer fab steps are computer and robotic controlled! And which computers do this?

And which computers do this?

Whatever computer(s) the fab tool manufacturer sticks into his product. Who cares?

Thank you for pointing out the obvious Reservegrowthrulz2. Anyway WHT, I can't defend the petroleum engineering discipline, because I'm not one... I'm just a lowly practitioner of time-lapse 3D seismic, which you probably scoff at also.

OMG! Real oilfield stuff with no significance beyond finding oil and gasfields all over the world! How dare you do practical applications which actually work without touching forehead to floor while facing east and using dispersive hyperbolic sine wave signal processing stochastic modeling on the AM frequency processing techniques which don't even work theoretically but have to be used for your heuristic applications to have any meaning within the world of eggheaded academia! The gall!


Yes indeed you have to watch for all those perpetual motion scams. Technical words strung together nonsensically is usually a sign of a ripoff.

Those in glass house shouldn't throw stones.

Call me RGR. Everyone else does and its easier to type.

"zapped'im mostly with math, a couple of engineering courses and some organic chem."

Physical Chemistry was the "weed out" class when I was in. For the EE majors it was Circuits 1 and 2. An awful lot of students seemed to have trouble with statics and mechanics as well.

Then they went to the business school, where it is all addition and subtraction, and got jobs in finance at ten times the pay. Bummer for me. Who knows what kind of swindles I could have come up with if I had done the same thing?

Physical Chemistry was the "weed out" class when I was in. For the EE majors it was Circuits 1 and 2. An awful lot of students seemed to have trouble with statics and mechanics as well.

I think most high schoolers must get the idea that science and engineering is like what they see on the Discovery channel. I had started in Astronomy/astrophysics, and it was amazing how many incoming freshmen thought it was all about appreciated pretty pictures of objects, and knowing a few constellations. When in reality it is hardcore physics and math. Either love the latter or leave.

One of the filter courses in Art was sitting in a dark room looking at pieces of art for an hour and trying to keep from sleeping. Most everyone failed the class except art students that loved looking at art and did it out of pride for their craft. Or at least that is what it seemed to me.

Math has the run out for the sciences, and if you can't draw you can at least get a liberal arts degree and become a poly tic artist and get back to helping yourself to all that money in the coffers of the public ( ranting off on that subject).

I'd tell them to be a handy fix it up person, learning how to do lots of round home services and do them well, also learning how to cook and sew and handy with fire in the outdoor setting cooking wise, as it is not as easy as it looks on TV.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed world.

Well, now, engineering is an interesting choice, I are one, but you're basically an overeducated wage slave blowing in the winds of the market. If your branch is in demand, like site/civil during the housing boom or mechanical/electrical during the defense boom, you're good. But if there's a downturn they'll lay you off as fast as they'll dump an illegal alien.

If you want to make a good living, get right up next to the money stream: banking, lawyering, finance.

If you want to have a secure career and retire early, the military works OK, except for that IED stuff.

If you want to do interesting work whenever you're working, engineering ain't bad.

Sounds like you are stuck in a rut. Sorry about that. My experience as an engineer has been quite different, although it is not a profession where most will become wealthy, I can say that I have had personal fulfillment. As one that is self employed the economic downturns are painful, but at least I can see that our services will be needed in the new order of things (post peak oil).

Your advise about becoming someone that creates gimicks and knows slight of hand (lawyer, banking, finance) is dead wrong! I have several friends that were lawyers, investment bankers, real estate brokers and are now unemployed or working for less than I make. They have had to sell second houses, cash in their 401k's and realign their lives to the new economy that needs fewer of these people. I don't know of any engineers that have had to downsize their lives in the last five years.

I have always had work as an Engineer, Electronics, and I do enjoy it bar report writing!. However one thing that bothers me is that the Far East is turning out top notch graduates who, when experienced, are happy to work for 10 to 12 K USD/Annum because it gives them a high standard of living in their own country. In the West we need to get the cost of Education down, web courses, study-work programmes, I dont know but somehow to compete we have to get that cost down or no one will bother going to University as it will not be worth it financially.

Throughout the ages, societies have mostly been pyramid shaped with the peasants at the bottom and the king/pharoah/grand-duff-sitter at the top. This is because it's always been physically impossible to supply the masses with the standard of living available to the few at the top.

High standards of living, dictate that those living it be few.

Recently some societies have been more diamond shaped with a few prisoners/bums at the bottom, and then a fat middle class followed by a smaller upper class and a pinnacle of Oprah types at the top.

By hard work, smarts, and lack of too much bad luck, you can get to the median whereever it may be. ( and thoughout time, the median has more often than not been scrawny peasant/serf )

But although hard work and smarts and not too much bad luck may be ( at least in some measure ) all but requisite to rising above the median, it is ( and logically MUST BE ) by luck alone that climbing up a pyramid is possible.

Not every dust devil can become a hurricane. It's chaos.

Suppose you give 20 million people 1 dollar and they get to compete to decide who gets furthest ahead with their dollar in one week. The 'winners' are not going to be the clever entrepreneurs who opened the best lemonade stand, it's going to be someone who bought a scratch ticket and won 10 bucks and then used the money to buy 10 more one of which won 500 bucks, or maybe even someone who bought a powerball ticket and won.

The strategy of buying scratch tickets is a losing one ON AVERAGE, but guaranteed to outdo other strategies for someone if played by enough people. Sure for every scratch ticket success story thousands more lost their entire dollar with nothing to show for it, but that does not change the fact that the 'society' has now been partitioned into a pyramid shape of wealth. It's also true that since the winning strategy has an expected payoff less than one, that it can not be copied effectively by smart or hard working people.

Smart and hard working is actually not rare. The combination of stupid and lucky IS rare. As is success above the median.

It's the idea behind the Efficient Market Hypothesis at work. The markets are efficient, and it's a mistake to think you're smarter than they are. If you can fool yourself into thinking you're smarter than the market, then you will make a risky bet with a chance of being right. Your choice was likely not logically indicated from the data available. If it was, then everyone would have bet the same way you did, and the advantage would be nil. The only way you got rich was to be one of the few STUPID enough to think you were smarter than everyone else. On average people like you lose their shirts, but SOMEONE like you wins the game.

Hence we are doomed to be ruled by egomanical idiots.

Success is copied. The only thing that can't be copied is successful stupidity.

Just a warning: people should avoid a profession in law. There is a glut of lawyers chasing insufficient work. Result: many law school graduates never practice law! To make matters worse, law school is expensive -- $50,000/year -- so not only will you not be able to find work, you'll be burdened with student debt that you cannot get rid of in bankruptcy court.

There are many blogs by law school graduates detailing their misery, such as:


Bankruptcy law is paying pretty well.

But law is one of the few State sponsored Guild systems. Another is Medicine.

The debt issue is one that will end up limiting higher education.

Long term - turn off your TV, get some "hobbies" like woodworking, growing plants, fixing homes. Then at least you can keep yourself busy if there is a grand collapse.

When the revolution comes, we gonna kill all the lawyers anyway. ;)

Seriously, law is one of the professions not only over stuffed with people but also due for a truly major shakeout as society simplifies wtshtf.

Most of what they do is unnecessary make work at best or outright parasitism of society at worst.
When we stop flipping houses and fighting high dollar divorces and automobile wrecks out in court as the economy declines,and locking up kids for smoking pot, what are they going to do ?

So you want me to die?

tisk tisk

Not very nice OFM

But then again, you are no different from OMN (Old Mother Nature)
She wants me to die too.

OFM was paraphrasing the famous line from Shakespeare's Henry VI (part 2) "First let's kill all the lawyers," probably (from what I know of OFM) with the full knowledge that the character saying the phrase is a low life ruffian, Dick the butcher, who is planning a revolt and wants to make sure that he and his co-conspirators can break the law with impunity. Shakespeare's meaning in putting these words into the mouth of such a rascal was that lawyers are the only thing that stands between civilization and anarchy. But, of course, the phrase is often used without the knowledge of its original context.

Dohboi gets it.

But his memory is either much better than my own, or he has read Shakespeare more recently.

Of course we need lawyers-but not very many; most advanced societies get along fine with far fewer than we have here in the US.

Of course I want to see fewer lawyers, and courts, and lawsuits,and CPA'S gaming tax law, as I hold that the law is one part of our culture that has expanded beyond the point of earning a positive return on marginal investment;I believe the return is now actually negative, meaning that society as a whole is worse off every time a new shingle is hung.

Mark Twain wrote a story about a lone lawyer who starved for years in a small frontier town while everybody else prospered;but finally another lawyer moved there, and pretty soon the two of them owned the town.

But his memory is either much better than my own, or he has read Shakespeare more recently.

Depending on where you hang out on the Internet you can see entire papers written about '1st thing we do is kill all the lawyers'. The best one tied in into "give the Devil the benefit of law". Alas, I can't find it to share.

Understanding the law, the rules of evidence et la is a good defense for you to have. Learn the power of Discovery. Even reading the actual statues (in case you get charged with some crime) can be enlightening. Under 50 pages - the rules of evidence.

Remember also - while a lawyer has exposure to various decisions in their field - their goal is to do as little work as possible while taking as much as they can from you the client. You may be farther ahead to get a PACER account (free BTW) and look at the pleadings of other lawyers in matters similar to yours.

http://www.justicemagazine.com/ is one attempt at making the law accessible for the non-bar card holder.

While my experience as an engineer might validate some of your ideas, such as a layoff when things slow down, I don't look upon the opportunities it has provided me as being a wage slave. Unlike many others I know, I love my job, and would be quite happy for it continue until I retire, if possible.

As a child of 12, I could dig through rocket and missile parts at Sy Sach's Surplus near Pico and 3ed in L.A. California. At seventeen, the engineering help-wanted ads were presented in their whole-own-section of the L.A. Times newspaper. At twenty-two, I had to buy whole T.V.s from a shop in Chinatown to get the magnetic components needed for a commercial project development. Our astronauts now have to hitch rides on Russian Soyuz-era rockets flying out of decrepit facilities in Russia. Russia! "Our best flight hardware is in museums" was the joke ten years ago........ W e - d o n' t - d o - t h a t - h e r e - a n y m o r e. We consume. The plea from the government after the comeuppance (for our "Blood and Oil" adventures*) of 911 was: "Please! Continue to consume!". The information-age jobs have been outsourced. On-site professionals, like pharmacists, here, in California, are from eastern Europe or India nowadays.
My guess is:
Security - the corporate rich will demand it
Medical - the most expensive system on the planet with no real fix in sight -VS- the foolish, aging rich that don't have the wits get out now
Prisons - the biggest money-moving industry in California and the most powerful lobby group
My favorite: Develop a video-game that dispenses small money to the player in some impoverished rural outback of, say, Uganda as they play "pick the strawberries" or "tend the patient" or "fix the plumbing" --- controlling telechirs here in the United States of America with its population of people who "don't want such jobs".

Your video game idea already exists in some form. All you need now are the field bots.


"tend the patient" - Robot Nurses are already here:


There was an EXCELLENT movie made about this idea. It's called Sleep Dealer. I'm pretty sure it's on netflix. WELL worth watching!

Thank-you Barefoot and Stuart
These ideas point-out the "Race to the bottom": where people of a given comfort level have to compare with those with no comforts at all: slaves.
The next improvement would be to give the telechir's or robots the right to vote, piggybacking on the hiring corporate entity's right to free speech as recently invented by the U.S. Supreme Court. That should make things just squinky!

1) Medical profession. Doctor, PA, or high-end Nursing certification (LPN CRN not sure on the exact nomenclatures).
2) Engineering of most disciplines, although I would recommend staying away from Civil, Survey, and Architecture

I was a CE, had my 4th lay off in 12 years in 2008 working for a top 200 US firm. Myself and many people other CE's cannot find work despite nation wide searches. Most of the firms I knew axed 50-90% of their staff between 07-09 and have not re-hired just filled holes.

Do not be an ownership person, be ready to move geographically often, get top grades in college.

I went back to school for a teaching certification in science for secondary education.

I went back to school for a teaching certification in science for secondary education.

That used to seem like a good fallback position, for science/math literate types. The schools have been whining about the need for years. But, with schools taking the brunt of
recession cuts (plus the culture of starve the government), I fear it is no longer an option.


1.- Medicine.

2.- Learn to: repair things, make mechanical/electrical installations, operate machine tools.


Easier than medicine, no significant liability issues, pays well, good WTSHTF.

Only problem is having to deal with animals.

Seems to me that if you like medicine and biology and you're empathetic and intuitive, being a vet would beat the heck out of dealing with people. What an interesting challenge, to figure out and help a critter who can't tell you where it hurts.

My girlfriend works as a vets assistent. He (the Vet) definatly has some behaviour disorder like aspergers or autism. Its probably a good career choice if your not good at dealing with people.

A high percentage of vets now are in emotionally hyped up pet care. No recent statistics to support it, but we probably spend more feeding and fussing over pets than many countries do feeding their population. I think when reality sets in a few years down the road there will be a triage on many present activities. Pet food might take on a whole different connotation.

Pet food might take on a whole different connotation.
LOL! Got any good recipes?

Soylent Cat Food?

If it's good enough for Charlton Heston, why not his pets?

That would put a whole new definition on "9-Lives".

It worked for Mad Max. Unlike chow for humans animal chow is balanced nutrition in a can that could still be good decades from now.

Come to think of it the food processing and distribution business might be a great career choice. People gotta eat and most of the profit in the food business is post farm.

Another plus is that you learn about a lot of interesting pharmaceuticals. And have a license to dispense them.

WTSHTF, quite a bit of vet medicine may be re-purposed for the benefit of your local population of naked apes.

A useful skill indeed.

As my vet says, we are just mammals.


Farming/Gardening/Horticulture/Permaculture expert.

Agreed, with slight modification:

Farming/Gardening/Horticulture/Permaculture expert.

Membership in a club is not prerequisite to becoming proficient in the first three noble professions.

You'd be wise not to reject permaculture just because you think it's a club. There's a lot to be learned there whatever you want to call it (for instance, call it agroforestry or edible forest gardens if you like).

What MikeB objects to is the astrology / mythology / religion aspect of simple living. Having had a peek at his farm, I'd say it was "permaculture" in that they recycle, reuse, and conserve as well as anyone reasonably can.

But the words "sustainable" and "permaculture" have this sort of priesthood of experts making Mt Olympus-style pronouncements about what is "in" and what is "out", while in reality there are as many ways to farm as there are farmers.

A pleasure to hear from you again, DIY. I've been having to post very irregularly because of loads of work here--we're opening a market farm next year.

You're correct in your take of my view of "sustainability," "permaculture," etc. I no longer view any human agricultural activity as even remotely approaching the "sustainable" ideal (in the true sense of the word), and having worked for four years at an organic farm I believe I can speak from experience. "There's nothing new under the sun," said Ecclesiastes.

edible forest gardens

are inedible from November through April around here. In fact, you have to snowshoe into them. Besides, how many nuts and seeds does one need?

We do have an orchard, through all the blessings of pesticides, but I wouldn't be so pretentious as to call it "an edible forest."

