Guest Post: Future Economy, Future Stability, Future Careers

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Charles Hugh Smith from Of Two Minds

Future Economy, Future Stability, Future Careers  

Dissent, feedback, innovation and adaptation are the only sustainable sources of stability, prosperity and well-being.

Reader Michael K. recently asked one of the key questions of the next 20 years:

I would very much like to learn your thoughts on what careers may be viable for our children. With the future likely to change our lives so dramatically, where do you see opportunities for some form of career growth and some form of stability?

Thank you for the question, Michael. All of my books can be read as attempts to answer this question: or Weblogs & New Media: Marketing in Crisis, Survival+: Structuring Prosperity for Yourself and the Nation, An Unconventional Guide to Investing in Troubled Times and Resistance, Revolution, Liberation: A Model for Positive Change.

There is no way to adequately address the many issues raised by this question in a single entry, but we can start with these general observations:

1. The next 20 years will not be like the last 20 years, so projecting current mainstream trends will very likely lead to wrong answers. Trends change, cycles turn, and so predicting the future by extrapolating current trends leads to faulty conclusions about the future.

2. Centralization of the State and economy was the dominant trend for the past two centuries: that model has failed and will be replaced by decentralization. The expansive Central State (a.k.a. the Savior State) now dominates the economy and society; everything not within its direct control is considered a threat. The State enforces a self-serving financial feudalism based on financializing the economy to benefit the few and indenture everyone else into debt-serfs.

We are like the Ming Dynasty in 1340: the State and empire seem permanent and enduring, yet four years later the entire system collapses under its own weight as all the internal rot that was masked by propaganda and political expediency finally gives way.

3. The Internet cannot be put back in the genie's bottle, nor can it be limited to serve the State and Elites like the police forces, financial system, etc. The Web has a simple ontological imperative: creatively destroy monopolies and every effort to limit information, dissent and feedback. To the degree the Central State is a monopoly that limits information, dissent and feedback to protect itself, it too will be dismantled by the Web.

4. The Central State and financialization are the buggy whips of the coming era. Those depending on making buggy whips in 1901 decried the rise of automobiles, but their resistance to the tides of change did not stop or even hinder those tides.

For the past 60 years, financial security flowed from the Central State and the various monopolies it enforced or controlled. For the past 30 years, wealth flowed from the relentless financialization of the U.S. and global economies. Those cycles are ending, and whatever financial security is possible going forward will flow from self-reliance, self-organizing social capital, and decentralized social and technological innovation.

It boils down to a simple choice: either ride the tide of creative destruction of failed/ depleted models or be washed away by the tide.

5. The non-market economy has been eroded by the State and financialization. The market economy (consumerism, financialization, the State) has turned our society into a high-cost-basis economy that generates an abundance of poverty and social defeat. The alternative is a low-cost-basis society where social capital counts for more than consumerist identifiers and debt-based "prosperity."

What does this mean in a practical sense?

1. Let go of old models of financial security. Do not assume a government job means 30 years of security and a fat pension thereafter. That's the past, not the future.

2. Assume monopolies and cartels imposed by the State will be disrupted and implode. The key example here is the sickcare system imposed by the State. For decades people have seen sickcare expand year after year, and so it seems sensible to assume that joining healthcare a.k.a. sickcare was a path to security.

Sickcare now absorbs 17% of the U.S. economy, roughly double that of other industrialized democracies. Thus we can assume this percentage will revert to the mean, i.e. shrink by 50%. "Healthcare" as currently practiced is another buggy whip industry doomed to be creatively disrupted and remade.

3. The best career strategy going forward is to assemble multiple skillsets. What we know is that current models will be disrupted, but we cannot know the future. Thus we cannot know which skillsets will be demand. That may change constantly; "security" will flow not from clinging to failing institutions for 30 years but by being flexible and adaptive.

What sort of skillsets will likely be in demand?

