Dmitry Orlov on Post-Peak Career Choices

admin January 6th, 2011

Orlov outdoes himself again meditating on the best possible high-return career once “collapse predictor” stops being a job, and after dismissing “scrimshaw dentistry” chooses to combine two exercises with similar predictive capacities to become an “astro-economist.”  I wonder if Eric could do that too?

If, as I argue above, all of these alignments, through the force of ignorance, act together in concert irrespectively of distance and time, then the signal conveyed by astrological data is complete randomness: pure, high-grade noise. It is not just any old ignorance but the purest, highest-grade, most reliably fact-free signal imaginable.

And this brings us to astrology’s sister discipline, which likewise benefits from purity of ignorance: economics. It is well-known that stocks picked by expert money managers do slightly worse, overall, than stocks picked by monkeys throwing darts. (Good monkey! Here’s your bailout!) The reason for this should be obvious: monkeys produce better results because of the superior quality of ignorance that drives their decision-making process. Similarly, economists who struggle with econometric models and statistical data collected by government and industry are sometimes accidentally correct in their predictions, raising expectations and creating false hopes. But if instead economists plugged in the pure nonsense of astrological data averaged across an infinite universe, they could easily achieve a six-sigma rating, being repeatably wrong 99.99966% of the time. And wouldn’t that be exciting!? Oh but wait a minute…

Come to think of it, perhaps astroeconomics is not a promising career choice either. Back to square one, then…
I’ve long assumed it is only a matter of time before being an apocalyptic prophetess of doom is no longer a growth industry, but I’m not as creative as Orlov - I figure like every other disaster in history, people will be desperate for escapism, so I can just take my old skill set and tranfer it into bodice rippers.  As far as I can tell, it just involves using the words “heaving bosoms” a lot, and if there are enough heaving bosoms and assertive men in tight pants, no one cares what the larger content is.   Thus, I think it perfectly viable to imagine a career writing something like the following:  ”He threw her down on the bed and watchd her heaving bosoms rise and fall like interest rates, and told her passionately, ‘Green beans must be water bath canned at 10lbs pressure!’  ‘Yes, yes, yes,’ she cried, throbbing with passion, ‘high acid foods are the only sort that can be safely canned in a water bath without risk of botulism.’   Moaning with pleasure, the two fell upon one another, measuring their love in the heaving of her bosoms and multiplying jars of preserves on the shelves.”
How could it not sell?  What’s your plan?

25 Responses to “Dmitry Orlov on Post-Peak Career Choices”

  1. Karin says:

    I envision myself as a sorta Madame Defarge character churning out wool socks while railing against income desparity…

    ..”eat cake she says…can I barter these socks for it??”

  2. Karin says:

    I envision myself as a sorta Madame Defarge character churning out wool socks while railing against income disparity…

    ..”eat cake she says…can I barter these socks for it??”

  3. [email protected] says:

    I do wonder just how badly bunched Savinar’s undies were after reading Orlov’s post.

    I’m really not sure what to do for a proper profession after TEOTWAWKI. What I’ve noticed in the process of becoming a suburban homesteader is that I have to be much more of a generalist and less of a specialist. So many skills to become at least passable at! This leads to the understanding that 200 years ago, most people did most of the stuff I’m now learning to do, plus a lot of other tasks, without the aid of electricity or industrial machines. Thus, none of my new skills really provides me with anything like a profession, because eventually most everyone will be doing all the things I now do for themselves.

    So, yes, it’s a thorny question. In the very short term I might benefit from being able to teach others what I’ve learned on my own. But after they’ve learned what I can teach, I have nothing more trade. For the middle term I think shoe repair is not at all a bad skill. It probably would not provide for all a family’s needs, but it *will* need doing, and not everyone will want to do it, or have the tools. So if you can repair something really necessary, that’ll always keep a little money coming in. Maybe just enough to get you by with all the other stuff you’re now doing for yourself.

  4. Andrea G. says:

    If plausibility weren’t part of the question, I might like to breed and perhaps train draft horses. However, the prospect of getting my hands on enough land to support my families’ nutritional needs and several additional half-ton animals is looking kinda unlikely right now.

    The more likely outcomes are A) civil servant or B) housewife/small farmer. Most likely both, at varying times of life.

