Mar 272017

Here are two unrelated concepts:

1: The relative worth/merit/importance of certain professions, skills, talents, people. This is politically relevant these days on a number of fronts. On one hand, the debate over the minimum wage. Are some jobs even *worth* the minimum wage to the employer? On another hand, there’s the neverending myth of the “wage gap,” which has provided endless fodder for political hacks. On yet another hand, there are people getting themselves deep into college loan debt while majoring in ethnic or gender studies and whatnot.

2: A common science fiction trope… the Ark. The world is coming to an end and only a relatively few people will be able to hop on the rocket to Mars, or the giant ship that’ll ride out the pole shift, whatever.

Put these two together, and I present to you “The Ark Test.”

“The world is coming to an end. A limited number of people will be saved to set up a colony on another world. Conditions will be difficult. The colony will not have the resources for the superfluous. Everyone will need to contribute, and in a meaningful fashion. So: will *you* be invited along?”

Another way to look at it might be “just how big will that colony need to be before you are invited along?”

If you are a doctor or a mechanic or an inventor, soldier, electrician, farmer, chemist, engineer… you could probably imagine that your skills would be of use. If you are a checkout clerk? A professional political protester? A 17th Century French Lesbian Love Poetry major? Yeah… it’ll have to be a *big* colony.

This of course says nothing about the earning potential of certain skillsets… pop stars, actors and the like can make tens of millions of dollars per years, honestly and aboveboard. But if humanity is reduced to, say, 400 people living in a subterranean cavern or on the surface of Mars… the need for the likes of Justin Beiber or Beyonce will be minimal. Will the colonists still need to be entertained? Sure thing. But the likelihood is that a nuclear technician will be able to sing better than a pop star will be able to maintain a reactor.

The Ark Test might not serve any quantifiable purpose, but I think it might be useful in putting things into perspective. Especially for people who think that they are special or important… to put some thought behind their choices and try to determine just how useful they’d really be. How important they and their skills, education and vocation really are.


 Posted by at 2:22 am
  • se jones

    Raised on a ranch in the middle of nowhere.
    Skill set: mechanics, construction, animal husbandry

    • sferrin

      Whoa. That list smacks of White Priviledge. Clearly you should not be allowed to go. And you probably like NASCAR. Obviously not one of the enlightened elite.

      • se jones

        Now clearly, as you can see from my latest Disqus avatar, I am a Simian-American.
        As such, I am deserving of Simian-American affirmative-action points in the selection process.

        NASCAR? Nope, I may be a redneck, but if it don’t involve 2 wheels in dirt, mud, sand and rocks, I ain’t interested.
        ‘Course, SpaceX vs. Blue Origin vs. ULA . . . now *there’s* a competition!

        “Enlightened elite”? Nope, you got that right.

        • FelixA9

          I really hope we see the day where both SpaceX and Blue Origin are landing boosters at sea. In theory it should only be a few years away.

          • se jones

            And ULA too (sorta).
            At sea for GEO missions is neat, but the real fly-off will be when SpaceX & Blue are routinely returning to launch site from commercial LEO stations and fuel depots.

            With the official, inflation adjusted cost of SLS/Orion program approaching 50% of the Apollo program, with not a *single* flight to show for it, it’s hard to see how Government launcher can survive much longer.


          • sferrin

            FFS I thought I was signed in with my “sferrin” account. . .

  • se jones
  • Herp McDerp

    Hmmm. One “skill set” that would be absolutely essential to saving the human race would be the ability to give birth. Of those 400 colonists, I would expect at least 300 of them to be women of child-bearing age. The imbalance would be self-correcting — the second and third generations would restore a normal sex ratio. But the resulting culture might be rather different from ours.

    The other thing I’d expect would be lots of polymaths among the “saved.”

    • Scottlowther

      Something that a small-population colony would need to maintain is good records of parentage… and would presumably do a measure of spreading the baby-making around. In the interests of genetic health of the population, women might be required to bear offspring of *multiple* men, done either the old fashioned way or via artificial insemination.

      For the purposes of the Ark Test, there would be some people who would be rejected due to their inability or unwillingness to breed. Old folks past reproductive years, the otherwise infertile, people with genetic unfortunateness (anything from serious genetic diseases on down) and those who choose to not reproduce would find themselves a bit further down on the list.

    • robunos20

      IMHO, the two most important skills/abilities required would be self-discipline, and the ability to obey orders, no matter what they may be. In the early stages, the colony is going to be a totalitarian system. The survival of the colony is paramount, and individuals must be subservient to that end. Thus, unpleasant (to some) things may need to be done, and the colony members must be able to both do these things, and suffer to have these things done to them. For this reason, I also think that any Ark/Colony would be placed under military control, with a large military presence among the members.

  • Bruce

    I have a friend of mine that is stuck on this Nibiru thing supposedly coming in November.Again I think it might just be full of baloney but what does everybody else think?

