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Ask Slashdot: Are You Apocalypse-Useful?

Soulskill posted about 10 months ago | from the it's-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it-and-i-feel-disenfranchised dept.

Sci-Fi 737

An anonymous reader writes: "Young people, when choosing a profession, are often told to 'do what you love.' That's why we have experts in such abstruse fields as medieval gymel. But let's talk hypotheticals: if there's a worldwide catastrophe in which civilization is interrupted, somebody specializing in gymel wouldn't provide much use to fellow survivors. In a post-apocalypse world, medical doctors would be useful, as would most scientists and engineers. The bad news for Slashdotters is that decades without computers would render computer science and related professions useless. What do you consider to be the most useful and mostly useless post-apocalypse professions? How long would it take for society to rebuild enough for your profession to be useful?"

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Medical doctor (0, Troll)

nospam007 (722110) | about 10 months ago | (#46736369)

What good would a medical doctor be without CAT,X-Ray,IRM, Ultrasound, antibiotics or vaccines?
Go homeopathic?

Re:Medical doctor (0)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 10 months ago | (#46736405)

No problem. Just go back to bleeding and purging, trephenation and charging an arm and a leg.

Re:Medical doctor (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736571)

The rest of you are suckin' dick for nickles.

Re:Medical doctor (1)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | about 10 months ago | (#46736415)

I agree a surgeon would be way more useful than an md l, as for me a comp-sci IT person like most of slashdot we could still make electronics with our trusty soddaring iron so not completely useless

Re:Medical doctor (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736603)

A larger point to make is that a number of occupations require problem solving skills. Most of these fields fall in the science or engineering category. Even if the problems of the day were to change to align more with survival and rebuilding civilization, I want a glut of people who are good at problem solving over those who are only good at things which would not be useful - like moving large sums of money around and taking a cut or staring at paint on a wall or canvas.

Re:Medical doctor (0)

docwatson223 (986360) | about 10 months ago | (#46736609)

No electricity = no soldering anything

Re:Medical doctor (1)

JMJimmy (2036122) | about 10 months ago | (#46736641)

Yes, because renewables magically stop working.

Re:Medical doctor (4, Insightful)

silas_moeckel (234313) | about 10 months ago | (#46736645)

No electricity means your failing at basic engineering. A coil and a moving magnet is not that hard to come by.

Re:Medical doctor (2)

pushing-robot (1037830) | about 10 months ago | (#46736743)

Hardly. Soldering was one of the first forms of metalworking. [ersa.com]

All you need is a heat source; a candle will do in a pinch.

Mind you, in your unlikely world devoid of electricity, there wouldn't be much *point* to soldering electronics anyway.

Re:Medical doctor (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736613)

Your soldering iron will be worthless without power. At least, unless you have a solar powered soldering iron setup going into it when everything collapses to 'medieval'.

Re:Medical doctor (4, Interesting)

gerddie (173963) | about 10 months ago | (#46736697)

You don't need electricity for soldering, all you you need is something to create heat, e.g. a fire, a needle, and solder: Last time I was on Cuba for a few weeks as a visiting scientists, the power supply of my laptop broke down. I was living in one of those casas particulares, and one of the landlady's relatives proposed to open the power supply (With a saw, because it was glued) . Then he found the bad contact and since they didn't have a soldering iron, he did the soldering with a needle heated in the gas flame. Two weeks later I had to repeat the soldering procedure applying some more tin-solder, but the power supply works without a flaw ever since.

Re:Medical doctor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736461)

Depends on the doctor. A skin specialist, or a specialist in rare disorders, not so much use: they both probably rely on drugs to treat, and if you have a rare disease in a post-apocalyptic world odds are you'll never meet the specialist you need. However emergency medicine specialists, particularly those who've done journeyman time in the developing world, I'd say would be pretty useful. They wouldn't be able to save the same rate of people they do in a tech society but they could still improve your outcome.

Similarly, the engineering specialism probably depends too. A specialist semiconductor fab process engineer, not so useful; civil engineers (much as it galls me to say it) probably pretty useful. Nuclear decommissioning / cleanup engineers? Probably somewhere in the middle....

Re:Medical doctor (5, Insightful)

Chikungunya (2998457) | about 10 months ago | (#46736469)

Visit an ER or an ambulance with paramedics for half a day, you would be surprised of how much can be done for people even when you have no time or access to equipment and most drugs.

McGuffey's 4th New Eclectic Reader:"The Colonists" (5, Interesting)

dpbsmith (263124) | about 10 months ago | (#46736471)

A nineteenth-century schoolbook [google.com] addresses this question. Post-apocalyptic society might not be too different from that of a "colony." Farmers, millers, carpenters, blacksmiths, masons, shoemakers, doctors, school-masters make the cut; barbers, just barely; silversmiths, soldiers, dancing-masters, lawyers, politicians, and "gentlemen" do not.