I like potatoes, beans, and meat.

I hate to say it and don't recommend it, but but the most assured job will be taking care of old people.

I would suggest that the less money it takes to make you happy the easier it will be to find/develop/maintain a "career" that will support it.

That the lower your financial needs the easier it will be to find a “career” that is fulfilling and does not compromises ones integrity.

Most important is find a "career" doing something for which you have a passion.

Here would be my top 10 list (and no, Dave Letterman may not use this!) and reasons:

10. Civil Engineer - as long as there are people we'll need communities laid out.
9. Sanitation Engineer - should be obvious.
8. Nurse - even when health care systems fail people will still need attention.
7. Plumber - people will pay you to do what they find disgusting.
6. Carpenter - eventually we'll need to rebuild everything.
5. Motorcycle repair - work on the standard of personal transportation in the future.
4. Machinist - everybody else on this list will need your tools.
3. Ag Technician - while someday the current agriculture economy will fail, until then your services will be greatly needed.
2. Railroad Engineer - the great comeback occupation of the 21st century.

and at the top of the list....

1. Gunsmith - just in case everything else fails.

Posting for the first time though been a TOD addict since 2005.I am 57 years and based in Belgium.To your post add demolition expert.When the industrial civilization comes to an end(olduvai)you will have an opportunity to demolish all the industrial buildings and the land to be converted to agriculture.Also undertaker when the die off starts.Start a business where you can burn animal and human corpses.

Welcome, hih. At first I thought you meant this kind of demolition:


On your last grim point, I think the key will be to compost as many of these cadavers as possible to maintain soil nutrients. On the other hand, most of us have so many toxins in our bodies, it may be best to high-temperature incinerate them after removing mercury fillings, of course.

A friend of mine is a train driver. As long as the electricity is running he will have work.

9. Sanitation Engineer - should be obvious.

Sanitation engineering is reaching the point of diminishing returns in the U.S. However, there should be great demand in developing countries.

10. Civil Engineer - as long as there are people we'll need communities laid out.

Not much demand in community/housing development for some time. We overbuilt. Demographics are not favorable. However, civil engineering related to infrastructure repair and replacement should be a good area. Water supply is also a good area.

+1 on a gunsmith. Even in a "good" economy they are in demand.

+1 on Ag Technician

+1 on Machinists. I think so many people have given up on this profession that it's due for a comeback. I recently read that there are 15,000 open jobs for welders (I know, not the same thing, but somewhat related) across the country.

Trust me on this-welding is not something for people with brains to get into-it is too easy to learn, meaning wages will never be very high except in a powerful union or on very hard dangerous nasty jobsites. The work is becoming more and more mechanized /automated, meaning less need for skilled workers.

It is also highly dependent on new construction -we aren't apt to be seeing a lot of that for the next decade or two.

A welder cannot make as much money as a rule as an electrician, mechanic, or most other highly skilled trades people.

It is an excellent secondary skill if combined with another skill such as equipment or truck mechanic, or pipe fitter or electrician;a multicraft guy is much more likely to be offered a job.

don't forget farmers having some welding experience. we pulled the axle and rims off of a "new" 65 combine to refurb which was fun since the farmer had welded it all together.

I just started the program in Sustainable Systems in the School of Natural Resources at the University of Michigan. The program has been maxed out for several years. They just hired three more faculty.

It's refreshing to be in a place where people are technically savvy but also aware that the challenges we face are multidisciplinary and go beyond strictly techno-fixes. My background is engineering but I'm convinced "generalists" will find job security in the future, although perhaps not the largest paychecks.


My wife and I have been putting serious thought into this, both for ourselves and for our two children, 5 and 9.

Here is what we have come up with:

-Strong maths and sciences. Plan on being ABLE to be a competent information worker. The gadgets for the wealthy economy may last for some time. Don't be premature in abandoning the tech bubble - ride it to the end, because others will, and they will have the buying power you need in order to survive. Remember that in some countries education and career are more or less a light-hearted game. Schooling in the US is incredibly easy, but remember that on a world-wide basis you need to compete with the top 1% or maybe 2% in order to have any kind of standard of living. People work hard, hone their skills, and act with razor-edged purpose. Know where you are going, how you are going to get there, and correctly choose your level of engagement.

-Keep the language and culture. We have a primary language that we stress the most, English as a strong backbone and technology language, and a third cultural literacy language.

-Learn to read/write Chinese, if you don't already know it.

-Learn to relate to the physical world at a level well above simple "skills". Like rights with regard to relating to humans, skills are a lowest common denominator of how to relate to the physical world. Learn to be fluid and seamless in working with wood, metal, machines, earth, stone, and the natural settings. Get past skills - leave them in the dust and relate at an intuitive, knowing level. It takes about two years to become an information worker. I takes about two decades to be fluid in the physical world.

-Learn to move heavy things with simple technology and almost no effort.

-Go into the Peace Corps or some other foreign development volunteer organization and don't for a minute believe you have anything to teach "them". Learn from them.

-Have professional level mastery in several things. Don't be a Swiss Army knife - a mere gadget. Be several things that people will pay or barter for. It doesn't matter what your list is, but it should inlcude few enough things that you can do at a professional level of quality and efficiency, and yet have enough variety as to be adaptable. Have some certifications, licenses, and whatnot to back you up, and have a portfolio for each "skillset" (I use that word because it sells well, knowing on the inside that I operate at a higher level).

-Detach from any notion of "having". If your house burned down, would you be able to go outside and enjoy the fire with not even the smallest shred or regret?

-Learn to make music.

Tyan in Seattle

Tyan we are in similar universes I think. Mind and body. For my teens, hard math science, with woodsplitting and taking care of chickens. In fact for the young people I've come to the conclusion that the average middle class (while it lasts) teen to ? (millenial) should really be shooting for twin careers from the very beginning. Given debt/wage slavery going on in the US, I push

1) "Tech School" through community college, industrial program, whatever for about 2 years, PAID IN CASH to be a "vet tech", "ag tech", "medical tech", "vechile tech", etc..... if it takes four years to do this in cash, so be it. you now have a skilled position if you've chosen carefully.

2) go for your traditional university degree that is useful: engineering in xyz, medicine.

The law and finance is where too many of the best and brighest went, what a waste of potentially productive people rearranging the chairs on the Titanic. "Look" they say, "We built a pretty pyramid out of the teak deck furniture, and everyone wants to sit at the top!" There are now a number of suits against law schools due to "no joy", with an ABA investigation beginning, and I agree it is a guild, so I'll bet the answer is "quotas!".

For us old folks that is tougher, from my humble RPI training as an EE and CS person in my 40's I decided to retrain as "divinity" (think metaphysics if you want) and agriculture. Now I own three farms that I'm trying to make sustainable and have the unemployed working on them (lots of unemployed construction industry people, lawyers, pastors, engineers, technicians out there).

For my sons, I couldn't imagine a better wife than a vet-tech trained RN (with an Australian passport), but one is serious about a woman who co-runs a truck farm, sings like an angel, and goes to church, so what more could I want (other than grandchildren)? American life is going to get a lot simpler with the cultural/financial/energy singularity we seem to be approaching, let's hope some people know how to "do stuff" when we hit it.

The one thing I see that needs to be reckoned with is that we are competing in a global workforce. The implications of this are staggering. I'm not sure that the globalization of the workforce will be unwound to a degree that will change the dynamics that I see today.

I worked for years in central Africa. Back then we in the US referred to such places as "third world". I saw at that time that this was a form of psychological projection, and that we were to become that which we projected, and so we have. We workd hard to get here as fast as possible, and we deserve every drop of our own medicine, but that changes nothing.

I can now feel this every day here in the USA - we have attained that which we saught - we are now fully within the "third-world" commercial dynamic on a labor-market level. Resource flows and mercantile exchange may not follow the typical pattern expected of third-world countries, but the feel of the place, and the attendant levels of personal opportunity are already present.

So this poses a question to the denizen of said country. Essentially there are there are three workforces in such a scheme, with levels in each. There are the locals, which get the lowest wages. Then there are the local-hire expatriates, and lastly there are the foreign-hire expatriates.

The latter level is not attainable by citizens within their own country. These are the elite who roam the world collecting high salaries and sometimes are also experts in their field, but most times are simply known quanities that the foreign organizations are comfortable hiring.

The local-hire expatriates are normally people with more local savvy, and usually compete with each other for foreign money on the merits of price and skills. Again, this is not an easy row to hoe, and for a US citizen in the US, would not often be attainable. Exceptions can be found or crafted, and should be saught after.

Hence, we are talking about being a local worker, for about 85% of US citizens. In this role you compete with everyone, largely on price. Most large companies have no national boundaries, and most draw workforces from around the globe. The technology economy is also the global economy, and there is little reason to have work done in one location over anohter.

All I can say is no matter what you do, make sure you are in the top few percentiles, because competition will be unimaginable. If at all possible, become an international worker, roaming the world with expertise and know-how. You can always move down to the lower-paying workforces, but it is very hard to move upward.

Being a farmer is fine, but there are billions of farmers in the world who work harder than I do, are more skilled than I am, are more desperate than I, and while they are largely not here yet, they will be. They will make higher and better use of the land than I do, and economic margin will eventually push me aside. In relative terms, this is still the land of opportunity on a square-foot basis, so watch out! The opportunity might not be your own.

I think I understand what you are saying. As a person who started 5 companies, and took too public, and either folded or sold the rest, competed internationally and bought companies in Asia, Africa, Europe, I agree that you must compete in that couple of percentage points to succeed. It is possible that the production of the educational program of the US or the Industrial Policy of the US will produce a lot of them. But I rather much doubt it. The last time industrial policy was in favor was in the era of Sematech's launch. Under the various administrations in the US industrial policy was a bad idea, and our current Commerce Secretary wants to deindustrialize the US. We believed that WTO and free trade would make the world a better place and the US as well. Not it would appear that despite the WTO there are other means like currency manipulation or issuing a $60B loan to a solar panel manufacturer that just might be construed as not violating the WTO agreements. As an engineer/scientist/businessman/metaphysicist/farmer I've always been entertained by lawyers who believed that the rule of law could define/constrain all humans and human organizations. It can be at times humorous to watch the Chinese catch us in our own sticky webs.

I own a farm in Africa as well as in the US, while I agree that a farmer may work harder somewhere else the amount of WorkEnergy required to just deliver that sack of maize from SouthAfrica to Central Pennsylvania is expensive and getting more expensive. I would also point out that the amount of fertility, water, growing season and such factors would make me believe that Lancaster County or Adams County in Pennsylvania or say the entire state of Nebraska are at least equal or greater than many places that I have been (but not say the Ukraine). Also, back to the are of rule of law, to date the US still probably runs a rural counter insurgency and pacification program that works just about as well as the EU's, which is a combination of price supports, local policing, cable/satellite television and cheap diesel fuel. (when the Africans ask me what they should do, my response is to ignore the WB, IMF, US storyline, and do exactly what the US executes against internally). In quite a few rural places in the world the rule of law does not operate, and it can be very difficult to sustain agriculture there even if you are not a kulak.

That is not to say that the supply chain of Monsanto and its ilk could not be disrupted significantly in the US (see SupaSeedlings of Queensland story) and then you'd basically see farms growing weeds for awhile much to the detriment of our meat diet, or simply the life&limb of the millions of human beings outside the US who are dependant on the functionally sterile GMO corn.

I do believe that enclaves of high tech improvement will continue on for a long time, but at least in the US the past six month turnover on cell phones, and other cultural artifacts will not be turning over as fast throughout society. We've already had our first monthly decline in "pay television", I assume "cell phone subscription" will begin to decline, and a myriad of other discretionary products (like cars) will decline as well. If you can get yourself inside those enclaves then you are set,
but you better speak engineereze, or mandarin, or geneticdesigneze, etc VERY fluently.

Look at people around you (and on tv) Lots of professions seems stressed out, or to cary the weight of the world.
Vets, geologists, zoo keepers, people that work (at least sometimes) outside seem to be the happiest.

Also considder if you like to work over the internet (meaning you can travel anywhere and still work) or if you prefer 9-5 or maybe job rotation, 1 month working, 1 month off.

Engineering is always in demand, but you can easily become so specialized that its very hard to change career later. (when you become bored of the n'th variation of the same product)
The huge responsibility (you screw up and people get hurt) is not for everyone, and employers are very picky about who they hire.

Craftmanship is solid. You wont make as much in salary, but you get 4-5 more years to work in. You will have a car when the college boys take the bus. Also, being able to fix more stuff yourself is golden. Use your brain for lifting stuff or it will wear you out quickly.

I have two children, both of whom are successful engineers, but I do not expect those occupations to be viable for more than a decade or so. The most important skills to be learned for the future are those related to subsistence agriculture. Food, clothing and shelter are our most basic needs, but producing food will become the most important, since clothing and shelter will be available for some time as a "legacy" of the oil age.

Most people in developed countries have enough clothes to last several lifetimes and the typical home can shelter far more people than it does at present, but food is perishable and stockpiles are slim. Those who want to survive the coming bottleneck need to find a place to grow food and the skill to do so.

My wife and I are in our sixties. We live on several acres in Hawaii. I believe that our most important legacy to our children and their families will be a place to which they can "retreat" and survive. I just hope that they can get here when they need to.

Where you stay, waikaalulu?

Hawaii generates its electricity from oil. Good luck.

For some definitions of "young person"...

1. If you've been studying "Computer Science", Computer Engineering, or some nebulous "IT" field, learn something else. Stay with your parents if you can. Don't move out if you possibly can. Your career as an IT professional is probably shorter lived than you might think.

2. If you know the difference between core memory and solid-state memory, see suggestion 1, above, and hope you are not too old.

Be prepared for the electricity to stop working 24/7. If you have found or can find a job that pays well for your skill set--especially via telecommuting, by all means enjoy it while you can. Best of luck.

I have an eighteen year old son who is facing this decision. His Russian brother says Dietitian and I say perhaps Mycologist.
The connection?
Both are to do with food.
The Limits to Growth predictions are that we will have to divert capital (what capital?) from industry to food production.

As a hobby him and I shall try to make progress on the CANR/LENR issue.
And learn to sail in case peace is a fantasy.

As the world warms fungi should do particularly well.

I am thinking more along the lines of the need to heal the soils from the effects of industrial (chemical) agriculture.
Paul Stamets inspires with his book Mycellium Running. How Mushrooms can help Save the World

I saw Stamets speaking at a convention on youtube;


Interesting stuff.

I like foraging for mushrooms too. Once you find your first Agaricus Augustus theres no looking back :)

I would advise any young person to look at learning some sort of technical skill be it engineering degree or a trade. Learn how to make things first and then (if you must) do business studies. If they can, a dual electrical/mechanical focus will give you skills for life. You really can tell the difference between a professionallly trained technician and a self taught amateur and it nowhere is this more evident than when talking to environmental activists who do not understand the physical limitations on renewable energy. Economists who have no grounding in physics have the same problem.