  • sferrin

    Scary thing is, in a world headed towards 8 billion, there is an abundance of even “preferred” specialties / genetic wonders, etc. Ultimately it would come down to who you know not what you know/are. Out of 10,000 PhDs it’ll be the one who has the political connections who gets picked.

    • Scottlowther

      Might depend greatly on circumstances. Lets say its a Mars colony… and the upcoming doom of earth is unknown, or at least known only to, say, Elon Drax. Politics might well not apply so much.

      Or the pool to choose from might be strictly limited… the disaster comes suddenly, only ten thousand immediate survivors, from which only 400 can be selected for long term survival. Or perhaps once the colony is on its own it will promptly self edit… Sure, you were “gifted” with a load of useless bloody loonies in the form of politicians and VIPs and such, whom will be nothing but a drag on the colony. Once Home is out of the picture, you feed the excess into the recyclers. I always figured that was an unfilmed scene at the end of “2012,” where all the Russian oligarchs and oil sheikhs and such were quietly pitched overboard.

      But for the purposes of The Ark Test, assume a rational selection process.

      • sferrin

        That’s one thing that annoys me about the Belters on The Expanse. Too many rabble rousers. In a situation like that I’d think .45 lead lobotomy would be the immediate response to one of these idiots opening their pie hole.

  • Allen Ury

    My favorite part of Max Brooks’ original WORLD WAR Z novel was his depiction is post-Zombie Apocalypse Los Angeles. The most valued people were the plumbers, electricians, welders, and other “hard skill” specialists needed to keep the infrastructure functioning. As for the town’s high-paid actors, agents, managers and lawyers…they were all relegated to the equivalent of minimum wage support jobs. Very satirical…and probably realistic.

    • Scottlowther

      An interesting note… those “hard skill” jobs are exactly the kind you *can’t * outsource. No call center in India is going to help you when your toilet assplodes. However, these sort of jobs should eventually be replaceable with RUR’s, but that’s a ways off yet. But the “creative class” should probably be replaceable even sooner. How far are we from an AI pop star? I believe the Japanese are making great and typically weird strides in that field.

  • Knigh26

    I’d definitely apply, with the whole family, but would probably be turned down despite being:
    Aerospace Engineer with 15 years practical hands on and flight test experience
    Electronics Engineer specializing in system certification and troubleshooting
    Skilled survivalist
    Crafter of tools and equipment
    Father of 3 boys

    As to my disqualifications:
    History of asthma
    Blood enzyme deficiency triggered by stress
    Rendered infertile
    Handicapped child

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    • Scottlowther

      In a situation with a limited number of seats but the whole world to choose from… yeah, you’d be boned. However, if we assume a world-ending scenario, you have an option: make yourself invaluable, so that you can have the leverage to negotiate seats for yourself and those of your family who are not very, very disappointing to you.

      But here’s the thing: if you (generic “you”) have the potential to make yourself invaluable in the case of the End Of The World… you have that same potential *now.* And thus little room to bitch if you haven’t attained the heights you think you should have: it’s not society’s fault but your own lack of ambition.

      So linking it back to The Ark Test: if you haven’t made yourself important and useful to society, either accept that you just aren;t that important… or make yourself more useful.

  • CaptainNed

    Just don’t put me on the “B” Ark.

    • robunos20

      This is the “B” Ark, the “A” Ark’s already left, with the Illuminati on board . . .

  • Polaris1

    It’s an old premise from the early days of the Cold War when we realised that a FOBS could end it all. The problem with any selection criteria is that a “Justin Beiber” or a “Beyonce” might actually give a birth to an offspring that would save humanity. A Einstein, or Hawking, or just somebody we don’t have any experience of yet that would come up with a cure for cancer/heart disease/common cold/alzheimer’s/long term space effects…geriatrics… who knows. There is no test. It’s a juvenile exercise where the only answer is to take us all.

    • Scottlowther

      That’s just… No. For the same reason why you don’t staff a hospital with just anybody, if you have to select a limited group with which to restart civilization you get picky. Yes, yes, you don’t know what some as yet unborn children are going to be like but it wont be those unborn children who set up the colony and run it for the first generation or two.

      Additionally, you had damned well *better* be picky about the genetics of that first generation. You will start with a limited gene pool, and you don’t want it muddied right off the bat with genetic diseases.

      • publiusr

        I think you would need some scholars just to have a good mix. Gemetics may mean more than one’s profession. A good rocket engineer with bad health would likely be asked to make the rocket for the rest–then be expected to stay behind.

        You’d want more farmers than anything else–since they have to know a lot about different practical things–a higher paid specialist in one very narrow field might actually be less useful.

    • sferrin

      “The problem with any selection criteria is that a “Justin Beiber” or a “Beyonce” might actually give a birth to an offspring that would save humanity.”

      ROFL! Wow. . .

  • Max

    A 17th Century French Lesbian Love Poetry major from an ivy league school will have the most important credentials of all…. Stockholder. The Wage Gap isn’t about skills.