1. Essential practical skills. These include cleaning teeth, repairing aging vehicles, maintaining natural gas distribution pipes, configuring web servers, growing and preparing food, organizing community events, overseeing projects to completion, and so on. There are many such skillsets. The key is to learn skills that don't depend on an institution or a State-imposed monopoly for their existence.

For example, if you learn how to teach effectively and are open to dissent, feedback, innovation and adaptation, then you can teach just as well in an informal "charter school" environment as in a formalized, centralized institution (of the sort that's being creatively disrupted and replaced by lower cost, decentralized, self-organizing networks).

2. Internet skills. This doesn't mean knowing how to add songs to an iPod or smartphone, it means learning some technical aspect of the web well enough that you can do something useful for others with that skill. Examples include configuring a server, managing security of a network, implementing content-management software (Drupal, etc.) or knowing a coding language that is in demand (this will change over time, of course).

3. Accounting. Keeping track of money, assets and projects will remain key skills. Knowing how to do so is a practical skill, even if it is knowing Quicken or an equivalent electronic checkbook. Understanding how to organize and track progress in a complex project is a practical skill.

4. Written communication. Being able to write effectively is a key practical skill. Whatever the setting or project, some things will need to be stated in writing.

5. The ability to work with others. This includes learning to be patient, empathetic and positive, and gaining the ability to get something done despite the constant pettiness and contrariness of human beings.

This also includes recognizing that there must be a "membership" that grants privileges and responsibilities to members and excludes non-members, a membership which can eject destructive members into the outside world. We can't be everything to everyone.

6. Understand that dissent, feedback, innovation and adaptation are the only sustainable sources of stability, prosperity and well-being.

If a young person has mastered an essential practical skill, a web-based skill, a working knowledge of accounting/data management, project organization and basic writing, they will be in demand by some group, organization, enterprise or community.

I think these aphorisms, drawn from my lengthy collection listed below, capture the essence of security, adaptability and mastery in the decades ahead:

"There is no security on this earth; there is only opportunity." (Douglas MacArthur)

"We are what we repeatedly do." (Aristotle)

"The way of the Tao is reversal." (Lao Tzu)

"Chance favours the prepared mind." (Louis Pasteur)

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
LawsofPhysics's picture

So, while everyone is growing their own food, they will also be surfing the internet?  FAIL.

NotApplicable's picture

I've got an Acer tablet out in my hoophouse with me most of the time. Not only can I stream music off of my media server, but I can keep an eye on the radar when needed. Plus, I can use it while I'm hanging out with my goats.

So, not really fail.

LawsofPhysics's picture

Long sharecropping.  Especially once those cities start emptying out.  While many of us are in agriculture and self-sustained farming works well for those of us with the real-estate, access to water, the appropriate climate, and the know-how, It will not work for 7 billion people.  Hence, I see seriously see sharecropping coming back, especially once the productivity of the commercial fertilizers and pesticides are taken out of the equation.


For you, the hedgeless horseman, and myself, yeah it works.  For L.A. or D.C. counties (or any of the other thousands of population centers), not so much.

AnAnonymous's picture

While many of us are in agriculture and self-sustained farming works well for those of us with the real-estate, access to water, the appropriate climate, and the know-how, It will not work for 7 billion people.

Ah, the comfortable position of inheriting from robbers rather than robbed...

Theft is so central to US citizenism.

LawsofPhysics's picture

Just like chinese citizenism.  China and the U.S. elite have been on the same page for quite some time moron.

AnAnonymous's picture

China and the US elite?

So that is the US elite that will inherit from robbery? Not chinese elite but china. That should mean different pages but hey, US citizenism is what it is huh.

the US citizen middle class have clean hands

Funny how US citizens on this site subscribe to that chinese citizenism fantasy.

Truthers are so valuable for that.

Such material.

LawsofPhysics's picture

contradict yourself much? 