I'm not sure what to advise a career changer because I think it really depends on your previous skill set. I am just undertaking a science (energy) degree in mid life but my previous work and life experience in engineering is making it much easier and I daresay enjoyable. I am finding the transition to urban gardener much more difficult so I would be hesitant to take on a new career in farming.

Right career choice - to what end? Making the most money? Realizing the most happiness?

I would caution those starting out in their career with engineering and the applied sciences. I graduated as one of the top students from the top engineering school in the world in my chosen field. I went to work as a rocket scientist and many of the engineers there were second to none. Bright, hardworking, worthy of the multi-billion dollar mission critical systems and lives depending on them. And guess what? We were collectively treated like dirt, whereas the executives were treated (and acted like) royalty. I can cite dozens of incredibly brilliant engineers who shared this experience. Everyone I know, to a man or woman, who left engineering for something else ended up both much happier and better compensated. Society does not value engineers, generally speaking, so why become one? I have tripled my salary in a few short years since leaving the engineering field and going into consulting.

Figure out what will make you happy and find a place where it intersects with making a decent living. Most kids coming out of college just don't know and must experiment with careers to make it to a good place.

Hi BigBeluga. What sort of "consulting" do you do. Is it realted to your enineering experience or a totally differnt field?

Totally different field, but relies heavily on analytical/quant skills.

It would depend, of course, on the particular talents of the individual in either case. For those young people who have a talent for math, some branch of engineering relevant to energy ought to be high on the list. I think it's a fair bet that the decades to come will see a great deal of scrambling to find and develop energy resources, and people with technical skills in any energy-related field ought to have no problem finding work.

Another field that's likely to be a good prospect for young people is organic agronomy. People who can produce food and raw materials from farmland with little or no fossil fuel inputs will be essential as petroleum supplies fall short of demand, and people who can teach farmers how to get by without fossil fuel inputs will be even more likely to do well.

For those who are looking for a new job in their middle years, my best advice is to find some way to create your own job rather than trying to find somebody to hire you. Right at the moment we're passing through a massive economic discontinuity which -- despite the current round of handwaving about recovery -- still has a long way to go. Until the rubble stops bouncing, self-employment providing some good or service people need or want is likely to be a better bet than trying to find a niche feeding a dysfunctional economic machine. That's my $.02, at least.

Well said. As crazy as things are going to get as BAU disintegrates, we all have a 'calling' towards some general class of occupations. I tell my students (as a college professor told me) to 'try on professions like socks' before you find the one that fits you. i.e. Take all sorts of classes to find out what gets your blood flowing.

That said, a majority of the adult occupations open to today's young people will likely look a lot more like what were available to their great, great grandparents. What were those? Making stuff, fixing stuff, growing stuff, healing stuff, etc. To get more specific than that probably isn't too useful at this point, other than to say that if you can't do it without fossil-energy input, it probably won't be done.

Thus, the same advice applies -- learn a little about a lot of stuff, find out what floats your boat, and then throw yourself into mastering 'your calling' from books and people who are already doing it. John's advice above concerning energy-related engineering & oganic food production are the two key ones I always tell my students will be crucial, but you can make an argument for many others -- healing, etc.

i.e. Any career advice depends on considering both the individual kid & honestly facing-up to the realities of our civilization's trajectory. (It's sad and amusing to note that today's 'conventional' career advice discounts both of these -- training kids for jobs they would've hated if they were ever actually going to exist. Which they're not.)

I watched my daughter make the same choices I did--get most of the way through college with a science degree that was going to require much more education to be really useful, and then decide that maybe the parental unit was right about the future, look around for something that fit the future better and be more adaptable, and switch to Nursing. She still can't completely explain it--it was intuitive, gut-based, with multiple inputs. She quashed the idea of Medicine, which would have been an option. Again, it's complicated, with multiple personal inputs including long pipelines for training. But here's what I see with Medicine.

The physician workforce pipeline does have a very long feedback mechanism--15 years, at least. As such, changes happen very slowly. The exclusivity, protectionism, and lobbying power all contribute to slow adaptability. Healthcare is one of the last asset bubbles, and technology has ramped to such a level that healthcare is almost unthinkable without massive amounts of technology in the US. For example, the ED use of MRI and CAT scans have tripled in the past decade. The stethoscope is a symbol of Medicine, but these days "the stethoscope" hangs like a Christmas ornament around physician necks. The nurses joke that it's just there for looks, because the docs never take them off of their necks. The physicians make rounds in a hospital standing at the door or far from the bedside, with very little laying on of hands. The structure, culture, and medical ethics have adapted to reflect the excessive and inappropriate uses of technology, to the point that they endanger the patients, and lose connectedness with them, developing anomie and depression. Add to that the entrapment by ostentatious salaries and ostentatious lifestyles, (and Edit to Add, ownership by Insurance & PHARMA), and you've got a formula for failure in a permanently contracting economy.

“They feel this from every direction — from other medical students, faculty members, counselors, and even in their applications for residency training,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Thomas L. Schwenk, a professor of family medicine at the University of Michigan. While depression can cause individuals to have negative and distorted views of their surroundings, “the culture of medical school makes these students also feel like they can’t be vulnerable or less than perfect.”

Given that students must compete with one another throughout medical school for postgraduate training positions, many have a difficult time admitting to any perceived weakness. For those who do and want help, there are more obstacles: with the sense that peers, faculty members and others are likely to judge distressed students as less competent, it is nearly impossible to find somewhere truly safe to turn.

But this “survival of the fittest” mentality can affect all medical students, not just those who are depressed or burned out. And it can affect patients by wearing away at a young doctor’s sense of empathy.


So the profession and the culture have adapted to technology and allowed massive overshoot, which contributes to inflexibility in the face of massive change. So, like a lot of the rest of the overshot civilization, "we have rules" which won't allow relocalization and generalization without a massive sudden jolt to the system. Victor Fuchs suggested war and epidemic as the eventual cause of a smaller more universal healthcare system. I suggest we'll never get there, and will regress evolution-wise to private pay for treatments, while insurance slowly loses its grip. A friend who is a specialized academic physician knowledgeable about peak oil is feeling a little trapped by the requirements for downscaling to a more generalist role--currently he would have to undergo extensive recertification and training. That's all going to have to change, and, like Fuchs, I don't see it happening because of medical ethics (not bioethics) until the system is forced to through collapse.

Nurses are generalists and wholists by definition, and care instead of cure. That won't go away. The transition to healer can be fairly instantaneous. I'm not saying don't be a physician. I'm saying the transition for them will be ugly.

Dan, no argument there. Most contemporary career advice is for the benefit of those giving the advice, not for the benefit of those who take it; most people who go to college nowadays, for example, will never recover from the financial hit, but the colleges profit anyway.

As the energy that has built and maintains our technological society dwindles, it will become harder to sustain the incredible mass of unproductive people that's resulted. A simple division can be drawn between productive and non-productive occupations, productive people get their hands dirty, non-productive people don't.

I suspect that higher education will become a dead end. And those non-productive types that do survive will probably do so using the power of the State to entrench their privileged positions and become despised and targeted by the majority as a result.

I agree entirely with your view that people shouldn't seek employment but create their own sphere of productivity using their own skills. I'd also suggest people reduce their dependency on the money economy and increase their self-sufficiency so that their physical energy expenditure goes directly to improving their own lives directly (ie. cut out the middlemen).

So many jobs are going to need to be eliminated. Manual labor is where its at. Farming is where its at in the future. Food is #1 on my list of things that are most important. Another would be heat (for us in cold climates). I could see some industry coming back in making clothing and shoes, both very needed and currently made far away over seas.

I don't think "high tech green jobs" are where its at. I think the future is going to be vastly more dirty and stinky.

Yes, as I noted in a post further down, I do organic farming in the summer and in winter I spend my time in the forest cutting firewood for the local market. So I've got the food and heat side covered in a green but low-tech way. My business philosophy is that whatever I do must firstly fulfil the direct needs of my family (ie. provide food, shelter and heat), secondly the produce from each operation must ideally be an input to another and finally must have a local market for sales. If I'm lucky, what I'm doing may become a catalyst for reviving a local economy and even create employment.

I think relegating the malign influence of the money economy to a back seat is necessary to revive local industry and a local economy. And as you say, to be productive it will mean getting hands dirty. No room for freeloaders that cannot produce something tangible and needed.

*removed - double post*

"People who can produce food and raw materials from farmland with little or no fossil fuel inputs will be essential as petroleum supplies fall short of demand,"

Importance of Mycorrhizae for Agricultural Crops1

Soil microbiology in general will be helpful - beneficial nematodes, bacteria and fungi.

Here in my area of France there are many people employed in the organic farming industry. The problem is that there is only a handful of organic farmers and practitioners, all the rest are overhead, maybe in the order of 20 to 1. The 1 being the farmer.

Mycorrhizae are certainly important, more experts to add to the already bloated overhead are not.

Aardvark, this is certainly a part of the picture, but it needs to be combined with other skills. All of which is by way of suggesting that generalists will likely be much better poised to deal with the challenges of the future than specialists.

That being said, I plan on talking about microbiology a bit in a future Archdruid Report post. The basics of soil science -- including soil biology, macro- and micro- -- are well within the reach of any ordinarily intelligent person, and could make the difference between success and failure when that, in turn, means the difference between eating next winter and going hungry.

Electrical engineering.

Nuclear engineering?

I am a degreed mechanical engineer (BSME U of MO 1980, plus subsequent courses) that has worked for transportation companies, defense contractor, energy company and now as a transportation consultant. Engineering is a good profession, but only if you like math and science, besides having a knack for problem solving.

The health care field will always be a steady employer, but as the economy SLOWLY winds down don't expect wages to be climbing like they have in the past 20 years (have many relatives and friends in this field).

For those that are not inclined for an extended student life in college, I would suggest getting a degree in some technical field or craftsman type occupation. This includes metal working (welding, sheet metal, machine tool operations), electrician, plumber, woodworker (carpenter), and draftsman/surveyer. Some of these fields do not require a lot of education, but instead will require an appenticeship or "on the job" training.

Peak oil does not mean the end of oil use, but the realignment of our society and economy to use less oil in those endeavors that remain. A lot of jobs will be available in energy efficient transport modes and building infrastructure for those modes: railroads/ mass transit and waterways. Also the agriculture industry will continue to grow and strive to become more energy efficient while shifting to more natural methods of control/production.

DO NOT become an airline pilot, lawyer, financial advisor, accountant, investment banker, real estate broker, truck mechanic (diesel mechanic for railroad is OK), or anything employed by the travel/entertainment industry. Any occupation that is not directly involved in producing some tangible good for society and people will be marginalized.

I see less opportunity for IT people and more opprtunity for those that create, modify and rebuild the physical world.

DO NOT become an airline pilot, ......, real estate broker

I have been involved in engineering most of my working life and proerpty development as a sidline. Funniliy enough it was my jumping inot real estate as a broker that got me interesed in energy issues from the whole urban plannig perspective which ain't gonna work PPO. I have never beleived in a singel job or career for life so I have done many things but always had a wide oipen mind to learn as much as could while I was there.

I left real estate agancy not because the money ws dwindling but because I could'nt stand the sheer greed from everyone involved, buyers, sellers and agents. They just didn't care about leaving a legacy of a really good built environemnt, yet they scrambled over each other to secure the best property bequeatherd to us by long dead generations. Go figure! I'm now re-inventing myself as an expert in building and profiting from really great urban design that will sell really well as long as BAU is percieved to be still going strong, but will really come into its own PPO. I'm not naive enough to think that will last forever though, so i'm also working closely with a Transition group.

"I see less opportunity for IT people and more opprtunity for those that create, modify and rebuild the physical world."

I certainly agree with you there, but I disagree with you about being a truck mechanic. I think being a mechanic is a good choice for a career, they're certainly doing very well around here. Keeping old machinery running will be a very important function from here on in, which will include cars and trucks. In fact I wouldn't be surprised to see people buying older repairable machinery and dropping the non-repairable, expensive and built-in obsolescence techno-garbage.

Even better might be the machinist/metal shops that turn out the myriad of parts the mechanics will need. The lack of trust in the wider society will also mean people will want to deal face-to-face with people they know, which will also allow alternate means for payment of services. Important when money losses its value and alternatives need to come into existence quickly.

Maybe you guys can help me out a little. I think I'm in the dilemma of my life.

I am 23 years old and currently studying my second year of Petroleum Technology in Norway.
My grades are the best of everyone in my cirlce of friends, which pretty much include all
the people who are social. Most likely I can get a job when I'm finished and get 600000kr (100000$)
as a beginners salary.

Problem is that I can't decide if I should switch to Physics. I want to work
with nuclear power plants, and I find physics very interesting. Not that petroleum engineering isn't
interesting, but I kinda wanna be part of the solution(thinking about climate and peak oil).
And to be honest, I believe the future lies in electricity and nuclear power plants.

But we don't have nuclear power plants in Norway, and the salary will not be as good. Not nearly as good
probably. Money is not my drive, but 50000$ a year is a lot... We do have neighbors like Sweden, Finland and England which build nuclear power plants and maybe I can work there?

So what do you guys think? (Not really interested in the debate on nuclear power-good or evil-, as I've had that one quite a few times). I can switch courses, but i need to decide before christmas.

Do both. Either sequentially or in parallel if you really have the brain power.

You'll have a double degree well before you are 30. Should open a lot of doors.

Yes - Petroleum engineering experience would be great practical experience that would translate well to nuclear. Getting a few years real world experience before going back to school for an advanced degree or different degree is invaluable.

Petroleum engineering experience would be great practical experience that would translate well to nuclear. Getting a few years real world experience before going back to school for an advanced degree or different degree is invaluable.

That sounds like great advice. I said upthread that I think petro engineering could be important on hte backside of peakoil. Extending the decline from PO, is just as crucial for the future as creating what will replace it. In the one case, you are buying time, for the other guy to get his ducks in a row. I would consider a career in PE, as enabling a solution, as opposed to building the solution yourself.

Just for flexibility, you might want to take a few extra course relating to Nuclear, that way you still have the option to switch.

I know someone who works as a nuclear chemist - these are the guys that actually mix the reagents and do the fun stuff like making mini explosions - they are the ones that know what doomsday means working with the actual fissile materials. The nuclear physicists, and there are many, are the ones who try and be like Einstein only to fail. Nuclear chemists are well paid, though no more than any other worker performing the same kind of work.

I should add that the person I know is nearing retirement and he's not had any incidents of exposure (or cancer) though it's common to be working with 238Pu - and in fact has a dedicated reactor to use for experiments as most work is performed by irradiating substances to see what happens to them.

From what I've been told, it's a very safe and exciting field to be in. Check out the alternatives to physics, perhaps chemical engineering with a focus on nuclear chemistry - this way you'll be needed instead of out of work because there's some moratorium on building nuclear plants where you're at.

Switch to coal mining engineer.

Like the camel my grandfather rode and the camel of my grandchild, it will be the beast that carries our burden at the tail end of oil just like it did at the front end.

Maybe you can find a way to make it "clean", but good luck with that.

Spacely Space Mirrors: --the future of clean energy

Nuclear engineering. Inevitably a growing field. And something you can believe in.