[note.â"Mr. Barlow one day invented a play for his children, on purpose to show them what kind of persons and professions are the most useful in society, and particularly in a new settlement. The following is the conversation which took place between himself and his children.]
Mr. Barlow. Come, my boys, I have a new play for you. I will be the founder of a colony; and you shall be people of +different trades and professions, coming to offer yourselves to go with me. What are you, Arthur?
Arthur. I am a farmer, sir.
Mr. Barlow. Very well. Farming is the chief thing we have to depend upon. The farmer puts the seed into the earth, and takes care of it when it is grown to ripe corn. Without the farmer, we should have no bread. But you must work very +diligently; there will be trees to cut down, and roots to dig out, and a great deal of hard labor.
Arthur. I shall be ready to do my part.
Mr. Barlow. Well, then I shall take you +willingly, and as many more such good fellows as I can find. We shall have land enough, and you may go to work as soon as you please. Now for the next.
James. I am a miller, sir.
Mr. Barlow. A very useful trade! Our corn must be ground, or it will do us but little good. But what must we do for a mill, my friend?
James. I suppose we must make one, sir.
Mr. Barlow. Then we must take a mill-wright with us, and carry mill-stones. Who is next?
Charles. I am a carpenter, sir.
Mr. Barlow. The most +necessary man that could offer. We shall find you work enough, never fear. There will be houses to build, fences to make, and chairs and tables beside. But all our timber is growing; we shall have hard work to fell it, to saw boards and planks, and to frame and raise buildings. Can you help in this?
Charles. I will do my best, sir.
Mr. Barlow. Then I engage you, but I advise you to bring two or three able +assistants along with you. William. I am a blacksmith.
Mr. Barlow. An +excellent companion for the carpenter. We can not do without cither of you. You must bring your great bellows, +anvil, and +vise, and we will set up a forge for you, as soon as we arrive. By the by, we shall want a mason for that.
Edward. I am one, sir.
Mr. Barlow. Though we may live in log-houses at first, we shall want brick-work, or stone-work, for +chimneys, +hearths, and ovens, so there will be employment for a mason. Can you make bricks, and burn lime?
Edward. I will try what I can do, sir.
Mr. Barlow. No man can do more. I engage you, Who comes next?
Francis. I am a +shoe-maker, sir.
Mr. Barlow. Shoes we can not well do without, but I fear we shall get no +leather.
Francis. But I can dress skins, sir.
Mr. Barlow. Can you? Then you are a useful fellow. I will have you, though I give you double wages.
George. I am a tailor, sir.
Mr. Barlow. We must not go naked; so there will be work for a tailor. But you are not above mending, I hope, for we must not mind wearing +patched clothes, while we work in the woods.
George. I am not, sir.
Mr. Barlow. Then I engage you, too.
Henry. I am a silversmith, sir.
Mr. Barlow. Then, my friend, you can not go to a worse place than a new colony to set up your trade in.
Henry. But I understand clock and watch making, too.
Mr. Barlow. We shall want to know how the time goes, but we can not afford to employ you. At present, I advise you to stay where you are.
Jasper. I am a barber and hair-dresser.
Mr. Barlow. What can we do with you? If you will shave our men's rough beards once a week, and crop their hairs once a quarter, and be content to help the carpenter the rest of the time, we will take you. But you will have no ladies' hair to curl, or gentlemen to powder, I assure you. Louis. I am a doctor, sir.
Mr. Barlow. Then, sir, you are very welcome; we shall some of us be sick, and we are likely to get cuts, and +bruises, and broken bones. You will be very useful. We shall take you with pleasure.
Stephen. I am a lawyer, sir.
Mr. Barlow. Sir, your most obedient servant. When we are rich enough to go to law, we will let you know.
Oliver. I am a +school-master.
Mr. Barlow. That is a very respectable and useful profession; as soon as our children are old enough, we shall be glad of your services. Though we are hardworking men, we do not mean to be ignorant; every one among us must be taught reading and writing. Until we have employment for you in teaching, if you will keep our accounts, and, at present, read sermons to us on Sundays, we shall be glad to have you among us. Will you go?
Oliver. With all my heart, sir.
Mr. Barlow. Who comes here?
Philip. I am a soldier, sir; will you have me?
Mr. Barlow. We are +peaceable people, and I hope we shall not be obliged to fight. We shall have no occasion for you, unless you can be a +mechanic or farmer, as well as a soldier.
Richard. I am a dancing-master, sir.
Mr. Barlow. A dancing-master? Ha, ha! And pray, of what use do you expect to be in the "backwoods?"
Richard. Why, sir, I can teach you how to appear in a drawing-room. I shall take care that your children know """precisely how low they must bow when saluting company. In short, I teach you the science, -which will +distinguish you from the savages.
Mr. Barlow. This may be all very well, and quite to your fancy, but / would suggest that we, in a new colony, shall need to pay more attention to the raising of corn and +potatoes, the feeding of cattle, and the preparing of houses to live in, than to the +cultivatioa of this elegant "science" as you term it.
John. I, sir, am a +politician, and would be willing to edit any newspaper you may wish to have published in your colony.
Mr. Barlow. Very much obliged to you, Mr. Editor; but for the present, I think you may wisely remain where you are. We shall have to labor so much for the first two or three years, that we shall care but little about other matters than those which concern our farms. We certainly must spend some time in reading, but I think we can obtain +suitable books for our +perusal, with much less money than it would require to support you and your newspaper.
Robert. I am a gentleman, sir.
Mr. Barlow. A gsntlemanl And what good can you do us?
Robert. I intend to spend most of my time in walking about, and +overseeing the men at work. I shall be very willing to assist you with my advice, whenever I think it necessary. As for my support, that need not trouble you much. I expect to shoot game enough for my own eating; you can give me a little bread, and a few """vegetables; and the barber shall be my servant.
Mr. Barlow. Pray, sir, why should we do all this for you?
Robert. Why, sir, that you may have the credit of saying that you have one gentleman, at least, in your colony.
Mr. Barlow. Ha, ha, ha! A fine gentleman, truly! When we desire the honor of your company, sir, we will send for you.

