Too Specialized and Technical, and dealing with Societal Collapse

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BrokenFiringPin
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Too Specialized and Technical, and dealing with Societal Collapse

Post by BrokenFiringPin » Sun May 10, 2020 8:54 am

Just musing on the ironies of modernity, mechanization, and over specialization:

I'm sure someone here has lamented about this problem, but as societies become more and more organized - I have observed that work is more and more specific. A computer guy is no longer just a computer, guy, he works on database servers or something specific within that sub field. Computer engineering and science has fractured into sub fields meanwhile parts of the service industry has rendered people incapable of designing or building anything. From start to finish things are so complex that no one can really be expected to build anything by themselves. That's life - but that also means segments of the population that don't survive could be the missing pieces that are required to restart society should it collapse. As Aristotle said - "Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts".

As I entered my thirties - having worked mostly in IT for the last decade, I've seen that many younger people and people even my own age unable to leverage those skills in the absence of layer 0, (I regard electricity as layer 0 of the OSI model) which connectivity is dependent upon. I think in some ways this can be even a problem in the Military as not all within a specific career field are equal because things like experience and challenges faced will vary. So too will temperament. When google is gone, and WebMD isn't around - we will be in for a real time. The "grid" is the biggest hodgepodge of regulation and infrastructure that would be the first thing to go and indeed our information will follow in going byb-bye.

I look at the fact that I need to develop other skills outside of my career field and that is not always easy when my 9-5 is endless troubleshooting of networks and only that. It doesn't leave layer 1-7 with brief visits to layers 0 and sometimes 8 (people).

I've also lamented that no one really understands how meat gets in front of them and how supply chains break until they actually do just that. No one grows their own food or raises their own animals, so they are disconnected from that and have allowed others to harden themselves to the extreme to be the ones who raise, kill and butcher their food. A large segment of the population isn't able to do that from a psychological perspective and that's also a danger to human survival.

I am really beginning to think Albert Einstein was right about World War IV being fought with sticks and clubs.

Does anyone have any experience breaking away from the technical world periodically while still maintaining that connection for financial support while they put in a little more resources into making themselves sustainable for that post apocalyptic world?

t's a balance I can't seem to grasp yet...I haven't once changed careers like many people have - I am beginning to recognize a problem with that. I'm not trying to sound like uncle ted here, but I do think that too much automation might take us down as a species.

Any advice on how to fix this - atleast for me?

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Re: Too Specialized and Technical, and dealing with Societal Collapse

Post by Sun Yeti » Sun May 10, 2020 10:43 am

There is a trade-off between efficiency/specialization and redundancy/self-sufficiency.

The history of human civilization is one of becoming more specialized, and less self-sufficient. Without stored resources, one person working on their own to be self-sufficient has to be a stone-age hunter-gatherer. The more people you add, and the more stored resources, the more complex and advanced society you can maintain (at least until resources wear out).

Let's consider the (hopefully quite unlikely) scenario of an essentially total collapse of civilization. There's a plague or a famine or something that's so extreme, it kills off the vast majority of the people, ending countries, trade routes, infrastructure, communication etc.

1. One person, in the woods by themselves with essentially no supplies, would be doing really well to knap together some spearheads, keep a fire going, and smoke some meat/store some acorns to get through the winter. Even some of the best primitive skills experts in the world (like Ray Mears) would be lucky to make it 15 years before dying.

2. A dozen people, with some stored tools, seeds etc. could probably maintain a labor-intensive agricultural society for a few generations before dying out from inbreeding/loss of knowledge and skills/wearing out resources/bad luck catching up with them.

3. A couple hundred people with lots of resources (tools, weapons, agricultural equipment, a large seed library, a huge, robust off-grid energy system with spare parts, a workshop for making/fixing things, a well-supplied clinic with a doctor and a few nurses etc. etc. etc.) probably has 1 in 3 or 1 in 2 odds of surviving and growing long enough to create a new civilization that still retains a small fraction of the most useful knowledge of the present day.

I'm not really prepping for this scenario, as I don't have the resources to set up a well-supplied community of a few hundred people dedicated to riding out doomsday (and that's also assuming for some reason that your community is spared from the general devastation).

For less extreme scenarios, I am picking up various skills as hobbies (like foraging) and looking into joining an intentional community in my area (essentially commune-lite; has communal meals one or twice a week, communal gardens and chores and projects, but everyone has their own jobs outside the community and their own private living space which they own independently).

In general I try to do things that make my life more fun now as well as making me better prepared.
I find it uniquely frustrating that so many preppers have their heads in the sand about climate change.

But, I've come to realize there's no point in arguing with someone if there's no possible evidence you could present that would actually change their mind.