  5. bryan says:


    There is also the market for men’s magazines…

    She was thinking of this desirable man in the trim solar installer’s uniform that had appeared in her life.

    He glimpsed her through the dappled light of the trees, absent-mindlessly washing the field dust from her glistening electric tractor. He stepped into the calm, sunlit meadow, his 30 amp jumper cables rippling and she gasped, “Oh my g-d, is that a 8000 watt three phase inverter?” as she shyly dropped her ‘Vestas’ cap behind her feet.

    She could feel the warmth radiating from his heat sink as he stood next to her. He was close enough to see the tiny beads of sweat on her upper lip and whispered, “Candice, let me take off your polished battery cover and grease your naked terminals!”

    “Yes, Lance, Yes! Fill the aching desire of my deep-discharge battery with your hot solar PV electrons!”

  6. Cassandra says:

    I’m going to multitask. Continuing and expanding growing and preserving to reduce our need of cash. Dh’s market garden and my seed garden will expand. We also live right by the high school and college with a house with 6 bedrooms so I’m thinking boarding house or at least converting the basement into 1 or 2 apartments. I knit, crochet, sew etc. so we can reduce our needs there and maybe market some.

    We used to live on 2-3 thousand a year living on the farm. Just hack and slash those cash sucking expences!

  7. Claire says:

    One thing about getting older - I’m not sure I can take all this bodice-ripping. For one, after that bodice is ripped, it’s going to have to be sewn back together. Our hot ladies of the post-peak world just aren’t going to have enough spare bodices lying around to so casually allow them to be ripped up. There’s weeds that have to be hoed and seeds to plant, no time for mending ripped bodices! No, not when the cotton has to be picked, ginned, spun, and woven before you even have the fabric to make that bodice from. Future ladies’ porn will feature men who carefully remove every item of clothing off our heroine and place it gently on a dirt-free surface, leaving our ladies quivering with ecstatic pleasure because that will save them a whole lot of work in the morning.

    What am I going to do in the post-peak world? Wish I knew. It worries me. I’m nearly ready to receive my pension (at a reduced rate due to my relatively young age), but I don’t have confidence that anything based on interest is going to last long in a world with no growth in energy or material throughput. I can grow food, maybe I’ll have to do it for pay as well as for fun. I’ll have to stay in good health, though, so I need to plan for that - and that will get more critical but more difficult as I age.

  8. knutty knitter says:

    I think I’ll just continue to teach crafts etc. There are always new generations coming up who need to learn stuff and I think there may well be a need for people who can entertain in the evenings as well so music might get added to my classes.

    Bryan - wonderful - when can we expect the book! On hand made paper of course :)

    viv in nz

  9. The Mom says:

    I have a feeling all of us with any knowledge of cooking, gardening, soapmaking and other passe pursuits will be quite busy teaching the rest of the world how to survive. That should be tons of fun. “No, don’t rip that up, its a tomato plant not a weed. Hey don’t turn under the parsnip bed, they just take a while to come up. When you finish casting on that row, join the stitches together and knit. Hey, who is brewing the beer?”

  10. Canadian Doomer says:

    I think I will always be cooking. While I know of many people online who are properly storing food and learning self-sufficiency, too many people store foods that they don’t eat and have no idea how to use. Lately, I’ve had people (in real life) ask me to teach them how to make bread (sourdough or yeasted), how to make laundry soap from bars of Ivory, how to can soups. Like The Mom says, any practical skill is going to be in demand.

  11. Nicole C says:

    Bryan: brilliant.

    I’ve never been a believer in the sudden, utter collapse scenario. Localized disasters, sure. I have, and continue to favor, a prognostication of major but fairly slow shift in the economic patterns of the US and other major industrialized nations. This shift is happening already. Manufacturing jobs? Down. Healthcare jobs? Up. Engineering and technical jobs? Steady.

    We will still have computers, although few will be wasting time and electricity on FarmVille. We will still have mechanics, but they may need to turn their trade toward tractors and bicycles. Entertainers will still entertain, but their stratospheric salaries will probably be a thing of the past. Talented engineers and scientists? Probably more in demand than ever. Priests, charlatans, loan sharks and prostitutes? Their jobs were the first to show up and no doubt will be the last ones standing when the human race becomes extinct.