Well, nuclear WASTE engineers certainly have guaranteed job security for the next 100,000 years or so.

100,000 years is not accurate.

On the other hand, I worked at a toxic waste dump that will almost certainly be dangerous for 100,000 years, probably much longer. After all, a petroleum deposit contains quite poisonous components after several million years.

Typical of nuke propagandists to change the subject whenever valid criticism arises.

the waste will be used for fuel, eventually.

My point was there are any number of chemical risks that are as great or greater a risk to the public and society as a whole.
My other point was re your unthinking statement that rad waste was dangerous for up to 100,000 years. That is not a defensible real world statement. Ok - tell me what the risk is from spent fuel in one tenth of that time ie 10,000 years. Hint - it is very low. That is why Yucca mountain is only designed to store waste for 10,000 years - the risk is negligible before then. Google Yucca Mountain, start with the Wikepedia article.
Does it mean anything to you that the information you parrot is wrong by over a factor of ten?

You're only 23 and few people know their self well enough at that age. Like you, my main concern was money and growing career opportunity. So I went into electrical engineering. No one told me there would be so much competition and math!

My good friend (who happens to be Finnish) was in electrical engineering but got a degree in nuclear physics and then went back to finish engineering. Electrical is applied physics and the applied math. The purist scientists and mathematicians don't like us sometimes because they believe we bastardize their science. As I explained to a math prof once, "When you go into the forest and you need to cut down a tree do you want to build a chainsaw from first principles, piece by piece; or, do you want to put in the gas and pull the chord?" We use these tools for effective problem solving.

The best advice is go with what gets you out of bed in the morning. For the person that truly loves their work, there is no work - only a vocation and career. Its hard to find that thing at your age, so keep investigating and asking questions. Do what you love and the money will follow.

My intuition tells me that the nuclear energy field will be too complex to grow significantly for very long. There are just too many links in the end to end solution.

Oil/fossil fuels on the other hand were being use in the 1800s. They are plentiful, and as the difficulty of extraction goes up, field size goes down, and quality goes down, the employment should be pretty near exponential for a while with a steady-state economy. Since our economy won't be anywhere near steady-state, I would still expect a linear growth in employment at the very least, especialy with the aging workforce.

That said, I'd expect nuclear energy to receive a lot of attention in the next two decades, so I think either would give you a good, long run, but the former would probably set you up with more relevant core skills, and also a more useful wealth of knowledge for the next generation.

Tyan in Seattle

if you like norway i'd certainly take a profession that allows one to stay in the country. their extraction windfall investment policies are 2nd to none. if the leadership of the country decided they wanted nuclear out of necessity i'm sure it would be world class.

As one poster suggested do both, lifelong education should be considered the norm for now, in our lifetimes going "up" (growth, technology, whatever) change is fast. I suspect going "down" it will be fast change as well.

Thanks for all the advice, guys. I'm going to talk to a student counselor on thursday, and ask what my options are.
I want a foot in both camps, and maybe nuclear magnetic resonans logging is the way to go. Thorium reactors is what I ultimately want to work with, but I'm five years ahead of time according to the physiccs counselor at my school.

NMR? Now that is funny. In my undergraduate years as an hourly programmer using a pipeline superconducting magnet to
build the first NMR machines we magnetized an entire 19th century building at RPI. It was really hard to read a vt100
screen that was at a 30 degree angle. The changed the name to MRI because nuclear is bad, very bad.

funny in what way? :)
what is "RPI" and "vt100"?

RPI Resiner polytenique institute.
VT100 Video Terminal model 100. From Digital, if my memory is correct. A common one to "emulate".

Sorry it was humorous to see how far NMR was being applied far and wide. I admit to being an antique but once upon a time just after the last dinosaurs died, they invented something called the Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) and eventually figure out how to generate characters on it at the same time sending them up&down an asynchronous db25/rs232 connector (the vt100) into a physically large computer (vax11/780) the size of a suburban that had the processing power of my fuel injector (in same suburban) and a whole lot of scientific computing and paychecks ran this way.

We also used to use textbooks in physics and engineering that were printed on paper that came from trees. I miss my old Resnick&Halliday who were also my professors at RPI.


I miss my old Resnick&Halliday...

Yeah, there are still a few of us early Paleocene paper book guys around. I think I still have my copy, buried somewhere in those boxes in the back corner of my home office that I never seem to get around to cleaning up...I thought it was a good book.

Finish your petroleum studies to make very good money for several years. But try pursuing an oil industry career that emphasizes technologies that have applications in other fields. Do the same with your education. Get some engineering classes in another field close to petroleum but not dependent on oil. e.g. chemical engineering since it overlaps with petroleum. Then if you need to move out of oil in 10 or 20 years you'll have an easier time transitioning.

As an automotive mechanic myself, I know I am riding the tail-end of a wave to its finish, likely with sufficient momentum to carry out to the end of my lifetime. I have advised my kids to study business and English, as two disciplines that are useful to be proficient in whatever you do.

Tell them to MINOR in English, or else they'll end up as adjunct professors or--worse--"novelists." Literacy is key but not central to whatever they do. Besides, literary history is fascinating.

Study Business and English, [makes you] useful ... in whatever you do

Is you being A Serious Man?
English as opposed to Mandarin?
Business as opposed to politics?

The ultimate career is that of being a con artist who can convince many other people to move "wealth" from their pockets into his pocket --think Bernie Madoff or one of those TV religion evangelists (same difference)

Admittedly my own perspective is limited, but I studied both business and English in college, and they have served me well.

Having an ability to run a business, an understanding of accounting principles and so forth, is essential for someone self-employed in any field, and very useful for anyone in a small business. In my current employment in a small shop I set up the accounting system, run the reports, keep the paperwork in order (stopping short of taxes though), and generally keep a competent eye on the numbers for the owner. I know many business owners, and there is a significant penalty in expectations for someone trying to run a business without a good working knowledge of accounting.

When I suggest English, I mean the ability to write well, whether it is for self expression or business correspondence. I don't know if anyone else has noticed, but the ability to write English properly and effectively seems to be increasingly rare. If I were 20 years younger I would study Chinese too, but English can still be described as "the language of world commerce", and there are many benefits to English proficiency in any field.

When I suggest English, I mean the ability to write well

Amen brother. You have no debate from me on that one.

The "ability to write well" equates with understanding how your reader(s) decode your words and what imagery or other cognitions build in their minds as a result.

As I see it, being a mechanic is probably a good choice for those who don't have better options such as medicine.There certainly won't be a lot of personal cars around to work on, but there will be tons of all kinds of older machinery that must be kept running.

As the economy shrinks, it will become more economical to repair than to replace older trucks, tractors,bulldozers, combines,and so forth.Coaxing one more weeks life out of a big bulldozer forty or fifty years from today could be worth the labor of a hundred men,or more, for a year.Only a couple of those men could produce the four or five hundred gallons of soybean oil or other bio oil needed for fuel in much less than a year.

A good mechanic can learn to work on other kinds of machinery other than just automobiles or tractors or whatever quickly and easily, as the basic principles are the same across the board.

If the economy declines to the point that new machinery either can't be manufactured at all, or in only small quantities, truly capable mechanics will be in great demand for the then forseeable future.

I guess sexism hasn't really been brought up, but my kids are girls, so I haven't made any attempt to teach them my trade. In 25 years of "wrenching" I have worked with two female mechanics, one who had been Army-trained in machinery maintenance and another who wanted the higher wages of the shop over the sales floor. Both quit after two or three months with wrist problems and repetitive-strain injuries. If they were boys I would tell them to learn mechanics, though, at least as a back-up. I've lived all over the country myself, and even in general recessionary or job-glut times have never had a problem getting good employment. There was a long period when I'd work until I had a couple thousand in the bank, then pick up and move to some other corner of the country until that ran out. Then I'd find another job and work until I had another good sum in the bank...

My wife says I'm argumentative and I think it is a defensive mechanism for keeping me swallowing a bunch of BS. So here goes.

There was an article published in 2004 where a scientist by the name of Klimov said he was working on Lead Selenium photo voltaic cells and thought he could get the efficiency of them up to 60% in about 3 years. It's half past 2010 and no cells -- yet. Cheap solar voltaic efficiency of 60% would put us on the road to a solar future and that's where we are headed -- if we can make it there.

www.amprius.com has developed/is developing a new anode for Electric Vehicles (EV) with a potential of 450 whr/kg. The tZero went 300 miles at 60 mph on 150 whr/kg batteries. This would mean, all other things being equal, a max range of 900 miles. The maximum potential of lithium ion batteries are in the 1500 to 3000 whr/kg range or so I have read.

I picked up a book of old time formulae (Green Wizardry Mr. Greer Green Wizardry!!) but the pages are acid based and I need to copy it to some other format before it disintegrates over time. The knowledge of the past is available to white wash a fence in Hannibal, Missouri Where will the elements and compounds come from for paints, medicines, metal alloys, etc.? I'm also sure that current formulations have been created that surpass these old formulae. But just in case, I'm not throwing a potentially useful book out.

If you look at the common denominator of the above, chemistry, chemical engineering, material science, geology, scrap material/salvager, electroplater, biologist, miner, etc. fields and people could all have a hand in supplying the elements and compounds of the above. I think the recurring theme is people who can recognize things around them and make them useful (blacksmith, geologist, weavers, spinners, roofer, miner, material scientist, scarp material/salvager, wood worker, boat wright, bicycle builder, EV builder, shoe maker, tanner, etc.) . People who can recognize conditions and know how to deal with them (doctors, nurses, veterinarian, meteorologists, farmers, fishermen, ranchers, etc.). People who know how to bring people together with different skills to produce something useful (business person, entrepreneur, manager, politician, etc.) I think I see us going forward to the 1800's with 2000 era knowledge from what ever we can find, produce, create, and build from what we know today.

There are a lot of chemical dissolved in the sea, flora, and fauna from which we will learn to harvest for the above occupations. Rome and Athens grew up without the use of fossil fuels (other than wood). I think we can mimic them but based on solar, electrical storage, and creative development of our natural resources.

This is a planet of 7 billion people growing toward 9 billion and there are not many people who are volunteering to self correct the situation. Going forward, we will want to work with people who can do useful things and make a living doing so. The rest will likely die off but may not do so without getting desperate. Our ancestors persevered on much less. We will have to make some adjustments.

I have some questions:

In 20 to 60 years from today,

what roof material(s) will be available?
what will we side houses with?
what will we use as foundations?
(stone, adobe, concrete, steel?
what will we apply to preserve wood and weather exposed surfaces?
how will we get the chickens, eggs, beef, veggies and fruits to market?
(eg EV pickup trucks, horse and wagon, inter dimensional cruise ships?)
how will we preserve food over the winter if fuel is scarce?
what will food containers be made of?
(eg glass, ceramics, plastics, nano based materials
how will we cloth ourselves? (cotton/wool, synthetics of some sort, tree
bark based breech cloth. or we could all move south...)
how will we keep ourselves healthy?
how will we treat water?
what will our roads be like? (built like the Apian Way, laser treated dirt? resin mat that dries like concrete in the sun?)
how will we move between cities and among oceanic ports?
how will we predict the weather?
will we still be able to launch satellites? (hollowed out logs with
fins? kevlar like tube impregnated with fire retardant using a fuel
10x more powerful than liquid hydrogen?)
will the state of electronics be? ( build your own computer at home?
back to radio tubes?, tom-toms?)

Somewhere in there (or an expanded list thereof) is a challenging career. "Take a sad song and make it better."

I'm in my 60's looking toward retirement. I have some skills along some of the lines above but waning strength, memory, and capability will be a challenge to fend off. Good luck!!

Nice survey Peter. Thank you.
I would like to add what is gleaned from the peak oil conferences with mayors/bureaucrats as to what's coming. Rising energy costs force localization. Some of the jobs we lost will necessarily return. Here is their list for localization priorities (directly implying future jobs):
Local food sources managed in a completely sustainable manner without oil. Seed banks, hoop houses, etc
Safe and adequate water supplies (with recycling)
Energy goes off the grid, to solar and geothermal.
Rearrange society for a minimum transportation consumption of energy
Culture of support for local economy. Build intensified synergies between people by developing most needed skills.
Cottage industries for all the things people really need. There is room for new materials in this like foamed glass, and new processes like energy cascades for a series of heat-using industries (geothermally driven?).
100% recycling of everything.
Map out economy transitions/substitutes as fuel costs rise to impossible heights and mineral shortages intensify.
Rebuild crafts and local manufacturing of tools and goods.
Develop local emergency services aligned to the real (local) risks. More than a volunteer service, less than fulltime professionals.
Sociology skills to engender community without putting everyone in competition against everyone else. This probably implies altering the way money works.

Revisit those who are or were sustainable: Turkey's open markets, Amish farming, Papau New Guinea.
Americans, in particular, must get rid of the "back to the stone age" fears; recall that ancient Greece produced the finest statuary, architecture, philosophy, government, origination of sciences, art, silks, furs, leathers, sailcraft, drama, political analysis... (even founded engineering (Archimedes). Visiting those ancient ruins makes pretty clear that life was mighty sophisticated 2000 years before the industrial revolution. Not "old is good" but simply, whatever worked the best is good. They can keep their arsenic, lead and mercury poisoning, and the Spartan aggressiveness - but we do need to revisit their quality of life.

in 60 years
what roof material(s) will be available? Cedar Shakes
what will we side houses with? Wood
what will we use as foundations? Stone
what will we apply to preserve wood and weather exposed surfaces? Resins from Pine Trees
how will we get the chickens, eggs, beef, veggies and fruits to market? you won't. you'll trade them in your neighborhood
how will we preserve food over the winter if fuel is scarce? root cellars
what will food containers be made of? plastic, recycled (the containers) from mining the dumps

in 20 years what we use now, merely removed from abandoned housing, for those from the military cannibalization of "hangar queens"

My younger brother's an M.D. - and there's lots of perks.

Need a bit of home repair? Agree to some kind of exchange for services with a school buddy.
Need a trip to sandy lands? Attend a paid conference. For a reward they give away family trips to DisneyWorld for $800.
Need some fancy toy? Participate in a pharmaceutical survey. You can get a Ferrari for 30% off.

But best of all, you get those Deep Pockets full of cash. It's the gateway to the upper class.

Mortitian--People are always dying, so your services will always be in demand.

It depends on your view of the future.

I would think most on this site would see further economic contraction & serious liquid fuel stress in the immediate near term.

Declining EROEI & deflation due to debt blowout will make any economic growth in the future pretty well impossible.

This will put horrendous stress on city & suburban lifestyles which IMO are pretty stressful now. I have never lived in a city and it amazes me that people put up with the congestion, noise, dirt, deadbeats & crime in them. It's only going to get worse.

Choose a career that allows you to live & work a fulfilling life in regional or country areas. Farming, mechanics, electrician, pharmacist, doctor, small town lawyer, veterinarian (that's what I do) and so on.

Fresh air, trees, genuine people, regional food, tight helpful communities, low housing and living costs.