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Re: Too Specialized and Technical, and dealing with Societal Collapse

Post by flybynight » Sun May 10, 2020 11:02 am

Do you hunt or fish? If not obtain a license and teach yourself how to find,hunt and process and preserve the fish and game you harvest. Plant a garden. Since you are in the IT field you you have a basic understanding of electronics. Do you perform electrical repair work around your home? Get a radio kit and build it, Get certified for Ham. Go primitive camping. Hobbies done for recreation can prepare you for unfortunate times.
If your worry is loss of power grid and resulting internet absence, now is the time to utilize it while there is no emergency. I also know a lot of people download information off the web to storable hard drives . This coupled with a solar power panel and some batteries would allow you to access info even with a power grid down situation. Just my thoughts,,, :oh:
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Re: Too Specialized and Technical, and dealing with Societal Collapse

Post by BrokenFiringPin » Sun May 10, 2020 12:56 pm

Thank you both for the replies - they are a good start for me. I did really enjoy commentary on the levels of civilization mentioned as well as your ideas on sustainability for them. I often wonder if some levels of sophistication would go back to the 1800-1900s with some remnants of technology existing. The lack of engagement I have had in the last 60 days has been frustrating for me. While I have actually got a lot done at work - I have felt like this is as close as I have come in my lifetime to an actual war or societal collapse.

My father had a HAM radio setup, with all sorts of appliances but he never got the license. I have had some interest recently in that because of recent events and also because I work at a radio network that provides for about fifteen affiliate sites. Probably one of the cooler assignments I have ever had. I do not know much about sound engineering, but it isn't too far from IP networks in some ways. Other types I have interest in would include short wave. I have also had interest in some of the more blue collar aspects of life - as I am thinking if we really do go down temporally the lawyers and MBA types won't necessarily be in demand. Not until there is something to manipulate.

I haven't yet been hunting in my life to be honest, but have been trained with firearms. I own a few but do not have access to them as I left them with my father. I do have interest in hunting, and as well as becoming an angler. In college - the first time, i spent some time around dead folk for biomed courses before I decided I didn't want to do it, so I don't think I will have a problem field dressing a dear or wild pig if i am hungry. I will have to get exposure.

I have seen that yes, elements the internet would be worth having, having technical manuals for various cars and being able to repair electronics would also be handy. Simple understanding of first aid or parametric training is something else I could imagine being useful.

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Re: Too Specialized and Technical, and dealing with Societal Collapse

Post by MPMalloy » Sun May 10, 2020 1:09 pm

Deep thread. (Respect).

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Re: Too Specialized and Technical, and dealing with Societal Collapse

Post by NT2C » Sun May 10, 2020 2:48 pm

flybynight wrote:
Sun May 10, 2020 11:02 am
I also know a lot of people download information off the web to storable hard drives . This coupled with a solar power panel and some batteries would allow you to access info even with a power grid down situation. Just my thoughts,,, :oh:
It is quite possible to download the entire text of Wikipedia (compressed and without images) to just 9.5 GB

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia ... e_download
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Re: Too Specialized and Technical, and dealing with Societal Collapse

Post by boskone » Sun May 10, 2020 3:08 pm

It's kinda the low-hanging fruit, but I'd try gardening. Even if you can't produce enough to actually sustain yourself, at least you'd have a feel for what it takes.

A plastic tote could probably keep you in herbs, another in maybe peppers and tomatoes. Those could be kept on the balcony of most apartments, assuming sufficient sun exposure.

Then if you get a chance to grab some land, even just a suburban house, you'd have some expertise to bring to bear and build on. Given an acre or two, you could probably become self-sufficient.

If I hadn't screwed around with trying to seed my own potato instead of just buying seed potatoes, I was going to try growing a potato plant in a subirrigated plastic tote and see what the return's like.

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Re: Too Specialized and Technical, and dealing with Societal Collapse

Post by woodsghost » Sun May 10, 2020 3:17 pm

Flybynight has the most direct path to actually fixing your situation. Though a broader understanding is useful too.

I would start getting some practice and experience. My own path started with learning to live off the land if for some reason I was in the woods and needed rescue. For that, I would buy the book "98.6 Degrees: the art of keeping your ass alive." I would read it and start learning those skills.

As you noticed, having a broader skillset for a less high-tech world would be wise. I would enroll in some courses at your community college or tech school. You don't need to do it f for a living. Do it for a hobby.