Re:McGuffey's 4th New Eclectic Reader:"The Colonis (2)

SirSmiley (845591) | about 10 months ago | (#46736755)

Are you forgetting that barbers were surgeons for hundreds of years as they were the only ones who could handle fine sharp instruments? Not saying they were ideal but they did it when no one else would such as taking off gangrene limbs.

Antibiotics (1)

myowntrueself (607117) | about 10 months ago | (#46736643)

Someone who can produce antibiotics would be absolutely amazingly valuable. Assuming that the fall of civilisation wasn't due to the evolution of broad band antibiotic resistance.

Its not hard to do; on the documentary 'Sliders' one guy made an antibiotic just out of mouldy bread and saved a civilisation.

But yeah, antibiotics is what makes modern civilisation possible, enhances population growth rate, increases productivity etc etc etc and without them we would be fucked.

Re:Antibiotics (5, Funny)

msmonroe (2511262) | about 10 months ago | (#46736679)

Its not hard to do; on the documentary 'Sliders' one guy made an antibiotic just out of mouldy bread and saved a civilisation.

Sliders was a documentary?

Re:Medical doctor (4, Interesting)

hey! (33014) | about 10 months ago | (#46736653)

So when you break your leg, you're going to have your witch doctor set it for you?

Vaccines and antibiotics are not high tech -- by which I mean something that requires an extensive and intact industrial infrastructure to produce. Crude replacements could be created by someone with 21st C scientific knowledge and the kind of technology that would have been available to 18th C gentleman scientists.

As for other drugs, a doctor could work with herbalists. Willow bark replaces aspirin; foxglove replaces digitalis; Ephedra sinica replaces pseudoephedrine; absinthe replaces anti-worm medications. A herbalist working under medical supervision is a lot better than nothing.

Re:Medical doctor (3, Insightful)

rbrander (73222) | about 10 months ago | (#46736705)

If she could reduce a fracture and sew up a wound; if she could diagnose the most common ailments and give the best advice you could get with the technology available, she'd be about 80% as useful as a modern doctor.

Re:Medical doctor (-1, Troll)

msmonroe (2511262) | about 10 months ago | (#46736721)

What good would a medical doctor be without CAT,X-Ray,IRM, Ultrasound, antibiotics or vaccines? Go homeopathic?

a new study claims that 98% of the time doctors never run any of those tests but bill for them anyway. They also claim the something like 95% of the medicines they handout are actually inactive or contain sub MED (Minimum Effective Dose)! Bottom line doctors don't need them!

So this is Slashdot? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736391)

I wonder if CmdrDildo is proud of himself as he sees what kind of total shithole this place has become... Beta, zombie bitches bitches wanting to play The Walking Dead for real, politicrap and pandering to non-FOSS bullshit because it's "cool" this week.

1000 A.D. by Sugar Fix (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736403)

There is a cute song that addresses this question :


via https://www.metafilter.com/72797/1000-AD

Farming (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736411)

People can survive quite well without the care of physicians. Going without food is more difficult.

Re:Farming (5, Insightful)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | about 10 months ago | (#46736503)

Beyond that, most modern medicine requires pharmaceuticals and technology. Most doctors would be pretty bad off post-apocalypse.

Also, my career is irrelevant. I can build a house. But my career is in technology. So I would have to turn a hobby into a job.

Re:Farming (1)

YukariHirai (2674609) | about 10 months ago | (#46736709)

Also, my career is irrelevant. I can build a house. But my career is in technology. So I would have to turn a hobby into a job.

I'm glad there are people who understand this; that one's career or profession is not the only knowledge and worth they have. I, for example, work retail in a not especially post apocalyptically useful field, and IT. Selling stuff is arguably going to be useful post-apocalypse, but I am also capable of building things.

Re:Farming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736523)

When I first got into investing, I actually thought about "What if there's some crazy apocalypse?" I planned for deep market plunges and stuff, but in an apocalypse money is only so much paper. So I started researching botany and farming. Now I don't feel quite as crazy for deciding to do so.

Man for all seasons (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736599)

I make a great serf. They are always in demand, by feudal lords and capitalists.

Basic Electronics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736421)

Electrical Engineering... for making crystal set radios

down to a "T" (5, Funny)

itchybrain (2538928) | about 10 months ago | (#46736425)

This is why I practise my procreation skills every day. I could be the last man on Earth.

Computer science (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736427)

Computer scientists would still be useful, just not in the same ways. Algorithms are carried out by people, too, not just computers.

Re:Computer science (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736477)

How the hell are you going to get people to execute your algorithm post-apocalypse? What kinds of algorithms do you have in mind exactly?

Re:Computer science (1)

dwye (1127395) | about 10 months ago | (#46736555)

Computer scientists would still be useful, just not in the same ways. Algorithms are carried out by people, too, not just computers.

Correction: Algorithms will be carried out by computers, but the computers will be groups of women with adding machines, as they were up to the middle of WWII.

CompSci will be useful to the extent that it relates to handling large numbers, or if they can build robots using what is left. Losing Heathkit may well have doomed us to be recreated after the last living computer person has died.

Computer science majors are useful (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 10 months ago | (#46736575)

Yes . As cattle.

BS to cover for your 100-250K PHD in medieval stud (3, Insightful)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 10 months ago | (#46736431)

At least it will be cool for a big EPM to take out your student loans

WHAT? (5, Insightful)

NettiWelho (1147351) | about 10 months ago | (#46736435)

The bad news for Slashdotters is that decades without computers would render computer science and related professions useless.