Cities could get real ugly in the years ahead with power or food shortages. Local and regional agricultural communities will be more likely to be sustainable and survive the decrease in societal complexity that we have now entered.

"Cities could get real ugly in the years ahead with power or food shortages. Local and regional agricultural communities will be more likely to be sustainable and survive the decrease in societal complexity that we have now entered."

During the Chinese Great Leap Foward the cities did just fine and it was the pesants in the countryside who starved to death in their millions with reports of canibalism taking place. This was due to local government officials trying to make their set production quotas at the expense of the workers under them.

If you were a high ranking government official and you had a limited supply of food for distribution, where would you send it? Would you waste resources trying to distribute it to towns and villages or attempt to save as many people as possible, getting the most bang for your bucks, setting up distribution in a city?

There is already a demographic shift going on in many parts of the world of people moving to large cities looking for work because they just cant support themselves and their families otherwise. I expect this trend will continue with government throwing resources at cities to support them until they implode.

I think this is a good example of how Odum's maximum power principle plays out in relation to human energy hierachies and resource depletion.

Stalin did the same thing. Starved the country to feed the cities. Millions of Russian peasants died of starvation. The local apparatchnicks stole every bit of food to make their quotas. They figured the farmers would always find places to hide food or secretly make more.

The same is probably happening in North Korea now.

It is true that any authoritarian/dictatorial power can starve the countryside. However, country living in small agricultural based regions IMO has a much higher standard of lifestyle satisfaction than huge congested polluted cities. But that's my own view. I hate crowds, noise, bad air, dirt and rude & rushed people.

If there are any supply constraints to electricity or liquid fuels in modern cities, they will collapse very quickly. You will want to be as far away from them as possible.

Man I hate to say this but the best career approach is probably Investment Banker if you have the foresight to play the game to get out. Engineering does not provide a lot of exit opportunities. Your building stuff for a BAU world even if you tried to go into alternative energy.

Rob the bank and run if you will except these days that means working for the bank.

The problem is the world runs on money and altruistic endeavors suffer from cash flow issues.
Lots of things you can do if your smart enough to make some quick cash and buy your chosen doomstead with cash.

But you need to plan ahead. The plain truth is that to really try and make it in and alternative life style you need about 100k of cold hard cash more is of course better to a point. Few jobs offer a way to accumulate that much capitol in a short amount of time. At the same time you have to not be sucked into the lifestyle.

To some extent you have to play along but you can buy the cheapest BMW perhaps used so the "boys" don't know your planning on bugging out.

If I could do it all over again knowing what I do now thats what I'd do go be a Stockbroker for a few years make bank as much dough as I could for as long as I could stand it then quite pay cash for a doomstead and go to votech or engineering/ag school medicine etc learn something useful. Take my daily cash flow way the hell down till I was able to live decently on peanuts. Assuming everything is paid for and you say have a decent organic farm going you can make and ok living off the farm. Farming is still profitable if you have zero debt and watch your expenses like a hawk. Working "in town" can bring in the needed cash so your still growing your savings.

I did not do this I'm on plan B if you will which means looking at a much cheaper doomstead 30k or less for a reasonable place in backwoods Arkansas/Missouri or Ohio etc. Its doable on a lot less cash although its not what I want to do for me its a final decision once I go alternative I'm not going back. On the other end if you think you need 5 million dollars then you don't understand what your doing and your still trying to play the game.

In my own calculations as I get over 500k or so in "dream" money it becomes obvious I'm still trying to hold onto the past. Certainly 500k is nicer than 100k if you had it but it becomes less relevant for a doomstead real alternative lifestyle as you go over that. Of course other regions of the country have much higher doomstead fees. California and East cost a good doomstead could cost millions. However again you have to question why your trying to create a doomstead in such and expensive area. Moving it but still staying in the region can dramatically lower your costs. Say you wanted to stay near family in New York well Penn or Upstate makes a lot more sense and drops the prices back into my < 500k window. In short if your serious about a doomstead right now you better off buying a better one in a poorer part of the region than trying to do it in and expensive area.

But to finish in the end given the way things are going today its in my opinion all about cutting cash flow and becoming reasonably self sufficient. If you can do that then you can embark on a real alternative career of your choosing you have all the time in the world.

Outstanding analysis ! I agree that it is imperative to keep costs low. I bought a boat [ they are now giving them away in SFO area marinas ] and the berth rent averaged $ 400 / month in pricy Marin county. A beater car or truck from a known source. I scraped every penny for three years. Now living for peanuts in Thailand

College degrees never did a thing for me. An ability to adapt plus language skills are what got me thru. Learn every language they offer and be the most popular man on campus [ ie. learn idle flattery and compliment people ] You don't have to be Bill Gates, just be his friend. As people become older, they lose people they can trust and like. Be that man.

There are very few people who make it on their own. The parents of my friends seemed to think I was worth helping and did so.

In short, pick a career and learn to be popular. The last one to be axed is the one whose clients love him. They are also the ones that get rehired fastest.

Schooling may help, but personality will win the day.

personality will win the day

Sounds like a pyramid scheme.
What you gonna do when an even more "personable" fella replaces you?
Think about all those "personable" and irreplaceable cable TV talk show hosts.
What are all their names again?

Then again, almost every "career" is part of a pyramid scheme.
There are 6.7 Billion people on this planet and they are all fighting to get to that No. 1 top spot on the globalized pyramid.

There are a couple of things that are "for sures" about the 6.7 Billion:

1) Each of them will die (become a mortician)
2) Each of them will take a crap (become a sewage plant operator)
3) Each of them will get sick before they die (become a geriatrics doctor)
4) Each of them will need a haircut (never mind)

6.8 billion. 6.9 if you are rounding.


But at least the percentage rate of increase is slowly decreasing.


If the rate drop of the last year repeats a few times, we should be below 1% growth rate by 2015 and down to zero around 2040.

I'm expecting that the rate will ... accelerate markedly at some point in the not-too-distant future.

The die off may have already begun--much of the fall in pop growth rate this year was due to a dramatic rise in the death rate, which went positive for the first time in years.


"I'm expecting that the rate will ... accelerate markedly at some point in the not-too-distant future."

Whys that?

I have to agree as evidenced by my knee jerk posting. these guys will burn us all and still be in a safer place than the rest of us if it comes down to the real deal.

"But to finish in the end given the way things are going today its in my opinion all about cutting cash flow and becoming reasonably self sufficient."

Totally agree, that was my conclusion back in 2005 when I sold everything in the UK and moved to France. We still need money, especially for taxes, insurances and utilities, but parts of our lives that can be removed from the money economy are. I'm an organic farmer in the summer, a forestry worker in the winter (ie. cut and sell firewood), so you could say I'm in the energy business :) I also do gardening and handyman work for some extra money. I'll probably move a little up the value added scale and do some food, wood and eco-tourism related business later.

Investment is basically time and personal energy, funding comes from cashflow and therefore little risk is taken. Keeping things fundamentally simple and risk free is important as is flexibility.


I read avidly and rarely comment, but this one is near and dear to my heart. I'm surprised and frankly disappointed to note the assumption implicit in so many of your comments that a good career is one in which one can earn lots of money. I disagree.

My children are sick of hearing this, so I'll say it to you: when I was growing up (I'm now 56), success was all about how much money you made. We said, "Cousin Tony is successful," meaning Tony made a lot of money in his job. In the age to come (say, the next 20-30 years), success will be measured by the extent to which you can find a way to be happy while making little or no money.

So my career advice to a young person today would be to learn to live simply, to grow some things, to build some things, to love with tenderness and passion, and to dance without fear. Let the rest take care of itself.

So my career advice to a young person today would be to learn to live simply, to grow some things, to build some things, to love with tenderness and passion, and to dance without fear. Let the rest take care of itself.

The problem is food clothing shelter. If you choose and alternative simple lifestyle with no money then your fighting a losing game against the establishment if you will. Being poor is expensive.

Now with some creative thinking you can get out of the rat race surprisingly cheap if you want to.
The lowest number I could come up with is 10k for a older trailer/run down house on a few acres in middle America.
However 10k is a lot of money if your living simply. Bottom line is it seems you have little choice but to play the game for a bit in order to get out. The problem is cash flow becomes a housing issue. Transportation is solvable with a used car, motorcycle bike, public transport. Housing and room for a substantial garden is not.

Next you should have some savings to act as your own banker at least 5k. So your talking 15k as a minimum.
If you make 30k a year you can live on 15k fairly easily so within two years you could reduce your expenses substantially. If your under 30k it gets really hard as 15k a year is a fairly hard barrier to overcome.
Going from 15->10k for staying alive is substantially harder than 30k->20k.

My point is its not really about a career in my opinion but about reducing cash flow to have options to do whatever you want. Living simply is certainly part of the equation but getting the food/clothing/shelter game covered to do so is just as important. Your still part of the money culture no matter what you do but if you can live a lifestyle where using money is optional not required to stay alive then you really are living simply.
Money should be for luxuries and emergencies not living.

I can't imagine having the temerity to offer such advice besides, "What would you like to do?" and perhaps some suggestions to avoid plainly ludicrous paths (homeopathy, Reiki, psychoanalytic and/or literary theory).

Recommendations based on predictions of the future are futile. They beg the question: What is the future, exactly?

The future is not "out there" waiting to be predicted. It will probably surprise everyone. Little did the builders of the Tower of Babel know what was in store for them.

For a young lad: Army Officer. Teach leadership skills which will be very important in the future.

For a young lass: Seamstress or other textile related work, the fashion industry will be around in its current form for sometime, but people will always need clothes and someone good at making fine clothing will always find work for the rich.

And if the young seamstress met the young army officer then there could even be a soppy film script as a bonus.. You know the type: gallant hero just back from the Civil War fighting the Tea Party revolutionaries walks into her shop to have his uniform repaired. Takes one look into her longing eyes... two years later, the crib is full of gurgling sounds but the Officer is back on the trail of marauding Perma Culturistas (they never could get the yield from the land..) While the Officer is away the evil Town Sheriff forces his 'acquaintance' on the young woman. Word finally reaches the recently promoted Colonel in the field. He is straight to horse (his electric jeep was rubbish). He arrives back and heads for the saloon and calls the Sheriff out. The Sheriff leaves his poker game, swigs down the last of his whiskey and staggers outside. The Colonel wins the quick-draw and the undertaker is happy. Fade to credits as Colonel and Missus share a passionate embrace. Filmed in Technicolor..


Chasing high technology positions seems to take for granted that more of the same is the answer to our looming problems; BAU!

I think what may really be the most needed is highly skilled generalists; big picture analysts who are pragmatic enough to gauge what survival goals the population can best be prodded towards. I dont know if any present occupation title matches, as it really requires components of geo physical and human engineering disciplines combined with a feel for the politics necessary to implementation of new ways forward. A very tall order but not one you can likely deliberately remake yourself into.

Everyone has different inherent strengths, and although not always know to the person striking out, success comes easier if your selected path follows your inner abilities.

Success really should be measured in terms of freedom from wants. Some are happy with little material wealth but that sense of satisfaction can't be imposed on some other personalities. My own inclination was to acquire credentials and competency in a number of mechanical trades as well as equipment and process operation. The flexibility was valuable to me and allowed talking back to the establishment when I felt manipulated against my principles.

Know yourself, and keep learning new skills to fall back on. Keep your own game plan in mind and don't waste your life force a pawn in someone else's game.

I think what may really be the most needed is highly skilled generalists...

I concur. There is a growing realization that all of our problems and predicaments are linked systemically. Possibly the greatest knowledge that one might possess in the future is the ability to think systemically and adapt. We scarcely have an idea of what sorts of work will be needed in the future, but we can say without doubt that the capacity to see how different systems work based on a general knowledge of systemness would stand one in good stead for adapting one's grasp of something new.

For several years now I and a small group have been working on the concept of a baccalaureate degree (both a BA for qualitative grasp and a BS for quantitative) that would fulfill the objectives of the 19th/20th century notions of a liberal studies program. That is, it would provide the student with the basis for going into any other field of study. We envision this kind of work pushing down into K-12 education once established at the college level.

For those who might be interested I have a series of work papers in my blog that were the basis for the textbook on which we are currently working. This link takes you to an index page with several sets of working papers. The systems science links are at the bottom of that page.


The sapience project appears to be an ambitious project.

I would concur that everything ultimately vortexes in on what is in the mind of the observer/responder.

However, it would seem that two major themes should be moved to the top of your analysis: biological evolution AND cultural evolution,
where there is no fine dividing line between nurture and nature --despite what "they" say.

It is ambitious, but also depressing. Even more so than peak oil! What I am finding says, in effect, we are too clever for our own good and insufficiently wise in how we apply our cleverness, for a species as a whole. And it is biological at base.

Cultural evolution can act as a selection force as long as there is a clear trend. For us humans, with fossil fuels powering the drive toward higher complexity (in the Tainterian sense) there should be extreme pressure selecting for better judgment (i.e. sapience), but the rate is too great for biological evolution to respond in time. Ergo, the capacity for wisdom we evolved in the early Holocene is not, and will not be enough to moderate our limbic (animal) spirits in guiding decisions (see: Descartes' Error by Antonio Damasio for a great insight into how emotions guide decisions, even so-called rational ones).

At the same time that I despair our biological lackings, I do think the systems science education project may help. Systems thinking is part of sapience as I see it. Anything that would improve systems thinking in people would help nurture whatever native capacity they have to grow in wisdom and, who knows(?), maybe reduce the foolishness in society in general. At least that is my best shot at it.

we are too clever for our own good and insufficiently wise in how we apply our cleverness

Couldn't agree more. But, I see little evidence we are teaching people about how they effect things on the systems level. Mostly we seem to value, everyman for themselves....

It is ... also depressing. What I am finding [is that] we are too clever for our own good and insufficiently wise

I found the same thing when I did my lemmings on the ledge walk.

We humans are not what we think we are.
A bite into the fruit of the tree of no-ledge can leave one with a bitter after taste.

Luckily the brain is plastic and you can soon forget the unpleasant stuff you learned.

Cultural evolution can act as a selection force

By saying that, I respectfully suggest that you do not fully understand "evolution".

It does not have to be, and in many cases is not, survival only of the fittest mutation.

Instead it is survival, continuance and thriving of those cultural mutations that do not get immediately taken out (rendered nonreproducing) by unfortunate events; i.e., Black Swans.

That is the opposite of what they taught you in school.

In other words, it is the unlucky that usually die off. Say for example you are the "fittest" wilder-beast in your herd, but due to bad luck when crossing the river, the giant croc gets you and lets the scrawny 90 pound wilder-beast behind you get by (maybe because you are a healthier meal; maybe just pure bad luck). It is not necessarily continuance of the "fittest" and not necessarily an always competitive environment.

What I was trying to say was merely that cultures "evolve" and get passed on as such from one generation to the next.

Cultural evolution can act as a selection force

By saying that, I respectfully suggest that you do not fully understand "evolution".

The rest of my sentence was... "as long as there is a clear trend." Example, cultures that adopted raising dairy animals. This led to the selection of an allele that prolongs the production of lactase into adulthood, allowing them to drink milk as adults.