Things that go bump's picture

We will be lucky to find a sharecropping position.  I am personnally considering going back to school to major in picking through heaping mountains of garbage. I think there will be a lot of opportunities in this field in the future.   

LawsofPhysics's picture

I see a lot of openings in the "security" area as well.

Bwahaha WAGFDSMB's picture

Not really, I think the robots will be doing most of that work.

LawsofPhysics's picture

FYI- the internet only stay on so long as a miriad of entities (including power providers) stay on line.

tmosley's picture

This particular zealot of the death cult thinks we need to get into a time machine and live before technology, no matter how much more efficient and productive it makes us in every single facet of our lives.


LawsofPhysics's picture

Technology has been great are upseting the balance of a number of biological cycles.  Unless you understand the amount of energy required to accelerate/manipulate the nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur cycles (to name only a few), shut the hell up.  Moreover, like all things, the details matter and in this case it is all about the oxidation states in every cycle being in balance.  Technology has been great at increasing the supplies of various elements in the desireable oxidation states for commerical farming and hence population growth, but this has required a huge flux of energy input and ignores the consequences of upseting the balance of the various oxidation state.

I have no doubt that Nature will fix the problem. Do I mention people dying?  No, so go fuck yourself tom, there are real experts out there who have worked in these fields for a very long time.  Your posts are always contradictory and idiotic as I am sure your many responses will be.  Consider yourself fortunate to have had the opportunity to work hard and be rewarded with some free time to blow on the internet.

LFMayor's picture

yeah, until that impacted molar punches your ticket, or the little scratch on your finger lets tetanus get in from the soil and work its magic.

Pick a luddite church that features snake handling, I hear their faith healers are top notch too.

smb12321's picture

There is a strong anti-technology streak out here (quick, click that down arrow).   It accompanies the survivalist mentality and those who are obviously panting for violence and societal breakdown (as if that will cure our problems).  

Although I grow food, the idea that we should feed and clothe ourselves, learn plumbing, electricity, etc (forget about medicines and cleaning materials) seems silly. Frankly, I'm not big on scrounging dawn to dusk like some 14th century peasant.  One of the hallmarks of modern society is specialization.  

Vlad Tepid's picture

"Specialization is for insects."

--Robert Heinlein

Terminus C's picture

Yes, there are some strange disconnects in this vision of the future.

The point about being flexible in your skills, willingness to learn and adapt and being prepared for a world that will not be like what we have had in the past are all valid.

Matt's picture

Growing your own food isn't a 60 hour per week occupation anymore.

LFMayor's picture

Super easy until the first drought year, when you're bucketing water 1/2 mile from shit creek just to eek by.

Or you hear your dead gal riding wildfire, coming to get your after an early frost takes the crops.

smb12321's picture

(As a farm boy) you have no idea what it takes to grow food for a family of four.  Not only is LOTS of land required (forget the talk about "one square yard" or other such BS) but there is the matter of seeds, planting, weeding, fighting bugs and animals, luck with the weather (or irrigation) and knowledge of timing and storage.  And this assumes you are a vegetarian and living in a fertile area!

And if everyone is scrounging for food all day or getting their horses shoed or cutting logs for heat, the constant flow of inventions, products, medicines or research will not magically appear. 

Joseph Jones's picture

Where did the author type the word "everyone?" 


cossack55's picture

Prostitution is always lucrative.

Sandmann's picture

I'll take your word for it......if it works for you !

cossack55's picture

How much do you pay in declared income taxes?

Sandmann's picture

Keeping track of money, assets


How can you put those in the same sentence ?  MONEY is no longer a Store of Value: it is NOT as "Asset".  MONEY is simply a Medium of Exchange and should have a high Velocity but doesn't because it has a huge Quantity trapped inside the banking system. 


Rule 1: Never Trust Banks or Insurers. They make it very hard to get money out from deceased estates and flood you with paperwork and make it hard to access your own funds. 