Says who? Are we talking about a magical scenario where all technology just stops working?

There is a massive cache of existing technology which can be repurposed to rebuild society. Whos gonna do it if not Slasdotters?

We can individually maintain libraries billions of times larger than that of ancient alexandria and provide that wealth of knowledge to others at the cost of suns rays.

Re:WHAT? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736495)

>There is a massive cache of existing technology which can be repurposed to rebuild society.

None of which works when the electricity dies.

Re:WHAT? (4, Insightful)

NettiWelho (1147351) | about 10 months ago | (#46736541)

>There is a massive cache of existing technology which can be repurposed to rebuild society.

None of which works when the electricity dies.

... And who exactly is in the best position to figure out a way to produre more when that happens? There wont be a need to run a whole datacenter but only the required equiptment at a time which should be doable even with salvaged solar panels and batteries. And besides nuclear plants dont need refueling any time soon, heck, you could even use nuclear power to grow food indoors if we are in a nuclear winter scenario.

Re:WHAT? (3, Interesting)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 10 months ago | (#46736497)

There is a massive cache of existing technology which can be repurposed to rebuild society. Whos gonna do it if not Slasdotters?

There was a Discovery show about this scenario: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T... [wikipedia.org]

One of the most interesting challenges was finding new uses for all the old technology laying around. Like, fixing it up to do something new, that was necessary for survival.

Re:WHAT? (4, Funny)

retchdog (1319261) | about 10 months ago | (#46736509)

Yeah, if things are so dire that computers magically disappear for decades, the concomitant disappearance of advanced agriculture, etc., will mean the lingering miserable death of probably 90% of the developed world.

Like most doomsday scenarios, this is a masturbatory exercise. Things will end up either 1) like now, but worse in many ways or 2) utter decimation. In neither of these cases will your soldering hobby become the salvation of your village and earn you the respect and admiration long-denied you by our anti-intellectual society, granting you, finally, a day in the sun where the jocks pull you along on a rickshaw while Julie the prom queen gives you deep throat.

magical scenario where (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736515)

there is no electricity. See? No magic involved. And not far-fetched, either.

On topic: coders usually are good at solving problems -- given a completely different (off topic, so to say) set of problems might make a difference, but skills are skills.

Re:magical scenario where (2)

SteveTheNewbie (1171139) | about 10 months ago | (#46736663)

So running a conductor through a changing magnetic field will no longer produce a charge?
Putting two lead oxide plates in an acid batch will no longer cause a chemical reaction?

My goodness, I was unaware that a catastrophe large enough to cause an apocalyptic event would change the fundamental laws of physics.

You sound young.

Re:WHAT? (5, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | about 10 months ago | (#46736689)

Even without computers. Computer Science is a damn useful skill.
Computer Science is the Science of Computation.
So in this theoretical world where technology is gone, which will mean that we won't know how to make electricity by spinning a magnet in a bunch of wires, or how to make a battery with Zink and copper in an Acid. Then sending this electric current threw some sand to make a transistor. Then we arrange these things into Not gates, And Gates, Or Gates. We seem to know quartz can vibrate so we can remake a counter.... We can save stuff with magnetizing it on rust suck on something sticky.

So the idea were we cannot have a computer made from scratch within a few years, as we already know about them and how the basic components work, is rather silly.

However in the mean time, these computer scientists can use these skills to manage a labor work force. Giving them simple jobs, aligning them so they can perform complex actions. For example in college cafeteria. I found there was a long line for the utensils, Because all the forks were group together, the spoons were grouped together then the knives were grouped together. The computer science people saw that this line was being inefficient as only 1 person was at the table at once because they almost always needed the fork. So we moved the forks, spoons and knives into clusters next to each other and were able to improve the line speed threefold.

Computer Science disciplines the mind to think of things in terms of efficiency, and patterns, as well figuring in the unpredictable actions from people, and their more predicable actions in masses.

So in this theoretical Apocalypse work the computer scientist is still a useful person in such a world.

Now this said, in order to get such an world, you will need to kill off all the information and including the smart people. So you will need to kill of all the computer scientists, engineers, and other educated people to really create such a world.

Some of the oldest trades become useful. (5, Insightful)

Dzimas (547818) | about 10 months ago | (#46736441)

I have a neighbour who is a weaver. She most certainly has skills worth sharing. The post-apocalyptic world would also need blacksmiths, potters, carpenters, farmers and so on. Not to mention someone capable of swinging a sword and lopping the heads off marauders intent on dragging off the young women and torching the village. The challenge is that scientists and engineers do not necessarily have the skills most critically required in the first decade or two of a new civilization, but their knowledge is critical to helping a society advance rapidly later. Hence, we'll need monks well versed in the scriptures of science.

Re:Some of the oldest trades become useful. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736529)

Did someone say "oldest profession?"

I wouldn't call it a "trade" though since there's no skill involved.

Re:Some of the oldest trades become useful. (3, Insightful)

retchdog (1319261) | about 10 months ago | (#46736559)

no skill involved

uh, haven't gotten around much, have you?

Re:Some of the oldest trades become useful. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736665)

I'd rather be a marauder. What's an good apocalypse without them?