Not sure what it is you don't think I understand. There have been a number of excellent works lately showing the feedback selection effect of cultural evolution on human biological evolution. I didn't make this up. In fact see latest issue of Scientific American for more. And I just don't get the logic of your example. Saying it is the unlucky that die off sounds vacuous. It is generally the sick, weak, and young prey that get picked off by hunters. I guess you could say they are unlucky and be right, but so what? Do healthy, strong, and experienced prey ever get caught off guard? Sure, but far less than the former category.

Finally, note that cultures can evolve even within one generation. I know I have been witness to it.

Maybe I’m too far in my cups, but it sounds like you guys agree more than you think.

The insight that I got from stepback’s posting was that it’s not really the survival of the fittest. It’s the survival of the mostly fit. You don’t need to be in the top 10%, but you definitely don’t want to be in the bottom 10%.

During war you have a 7% chance of being killed in battle. This rises to 15% for officers. Your better off being a corporal. You get leadership skills commanding your section and dont ever have to clean out the toilets.

Hmmm. Rupee counterfeiter. Kitteh herder, official sidekick, disco mime, Walmart greeter, penguin fitter,..oh...you mean careers with a future ?

Can't say I envy kids these days. Bewildering choices to be made in the face of such uncertainty. There are a fair amount of younger people that are of the belief that things will go bonkers in the next year or 2( solar max, planet X BS etc,etc, ) and that there is no future for them. They see themselves as caught between making a choice for naught, or not making a choice at all. There are a fair amount of them that are living in the Mad Max fantasy future, where their current actions have no real importance in deciding their future....seriously.It's disturbing to hear things like that firsthand from local highschool kids (I teach at a cooking workshop.) I try to explain that this has been a running theme for some time:


My own experience taught me that earning a degree does not necessarily mean a viable future career. Everything I learned and used as a graphic artist/commercial designer 20 years ago, is obsolete. Nobody uses manual typesetting anymore, and the demand for people who can code in basic, is non-existent. I earned my degree by the time I was 18,...practically useless these days, unless designing a logo or something silly. But wait, I'm a chef too,..oh.. the restaurant business went to sh*t, thanks to Emeril & Food Network....bam. I have made much better money as a restaurant consultant in the past 3 years, only because I was savvy enough to foresee the need to " trim the fat ", but even that gravy train is slowing to a halt. Now, I'm at the point of going to families' homes, helping them design a viable food budget and menu, how to grow and process their own foodstuffs, turning them on to permaculture, biodynamics, etc ...and as usual, I see more waste than ever. It's bothersome to me that I live in a country where we still throw away more food than some countries consume in a year's time. It's a mindset that's handed down from generation to generation, that helps set the example that man's dominion over nature is absolute..wot an illusion 'eh ? What will it take, I wonder ?
Soylent Green ?

Bob: " Anybody see Bill around lately...? "
Fred: " No, it's probably been at least 3 sandwiches, ..I mean days, since I've seen him .. burp.."...'guilty look'

I myself, would like to, and am preparing, to go back to school at 38, to study engineering, among other things, and the main fear I have is that what I will study will be obsolete by the time I graduate..what is the future ? I foresee meta-materials, synthetic biology, C & E engineering, ethnopharmacology (<--big one),logic/logistics,( I can think of quite a few more) but with a rapidly changing world, who's to say what will be the best choice ? For myself, I see taking a multidisciplinary approach to studies will fare better for me in the long run.

It's been 20 years since I've stepped foot in a classroom. I'm somewhat intimidated and have a very lopsided education as a base. Trying to learn things online is maddening, since everybody has their own ways of teaching(especially maths), although youtube has some great Yale course lectures, aside from things like that, it's more frustrating than anything.. I read at a college freshman level in 3rd grade, but failed math repeatedly, eventually dropped out in the 9th and got my G.E.D. when I was 16 and went straight to college. Grades at that point ? F in everything( even got an F- once ) except science courses, "A",lol. What did I study ? ..Art...'slaps forehead'. ...this is going to be interesting.....I'd love to hear from anybody who has or is undergoing the same things, any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

I prodigy was also.
Meaningless is all built things.
Kid have... state pays... only real anything life have.
Else/Also: Finland. Norway. Here? Not here.

Horticulture, as in medical marijuana grower, combined with aquaponics. Grow their weed and cure their munchies all in one operation. If you live in a State that seems likely to legalise medical use, go ahead and get your operation going now, growing winter tomatoes, herbs, peppers, etc. Focus on using renewables for your energy sources.

Avoid going into debt to attend college. Take as many courses as you can at community colleges. Many have a great selection of applied courses taught by folks actually working in the areas they are teaching.

Energy prices are going to keep going up.So businesses are going to want to hire people who can help them use energy more efficiently. So perhaps HVAC engineer.

My comment also serves as a follow up to my post of last week as I actively teach career search to grade 10 students. (When not teaching trades).

I have a course theme, "We Need You", which allows me to introduce many topics such as, peak oil, currency issues, economic decline, GW, and the looming retirement of old farts (such as myself and friends, mid baby boomers). Add to this many other issues.

Then, we do psych profile tests administered by someone who knows what they are doing. It is no use finding a career you hate.

We then go through career search and career matchmaker courses which are online resources.

Students are required to pick something (career)...or a few possibilities, keeping in mind the challenges the world is presently facing and what they can do to make a place for themselves in it, and/or actively help with the problems. You will often hear. "we need transportation specialists, designers, engineers,smart builders, fabricators.....whatever.

Students are also required to pick a few training institutions....all must pick post secondary training regardless of ability or intelligence....something. Once the what is ironed out, we move to the how and cost....pre-requisites, costs...tuition and living, whatever.... this also includes outlook in a world of shrinking consumption.

When the students are restive we will watch clips on problems, for example we just finished a bbc special called "If the Oil Runs Out". Interviews don't work well.

This is unit one, 1 hour and fifteen minutes a day, for 1/2 the year. On Tuesday we start health and safety which will also require first aid training as well as all matter of health issues/choices. We will be watching "Food Inc".

I am presently working on my unit about democratic responsibilities. A kind of use it or lose it thing. It should allow the introduction of business owning politicians and the process, and what individuals should do as responsible citizens to become informed and involved. )No propaganda allowed, beyond the age old 'rights and responsibilities.

This is a mandatory course for all grade 10s. If you get an unexcited teacher it is a fuss off course. I take it very seriously and require commitment; and so far, the response has been overwhelming and unbelievable. Furthermore...no do = no graduation. That is the stick. The carrot is being needed. Students pretty much all rise to expectations unless their baggage is too heavy.

As to this weeks question the answer is in short, "find a passion or something you like, make sure you can prepare yourself well for the transition, plan on helping pay for the schooling and know exactly what you are embarking upon. Don't expect handouts or an easy ride." Finding yourself after high school is not an option. You guessed it "we need you".

Regards to all...Paul

Now, to stuffing prep for our Thanksgiving dinner and looming family arrival. This year has a special meaning for my wife and I because we are so damn thankful.

Hi Paulo

Thanks and I'm curious:

re:"I take it very seriously and require commitment;"

I'd be interested in details, (though I'm not a teacher).
Do you have an outline or something that can give me more of an idea about it?

Info in user profile. Thanks!

Get a petroleum engineering degree. Take an internship, or work for at most, 1 year.

Take the money and buy farmland, and make nice with the local permaculture/organic/certified-natural crowd. Make sure you've got a well-equipped shop with welder, and start designing small-scale permaculture biorefineries, which can be tailored to the locally available feedstocks, instead of this mega-refinery and one feedstock to rule them craze that currently dominates petroleum and biomass.

An excerpt from ELP Plan essay from early 2007 follows. Perhaps a related question is what Sharon Astyk calls the "Brother-in-law on the sofa" syndrome, i.e., incoming unemployed family members--what do you advise them to do?. Having an ongoing garden/farm operations allows one to take an incoming liability, unemployed family members, and convert them into assets, i.e., farm workers.


Jim Kunstler has suggested that we should not celebrate being largely a nation of consumers. I agree with Jim. We need to once again become a nation of producers. I recommend that you try to become, or work for, a provider of essential goods and services.

Key recommended sectors are obviously energy--conventional, non conventional and alternative energy production and energy conservation--as well as food production, especially local organic farming close to towns and cities.

Other sectors to consider are repair and maintenance, low cost energy efficient housing, low cost transportation, basic health care, etc.

The biggest risk to family finances is trying to maintain the SUV, suburban mortgage way of life in a period of contracting energy supplies. Beyond that, one of the next biggest risks in my opinion, is excessive and unwise spending--especially debt financed spending--on college education costs.

While we will desperately need engineers and many other technically qualified graduates, we are seeing wave upon wave of college graduates entering the work force with degrees that very poorly prepare them for work in a post-Peak Oil environment. We may ultimately see college graduates competing with illegal immigrants for agricultural jobs.

Perhaps the best education investment that many young people could make is a two year associate degree in some kind of repair/maintenance area, perhaps with summer jobs in the agricultural sector.

I would especially recommend that you consider buying, perhaps with a joint venture group, a small farm, either currently organic, or that can be converted to an organic farm. In the short term, if nothing else you could lease it out to an organic farmer. Longer term, you might consider building or moving a prefab, small energy efficient house to the farm. If nothing else, this plan may provide a place of work for your unemployed college graduate.

"Having an ongoing garden/farm operations allows one to take an incoming liability, unemployed family members, and convert them into assets, i.e., farm workers."

Good luck with getting family members to do hard physical labor. (You would be surprised at the difficulty lot of people have in just getting their teenage kids just to do the dishes or a little other housework...)

(You would be surprised at the difficulty lot of people have in just getting their teenage kids just to do the dishes or a little other housework...)

Oh? It's not really that hard.

"Work or walk!"

In a subsistance/survival situation, this is leadership rule #1 to maintain 'unit cohesion'. You won't have any trouble getting the workers of the clan to back you up either.

Ghung, right on! At the moment I would say what is easier to hire on my farms are unemployed non-family members, at night with the lights off my wife and I talk about this decline and when the relatives are 1) living with us and 2) working for us. And making sure those two issues are bound! I get a lot of requests for living space and stuff for free, you should see how many people don't continue the conversation when I say, "you can work that off with 10 hours/timeincrement of farm work".

**Deleted** as I hit the Save button when I meant to hit the Preview button.

On a IRS Form 1040, I'd like to see the rules change to where we **deduct** bank interest paid to us and get ***taxed on credit card interest paid out***. At that point we will know the government is interested in building us up and not letting someone else suck us dry (of capital).

How about bicycle mechanic/builder/inventor/engineer? Are there courses in bicycle engineering? And if not, someone should invent said courses. I would like to think the future will be very much about how to increase the efficiency of going from point A to point B using as much human power as possible and as little fossil fuel as possible. Lately, I have become fascinated with recumbent tricycles and human powered vehicles. There is a lot of work happening in this field and I would hope it would begin to come into the mainstream.

I would think that people who can fix things like bicycles/tricycles and can improve their operation would always be in demand at the community level. It seems like a way to make a living,however modest, while also doing something clearly beneficial for the world.

Anyway, obviously, any recommendation would depend on the young person. What is their passion? It is a cliche, but of course one should follow one's passion if at all possible.

The thing with bicycles is that the technology is mature. There are mass production facilities all over Asia. Offshore quality is decent and the big producers like Trek and small ones like Surly, can spin on a dime. If racing bikes or mountain bikes lose popularity, these manufacturers can easily and cheaply transition to commuter bikes.

The bike business is not like an auto factory where you have several hundred million invested in particular product lines, and you manufacture with robots. Bike manufacturers are not stuck making SUVs even as margins go to hell.

But... bikes are a good business space. I'd focus on two areas: electrifying them and building light systems for them. As the public transitions to 2 wheels, electric bikes will become as popular here (the U.S.) as they have become in China. And although Trek and others will make them, there are millions of existing bikes which can be modified for electric service.

Likewise with lighting systems. 99% of the bikes out there today do not have light systems. Once folks start commuting, they will need powerful, realistic, light options, not blinkies. You can buy powerful systems today for $500 or $600, but you can also make great LED based units from scratch, for a lot less. A lot of bike owners will be interested in option #2: "a lot less". And many will be interested in someone who can replace their recharge packs, if they do not install wheel dynamos. My battery pack for a metal halide system (metal halide is the technology installed in high end sports cars) is $250 though I can buy the cells for $35 if I decide to wire them myself.

So, although I'd steer clear of frame design and manufacture, I think there's good work ahead in bicycle sub-systems.

"I'd focus on two areas: electrifying them and building light systems for them."

Good points, but how about outer shells? Especially up here in the great north, a bit of protection from the elements can make mid-winter cycling much more attractive to many. And some velo-ped designs can cut down on drag enough to improve speed possibilities quite dramatically.


Though I suppose this will likely always be something of a niche market--for cold climate dwellers and speed freaks.

"up here in the great north, a bit of protection from the elements can make mid-winter cycling much more attractive to many."

[raises hand] Who/what is going to plow all of those roads bike paths in the winter? Pedal powered snow plows? http://urbanvelo.org/pedal-powered-snow-plow/

Perhaps skis and snowshoes would be a growing business to look at. Musher school,,,,,,anyone?

An opportunity here perhaps:

A pedal-powered snowmobile

Ktrak bicycle apparatus turns mountain bikes into winter-conquering 'commuting tool'



Videos here:


Looks like fun!

Check out this...


Great review of the current state of the art.

I think there's a lot to velomobiles, especially with electric assist. I did not realize that velomobiles are 2x efficient vs regular bicycle on level ground.

But the hard enclosure business has got to go. Laminated fabric, composite films, or similar (like wind surfing sails or modern kites) would be lighter, cheaper, more effective.

My screen name is actually the name of my draft horse. Here to tell you that farming with horses is not easy to learn. There are plenty of riding instructors and fancy driving instructors but very few who know about the collars and harnesses and techniques for using farm implements. That includes me but I am trying. Anyone who really knows that stuff - I have a couch - make that whole room - waiting for you! And your horse makes two. I will cook for you and pay for the hay.

I also have had an electric assist recumbent BikeE for ten years. Started with lead acid batteries and a motor off an old currie electric bike and have ended up with a Lithium I Po from Mr. Li Ping in China. I agree about fairings and the need for some protection in velomobiles. Not only from the elements but from thieves. The thing about bikes is that they need good roads, just as cars do. Keeping the roads open is going to be a good job for someone. Fixing the crappy electrical stuff and bike parts now manufactured should keep someone occupied except that bike owners are very cheap and poor at the moment. They will get poorer as they try to support both horses and electric bikes. In light of all that, I would imagine that being able to fix old cars will be a good job for a long time.

Plowing local roads with horses might be a good career someday. But you know, without cars those early bike riders would never have achieved paved roads. When oil goes away most roads will be abandoned. And making batteries... now there is a career if you happen to live in China.

"like wind surfing sails or modern kites"

You have actually put your finger on one of the main problems with such vehicles, whether the enclosure is soft or hard. They do fine with a tail wind, and out perform other bikes with a front wind or no wind, but a strong side wind I would think would really make them hard to operate.