    I fully expect my highly technical day job to still be around for a long time in one form or another, but it’s only a matter of time before we stop the useless commute to work. Since this industry changes from month to month and year to year, I’m used to it.

    But perhaps “sudden” and “utter” and “collapse” are in the eye of the beholder. They other day I overheard a young girl at work insisting that THEY *couldn’t* make the price of gas $5 a gallon because she wouldn’t be able to afford to drive to work. I nearly choked on my coffee.

    If I’m wrong, I turn my inner ring subdivision of smaller, well-built older homes on large lots — still zoned agricultural — into a patchwork of mini-farms and build a copper still. Some of us will still be working, and production of mind altering drugs (like moonshine) is almost as old of a profession as shaman… if indeed they aren’t one and the same. :D

  12. Evey says:

    Well, after this current year of substitute teaching( low pay, no health ins, sporadic hours) I hope to be teaching full time for at least 6-years, I’ll be 66 then, so we can pay off our mortage. I am continuing to develop skills that will make us less salary dependent in the future. Skills such as gardening/seed saving, knitting, sewing,soap making, food preservation, animal husbandry and slaughter. As a current teacher, I am also accumulating texts and other educational suppllies so I can help provide very local basic education if needed.

  13. Nena says:

    Yes! Yes! Yes! I love it. Now throw in something about making compost, the value of manure, homemade cheese, holistic medicine and homesteading and I think you’ve got a best seller. On a more serious note. This is a question I’m asking myself these days and casting about for some ideas. I don’t think the money will be around for mental health services, ah well, those masters (that’s plural) degrees were only for wall decoration anyway. I have a few ideas around self-sufficiency, self-preservation and self-sustainability, but I’m still winnowing them out, so I’ll get back to you on that when I have something more solid.

  14. Andrea G. says:

    Hi Nena,

    The need for mental health services will never go away. If you can barter them to people who need help, it could do quite a lot of good in any rough circumstances.

  15. MEA says:

    I expect to lay out the dead, suppliented by by stash of material suitable to repair work clothing.

    However, I think I might start by (no offense) lay-out Sharon’s romance writer career. Though having once edited bodice rippers for a living, if she is really interested in a career in detaling PO heaving bossoms and throbbing manhood, we could combine forces.


  16. Michelle says:

    Bryan, where’s the “like” button in this blog???

    I plan to feed people. I’m already raising meat rabbits, and am working toward selecting for good growth on grass, rather than on purchased pellets. My gardens expand every year, and my fruit trees should maybe produce this year… if whatever varmint it was doesn’t nick all the fruit just as it ripens AGAIN.

    Meanwhile, I repaired a friend’s sweater this week, and she’s thanking me with a full meal, made by her very own hands. A half hour of picking up and knitting for a veggie lasagna plus bread and salad? I’m so there.

  17. MumDoris says:

    I’m just open mouthed at the idea of being able to buy gas for $5 a gallon - the new year tax rise in UK has just taken gas here up to $9 a gallon. And I am still driving to work although I’ve been given notice of redundancy - from teaching in the ‘vulnerable children’s’ department of my local authority. No-one knows what the vulnerable children are going to do for an education. I have been de-cluttering with a view to selling my house as I won’t be able to pay the mortgage. I kept all the knitting wool as I will have time to start knitting again. I hope to do more home teaching, enough to rent a place with a garden - I already do evening and weekend work for parents of children with physical disabilities who are no longer getting the state support they used to get.
    I spoke to students in a university occupation who learnt to collect food for free from dumps behind restaurants and markets - I haven’t tried that yet but there may still be rich bureacrats making waste the rest of us can use. Next I hope to learn to forage for wild plants but I’m not sure how to start without being able to pay for a course. If I’m leasing, preserving food isn’t such a good idea unless I donate preserves to the food bank in the hope of collecting later. Maybe I can persuade a church to host a store room we can use as a food store-and-share solution for those without a permanent place to store their own.

  18. MumDoris says:

    Oh I forgot, US gallons are less than ours - it’s $6.75 for a US gallon of gas.

  19. Susan in NJ says:

    I expect I will be helping you all recover a couple of chickens and a dozen eggs from the neighbor who cut down your berry bushes on your side of the property line or writing wills with life estates valued in potatoes and cabbage. Or litigating right to goat laws. Payment accepted in cheese, eggs and apples.