Re:Some of the oldest trades become useful. (4, Interesting)

tylikcat (1578365) | about 10 months ago | (#46736687)

I am such a child of the eighties (as in, I grew up halfway expecting an apocalypse). Identification of edible plants and mushrooms, not to mention medicinal plants (and a fairly good start on for real medicinal as opposed to folkloric medicinal). Spinning, weaving, preparation of fibers and a fair bit on natural dyeing (hey, we will get an economy going eventually, right?) Gardening. Domestication of natural yeast, bread making starting from whole grains (and I've threshed and winnowed grains, just not a ton), how to make a wood burning oven from clay, and experience cooking in such a thing. (And a fairly good idea how to make a simple kiln, and I've worked with native clays and fire things in such a kiln, just never made one from scratch.) I've done a bit of smithing, and I was about to say I don't know enough (outside of theory) about refining ores, but if we're talking post-apocalyptic, there is likely a fair bit of metal stock to be had. Decent at fish-traps, too. Some basic masonry. Cheese and yoghurt making. Tofu making, for that matter, which is much the same thing. (And I could probably fraction of the MgCl from seawater as a coagulant.) (I also could produce alcoholic beverages from a variety of substance... though the quality might be iffy. And I know many brewers who are really good.) ...and this is getting a little ridiculous, so I'll stop with the list though it's far from complete. However?

"Not to mention someone capable of swinging a sword and lopping the heads off marauders intent on dragging off the young women and torching the village."

I suppose I no longer really count as a young woman, but I'm a martial artist and a martial arts instructor* and jian is probably my best weapon. (Though a good jian requires pretty decent metalurgy - spear might be a better place to start.) And I'm a member of a Chan Buddhist order that emphasizes studies on medicine and the natural sciences. I'd happily teach those young women (and men, and, really, anyone else who can manage not to be an asshole) but I do think the idea that after some kind of societal breakdown women will be commodities and/or victims gets a bit overplayed. (Though... bah. Birth control. Really really need birth control. And while there are many low tech things that can help a lot, few of them are both reliable and reversible.)

* Though my day job is being a neurobiologist. Yup, most biologists are nuts.

Bollox (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736445)

I will still be use full for 30 years or so I am renaissance man I can build walls , basic equipment , repair equipment , shoot teach swordplay , unarmed combat , hunting and dressing and a lot of other skills that will suddenly become important again.

If sci-fi taught us anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736451)

It's that it doesn't matter if you're useful, you're still vulnerable to getting shot in the face by that douche bag who just happened to have a double-barreled shotgun and ammo lying around. However, my skills are probably not invaluable for the post apocalyptic society, but useful: I know how to get people to do what I want. i.e. I'll probably survive until somebody crazy with a weapon stumbles into me and shots me on sight.

Old School Amateur Radio Nut and Electronics Techs (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736463)

Hams often build communications equipment fro scratch. Building a generator with enough juice is also not that hard. Especially given there would be loads of electronics around, cobbling bits and pieces together would be extremely useful.

Communication is key!

Re:Old School Amateur Radio Nut and Electronics Te (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736627)

I dare you to 'cobble bits and pieces' of mostly surface mount electronics these days together into something useful.
Oh, yeah, without a soldering iron too. :P

Apocalypse speculator (3, Funny)

istartedi (132515) | about 10 months ago | (#46736467)

I'm an Apocalypse speculator. You might think I'd be at the bottom of the list; but we have been in business since ancient times. We're probably in the top 5 oldest professions. The people who run Slashdot are whoring out to something here, so apparently they will do well also.

Huh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736475)

Is it strange that I've had dreams and thoughts about myself surviving in a post-apocalyptic world? I was born in the 70's, and this started well before I'd seen any film of the like, or heard the term. I'd almost qualify it as a fantasy, only because it's stayed with me through adulthood to the point where I think about it today. I don't have a 'gameplan' for such a scenario, and I'm not a "doomsday prepper", as they're supposedly called, but the thought of having to survive on my own, protect my family from others, and thrive in a world with no society has been in the back of my mind, and continues to be, since I was a kid.
Regardless, I would probably be very poor at this life. While I know human nature and it's easy to see the most obvious paths for others in this scenario, my pre-planned flight on foot to the north would probably meet a frightening and depressing end for me or my family.

Foundation of the Tech tree (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736489)

The most important people in any survival situation are those who can secure or create the 5 C's of survival Cutting Tools, Combustion, Cover, Container, and Cordage. The hard part for many will be to start basic and rebuild the tech tree to more advanced tech. You will need to start with a camp fire then move up to a kiln then on up to a forge to make steel. Engineers may seem practical in a post-apocalypse situation but many engineers would also find their skills useless since the tech tree to apply their skill set may be disrupted or none existent. But those who can function at the most basic level will probably make it. I think you would find that the aboriginal people of Papua New Guinea are not particularly impacted if the global communication network goes down or the power grid stops functioning.

there will be blood (1)

Pirate_Pettit (1531797) | about 10 months ago | (#46736493)

I'm in corpse disposal, so yeah, they'll probably be work for me after the end.

Soldier (4, Insightful)

Rick Zeman (15628) | about 10 months ago | (#46736507)

Knowing how to shoot and shoot well would be an invaluable skill.

Re:Soldier (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736607)

Knowing how to shoot and shoot well would be an invaluable skill.

Bullets can't grow crops, filter water, or patch up a broken limb. All they can do is provide those things temporarily at the expense of others until a bullet ends up in you. Even if someone with a gun manages to be a protector of sorts it will only be a matter of time before everyone else decides that they aren't pulling their own weight. Someone with no skill tilling a field will do more for the survival of their group than the best soldier.

Re:Soldier (1)

Rick Zeman (15628) | about 10 months ago | (#46736719)

I guess no one ever hunts in your world? Or will people just be going to the post-apocolyptic Safeway?