But I could wrong. Does anyone have experience with them? Are their aerodynamics so good that side winds aren't a problem?

but a strong side wind...

Which might be why you would want the option to remove the fairing system and ride bare. Or remove perhaps remove a predetermined section.

I guess it's a matter of figuring things out.

I figured out that one always wants to live east of the job. The sun is behind you on the morning commute and behind you on the evening commute. Easier to see, easier to be seen.

I am impressed by the number of interesting and useful career options proposed here.

I am surprised that none have dared a peek at the dark side.

In a civilization on the way down, it would seem obvious that criminal activity will rise. There will be a a market for jobs in security and protection, but I am quite certain that job opportunities on the criminal side will be much more plentiful.

If survival supersedes morality and ethics, stealing, smuggling, prostitution etc. become very useful skills to have.

Not very nice, but probably realistic.


I watched a news report yesterday which said the UN was failing the people of Haiti. One of the examples given was that women were selling themselves for food. Crime rates will sky rocket and anything not nailed down is liable to be stolen quickly as unemployment rises.

This was probably present in Haiti before the event. In Africa this is pretty standard, and I've certainly seen this in the US, they just do a symbol exchange (Federal Reserve Notes) before they get the food.

Lots of people are saying medical field. I would agree, but with a focus on herbalism and psychology/counseling. Herbs will be around long after the lab-produced medications are gone (many of the latter being isolated chemicals from herbs). There will be plenty of psychological trauma in the coming decades. Even if you dont charge for your services as a psychologist/counselor, the people you help will have a strong motivation to keep you around/ help you out. Society is the key to survival in ANY future scenario. Keeping people in happy, functioning relationships with eachother is a must-have skill, whether gotten in degree form or as an innate skill.


Cult leader.

Career Counselor

I've never felt it was a good idea to suggest specific career paths to people. Everyone is different, and everyone needs to find a path that works for them. My advice would be to get as broad an education as possible, both academic and practical. As I look back on my personal educational history, I see things I'm thankful I did, and things I wish I had done differently.

In college, learn as much science and math as possible, but also as much literature, history, and geography as you can. Get some real depth in at least one area of science or math, and one area of humanities.

College is important, but don't let it get in the way of your education. Besides academics, somehow find time to learn some other basic skills as well. Carpentry, or basic wiring, masonry, or gardening are all good choices. As are many other skills.

Try to stay healthy and fit. Learn how to pay attention to other people, and to care about their wellbeing. On the other hand, it can also be a dangerous world out there, so learning some basic weapons skills is not a bad idea.

You can't do all of the above, but try to do as many as you can. You will be a versatile person who can adapt to whatever happens. Somehow out of that mix something will click for you and you will find your niche.

There have been classical musicians for thousands of years already and will likely be for thousands of years more. Classical music will never go out of style.
Long after oil is gone and electrical energy is in short supply, classical musicians will still be playing non-electric instruments and giving concerts - And making a decent living doing same.
There also will be a good living to be made building and repairing these non-electric classical musical instruments.
Also, post peak oil I would guess that going to church will become more important to people and so building and repairing church organs might be another good interesting career.

Another good choice might be foundry engineering or management. We are going to be remelting and recasting a lot of metal to repair and build things post peak oil.
Cupolas and charcoal furnaces might be a dirty technology, but it is also a cheap and easy method of melting iron, steel, bronze, brass, copper, aluminum, pot metal etc...... Alloy testing and lab work will be very important in this area also.

Rotational balancing expert. All rotating things have a need for someone with the knowledge and expertise to balance the rotating parts to eliminate vibration (which can damage or destroy the rotating item) and also knows how to deal with harmonic vibrations. Fascinating field!

Glider (sail plane) instructor. There are going to be a LOT of ex-power plane pilots that will want to continue to fly and will need teaching how to make the transition from powered flight to non-powered flight.

Along the same lines, there is going to be a need for sailing instructors for teaching sailing in small sail boats. All those people now driving around the lakes in high horse power powered boats looking for fish will need to learn to sail or else be stuck rowing or paddling - Being lazy, most will choose sailing.
Owning a small business selling small sail boats and also maintaining and repairing them might be an interesting long term career.

I would suggest that people first stick to career choices that suite their own individual strengths. Seems to be a good bet that the future will hold strong for those skilled in providing the very basic needs to their surrounding community. IMO the following fields will be highly sought after: Security, Farming, Medicine, Carpentry, Weatherization, Plumbing, Electrician, Engineer, Bicycle Repair....

If you don't end up being highly skilled at something useful then there will always be the fallback position of laborer. There is likely to be plenty of labor intensive work in the future.

Let's turn this on its head: Which careers should be avoided?

I once met a retired oil industry professional at a Peak Oil event.

He said that his main achievement preparing his family for Peak Oil was to FORCE his children and grandchildren away from energy hog industries and/or careers.

He said that they might have thought that he was nuts - BUT - after many arguments, they honoured his wishes.

People should follow any career that suits them or which appeals ... UNLESS .. the career is predicated upon the availability of cheap liquid fuels.

"energy hog industries and/or careers"

Could you be more specific and clearer about what this term means to you and the oil guy?

>> "energy hog industries and/or careers"

Any low margin, high energy input industry.

The obvious one is becoming a car mechanic.

Or being a foundry worker working on low margin products.

Or, working in huge uninsulated workshops where gas burners are used for winter heating ... and where the profit margins are too low to permit the construction of fully insulated units.

Or working on the long distance transport of heavy, low value items.

If these items are also low utility (such as metal mass produced garden furniture) then the situation is even worse.

Well, this really means that you schouldn't work for an airplane or a trucking company. Somehow I believe that you can't know how the world will be, and being open minded might be the most important thing in order to be able to switch to another business if needed. I believe that if you can repair a truck, you also can repair windmills. I would say : do what you want, but try to be the best in a customer point of view, and try to see the other uses for your competences.

I am in a field that should probably be avoided in the log run. Computer Programming. It will be around for a while but will die out rather quickly. I'm actually trying to find some old fashion black smith training for my 20 something kids. They are interested and I'm interested in them learning it.

How about teaching some skill you have? If you are good at knitting or you like poetry/books, gardening, are skilled at taking care of small livestock, or a language, or fixing things, karate, yoga, sewing, children`s music classes, book circles (you give a little lecture, rich bored people might like this and pay you)...tutor, pottery, painting, cooking, beads, etc etc.

If you can have the lessons in your house then there is no need to pay rent. Many people are constantly looking to upgrade their skills and youtube videos (as useful as they are) can`t really be the answer. Also people love social occasions and small classes are really great for socializing. I know tons of people in a bad job market who are giving lssons in what they are good at. One is a pastry chef. One teaches singing. One is a tutor for school age kids. Also I knw a leather craft teacher.

Small classes are also a great way to network---you will learn from your students about many things. OPen doors, the grapevine and all that. Stay connected and you get to work with your passion. I guess the most important thing is that you ARE really interested and care about the field/craft you teach in. Build your community and be a part of a group of skilled people in it who is known for this skill.

Dentistry: Everyone has teeth that need looking after, the profession has a long history pre-oil peak, and will undoubtedly be in demand long into the future. Pay is good working environment is good, one will likely become self employed and own ones business. The main problem with a career in dentistry is practitioner burnout and a high suicide rate: This can be managed by choosing a good team and exercise outdoors, eating well and having outside interests to avoid the depression that overtakes many practitioners.

Its a good gig but like any high stress job dealing with the public it can get too much: plan on needing to take time away from the surgery from time to time to get your head straight.

I'm a petroleum exploration geophysicist, and I'd do it all over again (study geosciences). Why?

Because our human race is putting so many demands on our planet that we will need people trained in geosciences who can both extract, mitigate, and find substitutes for mineral resources.

Thinking way beyond peak oil, we will need people trained to find and use geothermal resources, to explore for minerals like rare earths for batteries, plan carbon sequestration programs.

Geosciences also includes the fluid envelopes of the earth, not just the solid earth, so geoscientists will be needed to model the effects of climate change on the environment and human society.

I can't think of a better career for a nature-loving, outdoors-oriented science and math minded young person to go into that geosciences.

My 24 years in this field have been a gift. I wake up and can't believe they pay me to do what I do. And yes, I get paid well. I get to travel the world. I've seen things few have seen, with a scientific insight most people have not developed, the gift from my university professors, most of whom are retired now. Thank you, guys!

As for the comment elsewhere here that failed engineers go into geology... that's bull. I was an engineering major at Brown, doing fine, but changed to geophysics because I found engineering to be boring. I kept on taking the same engineering courses (like fluid mechanics) as my engineering peers all the way through college, and did as well as they did.

Except, at the end of four years, I wasn't staring into space, wondering, "Why did I major in engineering? Was it because Daddy told me to?"

But, it's a hard career to switch into mid-career. You have to be going into it from the "get-go". Maybe someone could learn some essential software skills required for the oil industry and land a job as a geo-tech or data manager. GIS software, Oracle DBM, Petrel, GeoFrame, Seismic Micro Technology, Landmark Graphics and whatnot. Or the equivalent in the mining industry. You can get the expertise, but you need to be focused like a laser beam on what you need to learn, and most outsiders to this industry don't even know which way is up, which is a big barrier to a new entrant.

If the person is able to do the math/science, I would suggest a base degree in Mechanical or Electro-mechanical engineering (I'm biased as the latter is one of my degrees). At the same time, pick up one or more of the skills below (many have said some of these already);

1. Bicycle mechanic - this area will boom, and electric boost may be quite popular
2. Velomobile designer/builder - people will want an all weather solution, electric boost also important
3. Timber Wright - Barns and sheds will need to be built again.
4. Craftsman/Handyman who also knows how to make/repair all sorts of simple, valuable devices, including those from recycled components.
5. Gunsmith - no explanation needed

An associates in engineering technology is an alternative that might be as valuable without quite as much math/time/tuition, and as one person stated above, is much less expensive and gives a sheepskin at the end of two years that can be extended with a transfer to a 4 year school if desired (or feasible).

If a person is not mathematically and mechanically minded, then other skills will be needed as well;

6. Goat dairyman - everyone will want milk, cheese, and meat, and all goats really need is grass. Plus, they are easily managed (as opposed to having a bull around)and goat milk/cheese brings a premium already.
7. Teamster (possessing a set of draft horses and the necessary implements, possibly including timber extraction)
8. Fiber arts - from wool (card, spin, weave, knit, etc) to linen (rippling, retting, hackling, weaving) to cotton and perhaps hemp.

I would focus on those areas that will derive a premium price from the products produced, as opposed to say, a corn/bean farmer.

O.K. Since the bent here is towards engineering;
The most productive new fields are photonics, nanotechnology, and condensed matter physics.
Photonics deals with light like electronics deals with electricity. The exciting things right now are photonic crystals and negative index of refraction materials. Both of these are examples of nanotechnology, here in the form of nanostructured materials. See "Photonics Magazine".
In electronics, spintronics is oncoming. Electronics deals with the existence, pressure, and volume of electrons. Spintronics adds, maintains, modifies, and propagates knowledge of the electron's spin-state.
Nanotechnology at present offers huge advantage in the development of new materials with new properties. If you want to do something new, you need either a new material or a political agreement. Brass is brass, through-and-through. Nanotech materials are like a melding of micro-textured, micro-sculpted, and composite: the properties arise through minute fabrication. Carbon nanotubes are very exciting right now.
Condensed mater physics offers another class of material manipulation altogether. The Bose-Einstein condensate and similar soups offer the ability to deal with matter like we deal with light: matter optics... matter lasers... depositing atoms of choice exactly per a plan... all somewhat beyond casual, innate understanding.
Biotechnology is very exciting. Did you see the synthesized bacteria with its own website coded into its genes? Nuclear engineering may allow us to proceed without so much as adjusting the thermostat... though I fear the lead-time and conditions for any such similar salvation has been squandered.
Hope springs!

"The Bose-Einstein condensate and similar soups offer the ability to deal with matter like we deal with light: matter optics... matter lasers... depositing atoms of choice exactly per a plan... all somewhat beyond casual, innate understanding."

Ha! Some folks here are talking about logging with mules and you're talking about building Star Trek replicators.

That's why I love this site ;-)

It seems we'll not only see a greater economic divide between the haves and the have-nots, but a greater technological one as well.

What's... what's that buzzing sound?

Yeah, I know some folks in law enforcement who would love these things. Around here we rely on trained hummingbirds. It's a bit seasonal, though ;-)

I think it's wrong to prepare for "careers."

The best approach is to learn skills that will keep you alive in the post peak world.

Forget careers. Big corporate jobs are a thing of the past, and will become increasingly scarce.

So what's a smart young person to do?

Major in history, learn permaculture, study literature to learn to think critically, take lots of course in the natural sciences. Learn about drama and dance.

You get the picture.

The best approach is to learn skills that will keep you alive in the post peak world.

Convention oil peaked in 2005, and my career has done pretty good keeping me alive ever since it happened. I'm sure plenty of other people have noticed the same thing.

Soil and crop science and watershed science are probably the ideal college majors for the coming period. They're already in high demand and will be much more so as global warming, population increase and decades of shortsighted, destructive policies put pressure on the global food and water supply. Being involved in these things puts one at the forefront of the basic needs of mankind as we enter into the coming age of perpetual crisis. Not only that, but as the world changes and all the hyperactive vibrations of money and energy breakdown, and the parasitism upon parasitism and elaborate cultural ornamentation of our economy disappear, the knowledge gained will continue to place one not just in a position of survival, but of leadership.

Soil and crop science especially has so much of value to offer a thoughtful permaculturalist. The pioneers and radicals--the Lawtons and Holtzers--show us that the sky's the limit as far as where permaculture can be practiced, and what it can yield. But it takes a lot of thoughtfulness and an eye for the infinite depth of an ecosystem's interactions. With a nod to these folks, and an understanding that permaculture takes experience, hard work and the right attitude more than anything, I expect that we will learn more and more just how fecund the earth can be if we work with it rather than against it. Scientific knowledge has a role to play in this, alongside praxis.

A new type: the technician as peasant.

I offer this a bit tongue-in-cheek, but how about "Peak Oil Lifestyle Consultant" (or "Post Peak Oil Career/Lefestyle Couselor"). You put an ad in a local newspaper: "Broke? Can`t pay bills? Peak oil is the reason! Advice $15/hr" Then you offer advice to people based on their circumstances: their skills, talents, age group, health profile, family situation, land and asset ownership, work experience, transportation needs, etc. Basically you help them see things in the new post peak way, help them understand oil is not coming back....show them charts, discuss thermodynamics at whatever intellectual level the client can manage. Discuss sun-based ways of life and issues to do with competition/pride/"alpha male" mindsets and how to overcome these mindsets. Offer to do presentations for companies and local city governments.

There is a lot of mystery surrounding peak oil out there. We at TOD are a bit ahead of the game but millions cannot really get through these posts (no time, too tired, illiterate, no computer access, etc) Why not try to help these people by selling your time as a post-peak consultant? Once again, you help yourself too as you can learn from others in your community. Of course, when you work with people with no money, you might have to accept barter instead of cash, but so what?