  20. dewey says:

    This was a topic on Green Wizards recently, and I remarked that the marketable skills I can do best (herbal medicine and brewing) will both probably be out of reach due to regulation for the rest of my life. A fiction-style fast crash, which I do not expect, might be better than one in which generations suffer simultaneously under a government that will let you live only through the sacred Job and an economy that won’t let you have one. I guess I’m hoping to be able to feed us with such things, if it comes down to it, through a gift economy or informal barter that isn’t visible to the State.

    I’m continuing to try to make us more self-sufficient with more edible and medicinal plants, reduced utility usage, and the necessary skills to do without some utilities altogether if need be. However, our mortgage, taxes and insurance, and city-mandated utilities are more than I’d ever be able to earn under the table. If I were laid off, we’d have to either find a paying boarder sub rosa or sell the house, fast. I have so much sympathy for the folks who aren’t as lucky as we’ve (so far) been - it is just pure luck that I and most of my friends are still more or less okay.

  21. madison says:

    I’ll be multi-tasking as a gardener, seed-saver, doula, teacher and cook.

    I will get my blog and website up this spring, helping folks turn their homes into micro-homesteads… I expect to be doign that for a long time in one way or another…

    And building with cob, I hope that is in my future, too!

  22. MEA says:

    It struck me that a lot of us are planning on things like knitting, gardending, etc. but no one, yet, has chose the nastly careers of needle grinder or match maker. Nor the less horrible of blacksmith, fletcher, etc. I’m not at all up on the correct terms, but I think we are planning on being primary producers, not secondary ones.

  23. Wendy says:

    My husband and I are doing to make matches, gun powder and soap.

  24. Brad K. says:


    I agree with Claire - bodice ripping is an affectation of the wealthy. In real, post-industrial life, that ripped bodice wouldn’t be a symbol of lust or passion, but more likely a challenge to surviving. That is, many won’t have spares, and that ripped bodice might well be required, at the moment, for adequate protection from the elements.

    But you might be on the right track. It is said that it was porn that was the actual driver that established the video tape, the internet, and the cell phone (with pictures!) industries. It likely wouldn’t hurt to involve the so-called ‘adult entertainment industry’ in the peak oil movement, and post-industrial descent. Just think of all the members of the general public that would be, ahem, ‘exposed’ (sorry), to the realities of the new world!

    As for a post-industrial age career, I had thought that was a bit like dieting. The most successful diet is a lifestyle change - begin eating as if you had already lost the weight, and repeat. For the rest of your life. That sounds a lot like what you have been doing, adapting to post-industrial living, sharing and interacting with others as you practice and evaluate what works and what doesn’t. If we expect the economic pressures and energy availability (and price) conditions to deteriorate, then what ‘the post-industrial age’ means will be gradually shifting as various aspects of life become (unexpectedly!) difficult or disappear. Climate change will also change in unanticipated ways that vary the seasons and years from previous expectations.

    Reducing the risks, planning for reduced exposure, taking advantage of the skills and resources available - that seems like a workable way to proceed.

    Whether farmer, homemaker, parent, custodian, craftsperson, community elder, care giver or midwife, even sanitation engineer - some things will remain valuable, in some form, long after California gets electricity to the other states turned off.

  25. edde says:

    THANKS, Sharon, good one.

    I have the future job thing covered - bike builder/mechanic (have a fully operational bike shop), house designer/fixer/builder/electrician/plumber/solar installer, swimmer/boater/sailor, printer/newspaper publisher, community organizer/educator, music/event producer (have a close to fully operational road house), drug educator/crisis interventionist and traveler/guide/hospitality host. Yes, folks will continue to travel, albeit not by motorized means. I’m that proverbial (one-eyed) jack of many trades.

    And married to a curator at a museum that specializes in local historical living (1890s farmstead, etc) who has a green thumb and is an artist, cake baker and chocolatier… Shack paid for with enough land to subsistence garden
    and keep small livestock.

    We live in the midst of a community replete with healers, herbalists, gardeners & livestock keepers galore, knitters & skilled seamsters (non-sex determined seamstresses), with many additional skills currently unlisted here including physical security…



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