Re:Soldier (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736739)

Knowing how to shoot and shoot well would be an invaluable skill.

I have that skill. And lots of ammo. And lots of cervidae running around here...

Problem solving (4, Insightful)

MpVpRb (1423381) | about 10 months ago | (#46736519)

Although my main profession is software, I also do circuit design, construction, metalworking, carpentry and most of the other building trades

I find that even though the specifics are different, the fundamental skill is the same..problem solving

Software, circuit design, carpentry or any of the other disciplines seem more similar than different

The steps are the same..clearly identify the problem, look at the tools and materials that are available, then find a solution using what you have to work with

Gymel guy is probably tasty (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736531)

Lack of exertion makes for tender vitals. I.e., useful as food.

Metallurgist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736533)

My profession was useful long before modern civilization took shape, and shall continue to be useful until Heat Death of the Universe or our extinction, whichever happens first.
OTOH, good luck forging that kingly sword of awesome, made of pure titanium, without modern technology.

Most useful skills post apocalypse (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736535)

Ham radio, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Math, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering. Anyone with these skills has what it takes to improvise. By the way it's best to have all or most of the skills. Bring your own tools.

Concrete (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736545)

Concrete can be made out of sea shells. Bricks out of grass and mud. Rope, traps, and netting for food. Boil see water for salt. Find copper and tin for bronze. Move quickly into the Iron age. Boilers and Dams for Energy.

science would not be obsolete (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 10 months ago | (#46736551)

You like to eat and have fire, right? Sure, something as esoteric as a "particle physics research engineer" wont help in this 'world', but science is in everyday life and helps keep people alive.

Specialization is for insects (4, Insightful)

StonyCreekBare (540804) | about 10 months ago | (#46736561)

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. -Robert A. Heinlein

not entirely irrelevant... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736563)

I work with alternative/renewable energy sources (solar, wind, etc). though eventually battery banks will die, i've been working on making my own batteries as well. I live entirely off grid, coming into town irregularly for beer (being honest here, need to start distilling). I run a constantly online freenet node on open wifi, several neighbors connect through it, and it's powered entirely by solar at the moment. though in an apocalypse the internet would not be useful i maintain a modest database of survival guides and random useful information relevant to the surrounding area (desert, so rainwater catching/purifying, low moisture gardening, and electrical generation/storing manuals and the like). keeping this information open and available to anyone who can access it in the area, which is an entirely off grid area (no lines out here...) i'm hoping that in an apocalyptic situation we'd all do rather well :)

being a crazy person is astonishingly apocalypse-useful ;P

Simple (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 10 months ago | (#46736565)


The man with the gun (1)

pbjones (315127) | about 10 months ago | (#46736569)

Sadly survivors with guns will dominate the scenery. Anyone who can farm skills will be important but dominated by unskilled morons.

Re:The man with the gun (2)

kylemonger (686302) | about 10 months ago | (#46736651)

... until the farmer with knowledge of plants and herbs poisons their dumb asses.

Re:The man with the gun (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736657)

You do realize that, at least in America, the farmers (or farm skilled people) own the vast majority of the guns? We're generally confident that if the bumbling morons from the cities try to invade our land, the fact that we'll see them coming for 20 minutes before they get there means that we'll be able to pick them off before they get within shouting distance.

Re:The man with the gun (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736723)

As long as you've got some distance, that plan will work. I'm always amused by the people who live 20 minutes outside a major metropolitan area spouting off with the "I'll shoot them if they come after my _____". There's a couple million people 20 minutes from you who don't know how to do anything other than pick up the phone and order food... You don't have enough bullets...

lol. ignorant nerd rage. (2)

retchdog (1319261) | about 10 months ago | (#46736583)

Pace the implication of the article, medieval musicians and other low-tech entertainers would likely be in high demand.

If electronic technology magically stops working (somehow), then judging by the amount of purchased and pirated music today, one of the most secure professions would probably be musician. And if technology is low, medieval music (or some synthesis of it and modern forms like jazz) would be the go-to.

Anything that was important before WWII (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736589)

Pre WWII society thrived without high-tech electronics. Contruction was still possible. Transportation, communication, production of safe food and clean water were possible, etc. Even advanced products can be made without computers - machines USED to be controlled by skilled blue-collar middle-class workers (who earned wages good enough for a family to live on just one person's paycheck). Given that the KNOWLEDGE of everything post-WWII would likely not be lost in even the most-severe calamity, all you need is a generation of people who can do things manually to re-bootstrap and then society is back on its feet. As long as you do not let government get in the way with mountains of regulations that were not there the first time, the rise of high-tech the second time should be MUCH faster and easier. Therefore, what you need are:

1. Engineers (most-importantly: mechanical engineers, but also electrical and hydraulic)

2. Machinists, lathe operators, etc

3. Draftsmen (the pencil, T-Square and triangle sort)

Interestingly, geeky high-tech folks are perfectly capable of learning all these skills now as a hobby; If you have setup and run your own CNC milling machine, for example, you have probably already learned many of the things you'd need to know to run a milling machine manually. As a general rule, it's a good idea for younger people to get skills in more than one area now given that people have long careers and often end-up changind fields. Were I young and in college now, I'd probably double-major in something like EE and ME (two possible career options AND a good basis for a robotics career)

But computers will still exist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736591)

In fact, the knowledge to be able to build a computer from scratch, even a simple one, would be incredibly useful for many reasons, including survival.