Start getting to know a more diverse group of people. No one can be an island with all the skills. You need friends. Developing relationships is one of the best preps you can have. Developing a positive mental attitude is one of the other best preps you can develop.
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Re: Too Specialized and Technical, and dealing with Societal Collapse

Post by Stercutus » Sun May 10, 2020 3:18 pm

I've also lamented that no one really understands how meat gets in front of them and how supply chains break until they actually do just that. No one grows their own food or raises their own animals, so they are disconnected from that and have allowed others to harden themselves to the extreme to be the ones who raise, kill and butcher their food. A large segment of the population isn't able to do that from a psychological perspective and that's also a danger to human survival.
This is self-referential data and simply isn't true. For example, practically everyone I know local to me (and many more) that are a functioning members of society either grow or harvest at least some of the food they eat. Our local jail even plants a produce garden every year of some size. The problem is more of a personal one where you have boxed yourself in to a group and community that no longer does these things. This is about life choices you have made that suit the lifestyle that you want to live and what you find comfortable. Most people gravitate towards an environment that they find suits them best.

Your lifestyle and living situation have suddenly been challenged and threatened by events that are outside your ability to control. Your inability to control your environment as you once did by having cheap and easy access to all the necessities and many of the niceties (resources) in life has suddenly made you aware of how fragile your situation is and how dependent upon a system that could fail you at any time. That is part of the equation of how you live life.
Does anyone have any experience breaking away from the technical world periodically while still maintaining that connection for financial support while they put in a little more resources into making themselves sustainable for that post apocalyptic world?
To be fully independent during a catastrophe, disaster or the PAW requires a LOT of resources and preparation. Diminishing returns on money hits pretty early but time spent is normally time well spent. Think of it as an insurance policy and what parts of your current lifestyle you want to maintain separate and away from the system you are dependent upon. That is where you focus your time and resources.
You go 'round and around it
You go over and under
I go through

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Re: Too Specialized and Technical, and dealing with Societal Collapse

Post by BrokenFiringPin » Sun May 10, 2020 5:36 pm

When I used the hyperbole of "No one does" i didn't mean it quite literally. I live away from the city but it is a interesting scenario.

Part of my problem is that through all of my education, service and so forth - I have been isolated with people who work with systems and exposed to bare rudiments of doctrines of survival. I seldom have had much to do with any form of agriculture outside of working in my family's garden when I was younger. Obviously I don't water my crops with Gatorade, but I just don't know much and perhaps that is where to start. When I was young, my family acquired a pair of meat rabbits but they ended up as pets. I'd frankly have trouble killing anything I raised but perhaps I can get into the right mindset for that.

I never went hunting because of the expense, but shooting a wild animal would be easier for me. But I think I'd have to be wise to the diseases that afflict wild animals. It stands to reason though that disease may be far more prevalent with bad animal husbandry than in the wild.

Lately I haven't been eating as much meat - trying to figure out what is best for my diet due to some gastrointestinal issues. I've found that I have been overeating and have tried to slow down. It makes me wonder exactly how much a week do I really need to be healthy. Having been away from the states - I have seen that people don't necessarily need to eat the massive portions they do back home. I think a course on nutrition might help me first though.

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Re: Too Specialized and Technical, and dealing with Societal Collapse

Post by woodsghost » Sun May 10, 2020 6:07 pm

Animal diseases are real. Hunting seasons usually are limited to times when those diseases are less prevalent, such as fall/winter when the bugs carrying diseases are dead. Hopefully. Sometimes warm fall/winter allows those bugs to continue living.

Most of the time a disease which is transferred among animals is not transferable to humans. Until it is. (witness Covid-19).

Also, if gaterade is good for people, it's clearly good for plants.
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Re: Too Specialized and Technical, and dealing with Societal Collapse

Post by darmstrong » Sun May 10, 2020 6:56 pm

woodsghost wrote:
Sun May 10, 2020 6:07 pm
Also, if gaterade is good for people, it's clearly good for plants.
I can assure you from my son's science experiment in 2018 gatorade does not produce good plants. Too much sodium.

Back to the topic at hand, efficiency makes things better overall. In the 1930s a single farmer fed 4 people in the early 2010s a single farmer fed 155 people. This specialization has allowed us to do the things we do. If you work in IT, think of everything as an iteration.
In order to succeed you must first survive.

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Re: Too Specialized and Technical, and dealing with Societal Collapse

Post by woodsghost » Sun May 10, 2020 9:17 pm

darmstrong wrote:
Sun May 10, 2020 6:56 pm
woodsghost wrote:
Sun May 10, 2020 6:07 pm
Also, if gaterade is good for people, it's clearly good for plants.
I can assure you from my son's science experiment in 2018 gatorade does not produce good plants. Too much sodium.

