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.