Electricians will be incredibly useful too since they will be able to give us light, and in turn security, for whatever bases may be built to survive in, be it anti-zombie base or anti-crazyfucks base. (the generic raiders in games like fallout or films like mad max)
Motors would be useful especially to allow for a lot of automation, which could aid and save time in things such as farming.

The ability to repair and work with medical devices would also save lives, important in such situations as people would be in smaller groups, most likely, so keeping as many people alive as possible for the sake of the species would be important.

Archival of the past would be incredibly handy for those that actually survive.
Even etching out the entirety of wikipedia on to stone plates sealed in resin would be useful.
Adding the image of a lens with text getting progressively smaller would allow the ability to encode even smaller data to said stone plates. A species smart enough to understand that will almost certainly be able to use the information on it.
Said information would also need to be translated to some simplistic language that would be easily decoded from an "alien" perspective.
If they don't survive and something else found it however many years later, it will be helpful for them at least.

These are just a few I can think of at the moment from major areas.
Quite a few technical areas can be used in an apocalyptic scenario. Way more than I have listed. We aren't going to suddenly end up like Fallout universe unless a nuclear war actually does happen, which is unlikely. The biggest craptastrophe that is likely to happen any time soon is Yellowstone erupting and wrecking half of America. (if that even happens)
Either that or some larger rock than the one that exploded at Tunguska and Russia just the other year there. Or a cluster. That'd be more likely, and considerably worse for us since we'd be unable to do a thing about it other than hide from the nuclear-levels of energy released. At least it won't pollute the planet with much since at best it will fuse to very low unstable elements that will die quickly.

Still, it isn't a bad thing to get knowledgeable about many manual tasks, even entry level.

I have a degree in computer science. (5, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | about 10 months ago | (#46736593)

Which, it turns out, has very little to do with actual computers.

The intellectual skills involved in CS could, with not much difficulty, be turned to other kinds of problem solving such as operations research. Seriously, you're going to leave questions like how to most efficiently distribute scarce resources such as food to someone with a *business* degree? As a computer scientist, I'd create a model of the underlying problem, develop alternative algorithms, then show how those algorithms and model apply the real world problem. I use computer science every time I come home from grocery shopping. As I remove items from the bags I stage them by where they are eventually going to go. Why? Because efficient sorting algorithms eliminate lots of entropy early on. Consequently I only open my refrigerator *once*.

Computer science is essentially about figuring out the resources needed to accomplish things. If you want to figure out how much fodder it would take to move your draft animal powered army over a certain distance, you *could* consult a historian who specialized in the logistics of pre-mechanized warfare who'd tell you how Viscount Howe did it in the New Jersey Campaign of 1776-1777. Or you could find some CS graduate who pulled at least a "B" in algorithms to figure it out for you.

As for experts in gymel -- a technique for singing polyphony with one voice -- it's worth considering that the technique was developed in a period of human history that would be considered apocalyptically awful by modern standards. Even when times are violent, disordered, and desperately poor people still need art and music, and if we're stipulating that apocalyptic == "no computers", that means no iPods either. So it seems quite plausible to me that experts in gymel might find their services *more* in demand in a post-apocalyptic world.

Re:I have a degree in computer science. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736659)

Meanwhile, a dozen hungry guys with pitchforks burn you at the stake because you've reallocated their food to someone productive according to your algorithm.

Re:I have a degree in computer science. (4, Funny)

hey! (33014) | about 10 months ago | (#46736707)

Naturally, my model would not starve the farmers. The real challenge is figuring out how to stop the bandits who are starving the farmers. Fortunately, you only need about seven samurai for that.

Re:I have a degree in computer science. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736713)

While you are busy intellectualizing a food redistribution algorithm, someone with a club will just smack you and take it.

Blacksmithing (2)

docwatson223 (986360) | about 10 months ago | (#46736601)

I recently took Blacksmithing I and II at Tillers International for this *exact* reason. As a Network Architect, I'm the alpha geek for data transport and a Blacksmith is the alpha geek for a world gone straight to hell.

our worst enemy is us? 'useful' in a depopulation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736605)

we'll really learn to 'believe' in our good spirits & connection to one another by nature, time space & circumstance ... thanks moms

Skills gain skills (1)

Munky101 (1830652) | about 10 months ago | (#46736615)

I was lucky enough I guess to have paid my way through school by working as a carpenter. I earned my degree in Comp Sci while working with my hands. Long story short, I can still build a structure without the use of power tools so I believe I would be exceptionally useful.

Devs living their algorithms (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736619)

Put the devs to work using various sorting algorithms to sort the plunder of canned goods pillaged from peoples pantries.

Wait (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736621)

How exactly would scientist be useful in an apocalyptic world?
The most useful profession would be Builders and Farmers, followed by Doctors. The primary needs for shelter and food outweigh the needs for medicines.

That said, like many here, I'm a PC tech, so I would pretty much be jobless at that point.

Hunter - Gatherers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736629)

I have studied this extensively, even deep studies of middle ages Black Death and collapse of civilizations. In this senario you need the same skills as a cannibal if you are to survive the first few months. Reason is very few other animals in cities, and in the country very few animals survive more that a few weeks without fodder and salt. All edible plants will be gone in days and probably wasted by inexperience. Fire making skills are essential.

Which of my professions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736649)

I've been a dozen things in my life, including parent, carpenter, ambulance attendant, psychiatric aid, short order cook, martial arts instructor, hospice worker, and cyborg designer. (Had to pay for college on my own, and I was very broke.)