Back to the topic at hand, efficiency makes things better overall. In the 1930s a single farmer fed 4 people in the early 2010s a single farmer fed 155 people. This specialization has allowed us to do the things we do. If you work in IT, think of everything as an iteration.
Electrolytes = Science! :awesome: :clap:

Image

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Re: Too Specialized and Technical, and dealing with Societal Collapse

Post by Stercutus » Mon May 11, 2020 5:51 am

Evolution does not necessarily reward intelligence.
You go 'round and around it
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Re: Too Specialized and Technical, and dealing with Societal Collapse

Post by Sun Yeti » Mon May 11, 2020 4:05 pm

Related to some points that have been raised; I have a copy of Wikipedia including pictures on my phone and my laptop. It's a free app, but I had to spend I think $30 or $40 on an enormous SD card to store it.

I also think it's a really good point that you don't have to be 100% self-sufficient for it to have value as a survival tool. A small garden might only provide a few percent of your annual calories or less, but it gives you flexibility in your food supply and practice growing plants so that you don't have to scale up from nothing to everything if you need to. Similarly, my foraging hobby doesn't currently provide more than maybe 5 or 10% of our calories, but it's probably half the produce we consume, which gives us flexibility to go to the store less often/at the least crowded times, which slightly reduces our chances of catching/passing covid. I've got a solar powered wall light in my living room that I can also use to charge phones or run a small fan. It only provides a few percent of our electricity use, but it made a huge different in an extended power outage during the heat of the summer a few years ago.
I find it uniquely frustrating that so many preppers have their heads in the sand about climate change.

But, I've come to realize there's no point in arguing with someone if there's no possible evidence you could present that would actually change their mind.

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Re: Too Specialized and Technical, and dealing with Societal Collapse

Post by raptor2 » Mon May 11, 2020 6:34 pm

Stercutus wrote:
Sun May 10, 2020 3:18 pm
Your lifestyle and living situation have suddenly been challenged and threatened by events that are outside your ability to control. Your inability to control your environment as you once did by having cheap and easy access to all the necessities and many of the niceties (resources) in life has suddenly made you aware of how fragile your situation is and how dependent upon a system that could fail you at any time. That is part of the equation of how you live life.
QFT! Well said

darmstrong wrote:
Sun May 10, 2020 6:56 pm
Back to the topic at hand, efficiency makes things better overall. In the 1930s a single farmer fed 4 people in the early 2010s a single farmer fed 155 people. This specialization has allowed us to do the things we do. If you work in IT, think of everything as an iteration.
If you ever need to be humbled try growing your own food in a kitchen garden. You will quickly gain respect for the professional farmers.
In 2013 I decided to convert 1 acre of my farm into a kitchen garden.
I planned to use it as a learning tool on how to grow crops.
To that end I wanted to do all of the work myself. I read up on the crops I was going to grow.
I layed out the garden plots. I tilled the soil, added additional soil to raise the beds to accommodate each crop. I added PVC piping above the ground for irrigation.

I planted various food crops based upon recommendations of the local AG guy. I watered and weeded those little bastards for months. After dividing up the crop with the feral pigs, rabbits, birds raccoons and other local critters. (The entire crop of water melon days before they were ready to be harvested were feasted upon by feral pigs who ate about 1/2 of each). I netted enough veggies for side dishes for 2 meals...a dismal failure compounded by a waste of effort and materials.

I added some fencing to keep the varmits out and tried again in the fall because ... well ... it is a learning experience.
More work, more sweat, more exertion and my yield did increase simply due to the reduced predation. Went from laughable to pathetic
I did this for 2 more growing seasons until I realized that if I have to grow my own food my wife and I will starve due to the effort vs. results.

It was at this point I decided that 1/4 acre and 4 crops were more than enough ... at some point you have cut your losses.

Then the light bulb moment; by reducing the size of the plot (less work for me) but more importantly reducing the mix of items grown and concentrating upon the few crop success (specialization) I had my yield-to-effort increase dramatically. I produced more calories of food than I expended growing them. That is where the kitchen garden stands today. We grow only 3 crops in 2 seasons. We wind up with a surplus of these items at "harvest time".

So a few take aways:
1. My hat is off to the modern farmers who can be so productive with their acreage to make so much produce.

2. To the OP, specialization arose and will continue to exist for the exact reason I noted above. Do not fight specialization, rather accept that its is the logical evolution of any and all tasks.

3. To cope with specialization you need to expand your skill set and continuously challenge yourself to learn more. Expect and accept failure as a cost of the learning process. (Not saying seek failure only accept it as an inevitable cost of learning).


Edited to add:
Some skills that while they will evolve will remain in demand:
1. Electricians. A master electrician will not be out of work for long. A master electrician with IT skills and PCL programing skills is even better.
2. Programmers who do PCL programming with Alan Bradley & Rockwell will not be out of work long & old equipment is cheaper so it will remain in service longer.
Duco Ergo Sum


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