I think Aangel beat you to it.

Societies under stress often go through religous revivals. It may not do much practical good, but the people find it a necessity, nonetheless.

It does not take much formal training or education to become a revivalist clergyman in the US, since there is no established church to bar entry. Rent Ingmar Bergmann's "The Seventh Seal" and you'll be on your way.

it is one of my fervent hopes that this does not occur.

Many here are recommending careers that require college degrees. While I certainly applaud those seeking higher education, it has been discussed on TOD that the payback time for a four year degree is increasing........


...and many graduates are not able to get jobs in their degreed fields. I expect this trend to continue for most, so choose your area of study carefully if you plan to reap financial rewards any time soon.

I wonder how this graph will play out in 5-10 years.


It is interesting, but not suprising, how few career recomendations commented on involve hard, manual labor. I assume "career" is the same as a job, or work necessary to provide shelter and food to your family? Young adults these days, unless from a rural, agricultrual background, in my opinion tend to avoid labor at all costs...never did it, too lazy, don't wanna. Everybody's life plan is to get out of college and immediately get in front of a computer and a hundred thousand dollar a year "career." It is now a society that has moved entirely away from producing, making things, whatever it might be, to servicing one another. In 2006 33,000 kids in the US took the bar exam and 189 earned petroleum engineering degrees. If the discussion here is relevant to peak oil and a changing world in coming years, if you base your ability to feed yourself on servicing your neighbor you are going to be very hungry.

I worked on my father's drilling rigs when I was 8 years old, by the time I was 18 I was a driller for a big company in West Texas on 10,000 wells; I worked on workover rigs, did well control work, set up tank batteries, dug miles of ditches, be-friended a geolgist who taught me structural geology, how to slip logs and contour maps. I borrowed money, sold deals, taught myself to buy leases and basic oil and gas law, engineered my own multi-string wells using my own geological maps, using and losing a lot of my own money. I can weld, run any piece of equipment there is, stand on a rig floor in the freezing rain all night, work weekends and Christmas days, whatever it takes. I can squeeze out a living operating 2 BOPD oil wells, making hundred of barrels a day of water, and make Saudi petroleum engineers ask how in the world?

I have no degree. What I've done was just hard work and it does not make me any better or worse than anyone else. I wish I had a degree in PE, or geology; I would have still gone to the field and done it the hard way.

Find something you want to do that you believe in, put your head down and don't look up for 30 years. Whatever it is you decide to do, don't quit. Ever. It is only one out of 200 kids I see come thru the oilfield that I think will stick, and what to learn, that see it as an open field to run in. Most of them look at hard, manual labor as something they need to go to college to avoid. If what a few say on TOD is true about the coming energy storm then the ONLY way to survive, and thrive, is going to be thru hard work.

So, get some blisters. Pick up a welding hood, learn to run a tractor, how to manage soil and water resources, get mechanical. Get an oil well or two. Better yet, a water well or three. Don't go to Cancun for vacation, buy some dirt to plant. Work. It won't kill you, trust me.

See my comments up the thread:


I have occasionally commented about my conversation with the daughter of some friends of ours, who graduated from high school in 2005, just when it appears that global crude oil production may have peaked, or at least (for the time being) stopped growing. I told her what I though were headed for, and she asked me what I though she should major in. I suggested something related to agriculture. She looked at me like I had grown a second head. She graduated last year from a well regarded private school with a liberal arts degree in ethnic studies, and she is working for a charity at barely above minimum wage rates (her brother graduated from college a couple of years earlier and is now, drumroll please, in law school).

In academic circles, the saying is "Publish or perish." I think that the hard truth facing today's young people is that they need to be thinking in terms of "Produce or perish."

If you are REALLY clever and REALLY special then you could aim to collect all the maths, engineering knowledge, 'people skills' and commercial skills needed to work for - or even found - a successful 'green' company.

This might be a wiser long-term approach than taking any of the other traditional routes for the highly gifted.

What careers are best?

I wonder if this is a bit of a question spawned from a bit of a mindfuck.

I have another question: What is a career and why do we need one?

If you choose to devote a significant portion of your waking hours to something, what happens to you and your world around you as a result?
For example, where do you get your food, home, clothes?
Or what happens to your environment given someone else's career in mining or tract housing or automotive engineering?

What if you don't want to work or want a career? What if you just want to, say, hike, swim, chat, hang out, and maybe do some planting, maintenance and foraging of/in your gardens and the occasional maintenance work to your natural/local-materials home? Teach your kids at home. Teach them about stuff like what you do?

Again, when we get careers, what happens?

In our lives that we only live once, what do we want in and of them? Be honest.


I've spent my entire adult life avoiding a "career". It just seemed like a terrible waste of a lifetime, though I don't begrudge others their careers (until they smuggly ask what I want to be when I grow up ;-)

Thanks, Ghung, glad you feel that way. Check out my post previous to this. I added a few things to help support/illustrate my points and questions.

What is a career and why do we need one?

"We" need one (or a handful) because our pea-sized brains cannot store all knowledge and process the same in a rational way.

It is difficult enough to gather even a mere 10% of all knowledge in a tiny esoteric area of endeavor (the field you choose to drag your "career" plow through) let alone to memorize knowledge about many different areas.

So specialize we must.

The Oil business is a good example.
What do you know of the seismology used to "explore" for oil?
What do you know of the muds used to drill for oil?
What do you know of the chemical makeups of the crude that is extracted?
What do you know about the details of refining? distribution? retail and whole sale of all the different byproducts generated from refined crude? recycling of such products after they are used? etc. etc.

I for one, know next to nothing. And I've been trying to learn what little bit I do know over the course of many, many years; many "degrees" and many different professions.

IMO maybe we should be considering the many jobs which will become redundant.
Like Wedding Planner, Florist Delivery, Shock Jock, New Car Sales Person, Most Sales People etc.

Extrapolate from that and consider the dearth of consumers and the consequent destruction of governmental tax bases, leading to the closing down of public sector departments and jobs and so on and so on.

Self preservation will become an art form, whether that be by being astute, cunning or simply violent, there will be no in between. The competition for jobs will overwhelm most and lead to another industry of nepotism and corruption.

Being able to work hard, long, anywhere and at anything will help in the near term. Beyond that, luck will play a huge part in ones chances for survival. There is a huge difference between being ABLE and WILLING to work hard and having the opportunity to ply that ability.

The populace will not stay, starve and die as jobs disappear. They will move to where the work and the perception of work is, creating greater pressure and competition on the producing localities.

There will never again be work for everyone. A worker will support many and be supported to be able to work. I'll say it again, the competition for jobs will be beyond comprehension for most future job seekers. Desperation can lead to all sorts of...... that's probably a new area for speculation.

@ step back:

See one of my posts previous to this which at once elaborates and responds to your points.

With a "tip of the hat" to Todd, OFM, Darwinian, etc...

I'm thinking "Village Elder" looks very promising.

Don in Maine

My purpose is to make the world a better place.

The barrier between us as we are and the earthly paradise we could have is lack of wisdom-- and a huge supply of un-wisdom- in action.

To the degree that I am able, I should work to increase the one and/or reduce the other.

I should find and do what I like to do, what I am relatively good at, what does at least apparent good, and what does no harm.

And if circumstances force none of the above, well----I should do what all life does and always has done-- just try to keep going. Who knows, something might turn up.

After all, the future is, fortunately, intrinsically unknowable.

I'm 24, just graduated with interdisciplinary BA that focus on energy and environment.
Also went 2 art school for 2 years to study multimedia.

Right now I assist an artist who is creating climate/energy awareness art and film.
But I spend much time thinking about this career question, as I think about how to become more independent.

I'll toss 3 out there that I think will continue to grow tremendously in next 50 years.

1)Communications (think this will be preserved at all cost)

2)Energy (especially renewables,distributed generation infrastructure, storage)

3)Making walkable, livable communities for retiring baby boomers.

"Using the data provided by the United State Bureau of Labor Statistics, Erik Rauch has estimated productivity to have increased by nearly 400%. Says, Rauch:
'… if productivity means anything at all, a worker should be able to earn the same standard of living as a 1950 worker in only 11 hours per week.' "
~ Wikipedia
[So what does this suggest? What's happening/has happened?]

"Vlaun: That was one of the first garden books I ever read back in the 70s . . .'the No Work Garden Book.'...her book and the Nearings' 'Living the Good Life' They were the two people I read back then.
Mollison: I remember reading a book rather like the Nearings'. It was made in England . . . I've forgotten the guy who did it . . . and I thought it was a lesson in rotten hard work for very little result."
~ Interview with Bill Mollison

"Did you know that before the Industrial Revolution, the average person worked for about two or three hours a day? Studies from a wide range of pre-industrial civilizations show similar data --- it takes only about fifteen hours a week to provide for all of our basic human needs. And that's using hand tools."
~ http://www.waldeneffect.org

"London: The same principle probably applies to human energy as well. I noticed that you discourage digging in gardens because it requires energy that can be better used for other things.
Mollison: Well, some people like digging. It’s a bit like having an exercise bike in your bedroom. But I prefer to leave it to the worms. They do a great job... Catch the water off your roof. Grow your own food. Make your own energy. It’s insanely easy to do all that. It takes you less time to grow your food than to walk down to the supermarket to buy it. Ask any good organic gardener who mulches how much time he spends on his garden and he’ll say, 'Oh, a few minutes every week.' By the time you have taken your car and driven to the supermarket, taken your foraging-trolley and collected your wild greens, and driven back home again, you’ve spent a good hour or two — plus you’ve spent a lot of money. [and you've blown precious resources and supported factory farms]
London: Even though permaculture is based on scientific principles, it seems to have a very strong philosophical or ethical dimension.
Mollison: There is an ethical dimension because I think science [and careers, etc.] without ethics is sociopathology. To say, 'I’ll apply what I know regardless of the outcome' is to take absolutely no responsibility for your actions. I don’t want to be associated with that sort of science.
London: What do you think you’ve started?
Mollison: Well, it’s a revolution. But it’s the sort of revolution that no one will notice. It might get a little shadier. Buildings might function better. You might have less money to earn because your food is all around you and you don’t have any energy costs. Giant amounts of money might be freed up in society so that we can provide for ourselves better.
So it’s a revolution. But permaculture is anti-political. There is no room for politicians or administrators or priests. And there are no laws either. The only ethics we obey are: care of the earth, care of people, and reinvestment in those ends."


I left the 'career' question "empty" and posted what you're reading as a small note of my change-of-direction, and of protest against the "social contract" having been severely breached.
If "our" social contract stipulates that we work at a 'job/career' that is part of an increasing wage-gap and meaninglessness; that pays taxes to governments for genocide/foreign-invasion/resource-plunder/whatever-whim/etc. under military-defence/security pretexts; and that removes us from providing for our basic necessities in a natural sense, such as food and housing, and gives us, in return; unsustainability, factory farms, genetically-modified organisms, toxin-laced-food, global warming, cookie-cutter/monster/tract housing, soil/environmental degradation, monoculture, pollution, resource depletion, sweatshops, social injustice, wage-slavery/debt-slavery, etcetera, then that contract is null and void and a new one is sorely and quickly needed...

...Maybe we contract ourselves to where we leave the bullshit in the compost pile where it belongs.

"Control oil and you control the nations; control food and you control the people."
~ Henry Kissinger

"When Henry Kissinger was announced to be awarded the Peace Prize, two of the Norwegian Nobel Committee members resigned in protest."
~ Wikipedia

First member:
You understand.
What to do?
Civilization is had through the destruction of the innate, primal, and satisfying way of life.*
In the service of wealth for the civilizing force. The collective safety in the numbers available in empire seduces the individual.
Everyone is out of their minds, native and authority alike.** It is the human condition.
The Daoists -or- Taoists say to perform well within whatever structure one finds ones-self.
Preservation? Perhaps distance is your friend... like fleeing Nazism.
Revolution? Resolving to... what? They scared themselves so bad in China that causes gathering people together are now disrupted.***, ****
Go bat-shit gaga and contemplate your navel?*****
Become paralyzed with cynicism?******
Your words speak the unspeakable. The solution eludes us all. Perhaps the great simplification of an abject poverty will restore a common sense.
Or will we weasel our way out of this latest exciting episode to rise, rise!, once again, unconstrained?
* Book: "Peasants" (Foundations of Anthropology) Eric Robert Wolf
**Book: "Man's rise to civilization as shown by the Indians of North America from primeval times to the coming of the industrial state" Peter Farb
*** http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTY5aZuO_bc
**** A modern documentary by a similar name: "The east is red"
***** Book: "Civilization and its Discontents" Sigmund Freud
****** Chant Ballet: "The seven Deadly Sins" Kurt Weil: Where middle-class values are shown to be sins, all.

The solution eludes us all.

Like Bill (Mollison) has said, I'm not going to sit idly by and let the bastards roll over everything.

I have a possible solution, or at least a response, and have just knocked on Craig Mackintosh's door this evening.

(same moniker as here)

Kindly join us as we need as many as possible.


My suggestions for now or further out(no particular order):

Tanning and shoe-making.
Soil Science and Remediation
Electrical or Mechanical Engineering.
Carpentry, instrument maker, welder, machinist.
Visual/audio Entertainment like theater, traveling troops, busker.
Food production ie Animal husbandry, crop science, straight up farming and therefore running a business.

let's face it, the majority of the world's humans are not nearly as organized, talented, or plain smart as the lot of you. They haven't thought anything out thoroughly, and wish only for their next meal and favorite tv show...thus:

ditch digger

what can we do to assure as many of these people as possible live in relative health and dignity?

Perhaps most importantly, "is our children learning?" and how do we "put food on our family?"

mr. fixie

Snake Oil Salesman

Inquisitor... to rout-out those Godless homosexual scientists who brought upon us all this fall with their "ecology", "evolution", and chem-trails!
But, with a deep profound and disturbing beauty:
Voices of light - Joan of Arc - 1928 -

Thanks for that. Are you referring more to the Mao and empty gas-tank bits at the ends? :)

Well anyway, fast forward to 1999 and:


Hello First Member!

I referenced the Chinese Cultural Revolution in relation to "What to do?" in responding to your post above above.
Carers are hard to chose when desperation is enforced by the investment class. I was looking for a PBS documentary on the Cultural Revolution, but have not been able to find it or any reference to it through Google. It aired about five to seven years ago. Mao, who craves struggle, told the students to go to the countryside. There the students discovered the truth of poverty. There was a realization that the traits of cruel uncaring, the personality disorders of narcissism and psychopathy, ran in the families of the exploitative. Whole families were decimated. It became a game to see who could be the most revolutionary... much like the current right-wing game of vying for the spot of "most conservative". Even the Red Guard found themselves on the wrong side of history. The upheaval turmoil and tumult left in its wake a timidity about such ever happening again.
But... all i could find was the song and play the documentary shaped its name from.
Found it! "Morning Sun" 2003 http://www.morningsun.org