I figure I'd be useful from the moment the zombies showed up until my village ruled the world.

useless now vs useless in apocalypse (1)

Wycliffe (116160) | about 10 months ago | (#46736655)

Some studies like medieval gymel are barely useful now. Can you even make a living at that now?
Others like blacksmithing are nothing more than entertainment now but would be highly useful in a collapse.
I don't think you can discount computer scientists though. Not counting my hobbies, my primary job as
a computer programmer is repairing computers, fixing systems, and making stuff work.
If we did suffer a total collapse, the problem solving and improvising skills used daily by computer
programmers not to mention the broad knowledge base could prove to be useful.
Most computer programmers I know are also geeks so they tend to dabble in stuff like bee keeping,
appliance repair, blacksmithing, etc... which would also prove to be very useful.

Curriculum Vitae (1)

spankey51 (804888) | about 10 months ago | (#46736677)

I bet raping and pillaging acumen would make a killing.

Useful professions (1)

jonwil (467024) | about 10 months ago | (#46736683)

What might be useful would depend on how bad the catastrophe is. If its something like the TV show "Revolution" where electricity magically stops working, different people would be useful vs a situation where electricity is still available.

Med Doctors Post Apocalypse (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736693)

"In a post-apocalypse world, medical doctors would be useful..."

Not so much these days as doctors rely on drugs, lab tests and advanced medical equipment that would not be available. Few doctors will be able to treat infections diseases, cancer, and most other forms of illness. At best they can treat cuts,and simple broken bones if it does need medical implants (bone-screws).

"As a computer scientist, I'd create a model of the underlying problem"
You're hopeless and delusional if you think that is going to be useful.

" If you want to figure out how much fodder it would take to move your draft animal powered army over a certain distance"
LOL! Yeah, everyone one in the burbs and cities keeps a draft animal. You'll be in high demand come the Apocalypse!

Zombie apocalypse, sure, let's follow this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736695)

The Zombie, as an archetype, is representative of the proletariat; much like the vampire is representative of the bourgeoisie. We are being trained to fear the uniform mass acting in concert. Though fast zombies are a threat that not even Australian parliamentarians can comprehend (check Hansards). And extreme measures, outside of civil society, need to be taken to protect from zombies. Extreme measures like small armed bands of privileged jerks shooting people in the head. In the head.

So "are you useful in an apocalypse" is basically a way of asking, "Will you implement fascism when the working class rise."

contingency plan (5, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | about 10 months ago | (#46736699)

If it is a true apocalyptic scenario, 99% of us will be dead anyway, so my plan is to not prepare at all. It's worth making preparations for scenarios that are more realistic, like bottles of water in case the water gets cut off after an earthquake, or food for a few days when transportation is interrupted. Those kinds of things happen in real life.

I'll be the sandwich maker (1)

Knuckles (8964) | about 10 months ago | (#46736701)


My profession would be useless, hobbies useful... (1)

emag (4640) | about 10 months ago | (#46736703)

Frankly, as a sysadmin, it would take quite some time for my profession to be useful. However, I am not solely defined by my profession. My hobbies, such as firearms, cooking, woodworking, dabbling in a little gardening and other low tech stuff would end up much more useful, after the apocalypse. I actually enjoy unplugging and doing something that doesn't require a computer now and then.

You do realize most engineers use computers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736711)

A huge portion of engineers rely on computers in their work. When 90% of everything in the world has electronics in it, you can imagine where the majority of our engineering talent lies nowadays. Ignoring that, I'd expect most CS majors to be about as useful as an engineer since they share a similar mindset. I agree that surgeons would still be useful, though my disclaimer is that I'm currently in a surgical residency. Most scientists would be much less useful, but those that practice science at home and or really any amateur scientist would have skills that would be useful. I suspect though that the mindset might end up becoming more important. A piece of paper saying you are a doctor or an engineer may be less useful when someone with no formal training provides better results in an environment unfamiliar to you both.

Mechanical Computers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736729)

Even the ancient Greeks had those. Telling time is a relevant pursuit for any engineer in a post "apocalypse" world (this is not 10-30 km asteroid impact we are talking about). Farming and sometimes even fishing and hunting are dependent of it. Resource measurement, pooling and allocation are a fundamental job for a society trying to accomplish something together. Mechanical control systems would be necessary for efficiency everywhere. So yes, the remaining computer scientists might have more work than ever before, assuming a fictional "Revolution"-style "apocalypse", of course.
  Actual apocalypses don't tend to leave much people left to talk about it. Which is in fact, the first rule of any actual apocalypse.

Lawyer (1)

Any Web Loco (555458) | about 10 months ago | (#46736745)

The moment folk start arguing over who owns what, that's when there'll be lawyers. I don't imagine it'll take long.

I Disagree... (2)

hackus (159037) | about 10 months ago | (#46736751)

"...decades without computers would render computer science and related professions useless."

The idea of graph theory is perfect for building social systems, that withstand breakdown.

The idea for example not to over centralize government for example to avoid disastrous consequences.

We know from graph theory nodes with too many edges are suspect and reveal design weaknesses in computer networks.

The same happens in human social/governing systems. Kings, Queens or many forms of government that are too centralized results in war, death and darkness.

One thing to do after the apocalypse is pick up that graph theory and get to work in building a highly distributed, non centralized society.

Ha (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46736753)

The bad news for Slashdotters is that decades without computers would render computer science and related professions useless.

Good thing I know how to fabricate chips from dirt to refinement to crystal growth design lithography and the schematics for every single machine along the way is memorized.

Autism FTW, bitches.

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