Rule 2: Expect to be cheated. Regard every Lawyer, Banker, Salesman, Politician as a Thief and Con Artist 

Rule 3: Expect to lose everything at least once during your life. 

Rule 4: Learn to Cook, Sew, Grow, Hunt, Fish, Make, Do,  

Rule 5: Think Poor !   Think how little you want to spend and how much you can do without.

smb12321's picture

1.  Been through several deaths and had no problem with insurance collection or banks.

2.  Don't make generalizations based on a few bad individuals.

3.  The vast majority of folks never lose everything

4. Why?  That's how they lived in the Dark Ages.  If everyone is hunting or fishing or sewing or growing who is supplying the software to make ZH magically appear on our screens (and who will manufacture the screens?)

5. I agree -live below your means.

Sandmann's picture

Been through several deaths and had no problem with insurance collection or banks.


So have I and if there is any serious money they work hard to hang onto it even issuing cheques in the wrong names....but it is all part of the game.

phat ho's picture

I'm thinking: toilet seat sniffer from Botswana will be in record demand



q99x2's picture

That's multiple me skillsets. I anything do can.

Burr's 2nd Shot's picture

I've got just one word for you, just one word...farming.

NotApplicable's picture

Need to add two more words.

First, Cesium.

Which leads to, Plastic.

Maybe someday Fukushima will be brought under control, but until that day comes, the rain is hot.

sabra1's picture

farming? how does that fit in with AGENDA 21?

1100-TACTICAL-12's picture

better get started pronto. there is a hell of alot more to it than throwing some seeds on the ground. We are probably 70% self sufficent on our 4 acres here in FEMA region6 and we've been at it stedy for 3 yrs. A water well hooked to solar or hand pump is the absolute 1 thing you must secure if possible. No food you live 3 months no agua 3 days.

Raymond Reason's picture

A backup propane generate will work in a pinch. 

LFMayor's picture

Yes, the rule of 3's!

studied you have, strong in the force you have become.

Vincent Vega's picture

If one is preparing it is a good idea to remember this rule as well: two is one and one is none.

Silver Dreamer's picture

Any valuable item must follow the "One is none, two is one" rule.  Carry two firearms, two flashlights, two means to make fire, etc.

TBT or not TBT's picture

Nah, ranching is where it's at.   Eat meat, live free of the diseases of civilisation.   Farming produces  carbs mostly, animal food.

AnAnonymous's picture

Cartels and monopolies imposed by the state to implode?

Waooo, dont make many of them since the state is merely a tool, not the agent (corporations, the products of middle class societies are)

Will corporations find as a good tool as the state? Maybe not. Wont mean they will loose their competitive edge entirely.

NotApplicable's picture

My teenage daughter is constantly wondering about her future career, and doesn't find my answer of "there aren't going to be any career jobs worth having" too comforting.

I always go back to the idea of finding ways of providing people with value, and don't become too dependent upon any one source.

ThirdWorldDude's picture

On the contrary, medicine will always be valued in any future version of socety... 


This being your first time, you get the advice pro bono.

Silver Dreamer's picture

I would clarify that however as medicine without the current technology and industrial supply resources in place.  You had better have your own supplies, and don't expect to get advanced materials unless you're very wealthy.

hedgeless_horseman's picture



What a nice segue.  I am ready, willing, and able to manufacture actual antibiotics (sulfa) and pain killers (laudanum) should the need ever arise.

AnAnonymous's picture

Quite easy

if your family own means of productions, you'll get a job.

If not, prepare to pack up and be ready to replay the pionner story as US citizen nations have been triggering a new wave of colonization.

That is all, US citizen folks...

Sophist Economicus's picture

Confucius says "He who farts in church, sits in his own pew"



AnAnonymous's picture

There were churches in Confucius' times?

Sophist Economicus's picture

Ha!   Well, of course not.   There were temples back in the 500s BC.   I used the word church for the US citizens