An acid test for your career aspirations

Topic: Detailed career opportunities

Length: 2646 words

Executive summary: Almost every profession can be approached with the future-proof Big 5 human challenges and Big 5 singularity technologies in mind, and still be kind of fun and rewarding in itself. So, not just robotics. And, yes, still hating on finance :)

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Show me the money!

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I’ve realised two things:

1) you don’t care about happiness

and

2) you demand precise guidance for your education and career (as opposed to general “whatever makes your heart beat, or help humankind with robotics” type of advice)

 

Nobody cares about your schmakapalbhati breathing, grandpa

So, where does this realization come from all of a sudden? Well…

I get very few questions about, and reactions to, articles about financial investments, about pension savings, about the future of robotics, about fulfillment and happiness vs. fortune and fame. You know, the things I actually write about, the “know yourself”, “lower the threshold to get started”, “champagne spray parties aren’t that fun” kind of posts.

What I do get is an endless stream of demand for career advice: “Should I study this or that?”, “Should I work here or there?”, “Should I focus on a traditional career or go it alone as an entrepreneur?”, “Which industries should I target?”, etc.

I thought I had already answered all of the above with:

  1. Skip (formal, traditional) school
  2. Just say no to finance
  3. Be an entrepreneur
  4. Solve the big 5 with the big 5
  5. Have fun no matter what you do

have fun

Done!

 

Robotics! How hard can it be?

When that, to my great surprise and deep disappointment, wasn’t enough I specified:

Work with robotics (which I thought was self-explanatory)

That still didn’t cut it, apparently, so I tried this:

Think of all the separate parts of a robot; legs, fingers, muscles, arms actuators, sensors, tools; or it’s sub-systems; motion, balance, vision, smell, and figure out what part or system you think needs improvement.

Another line of attack could be visiting every local robotics company you can think of and connect the dots, i.e., identify which companies could benefit from each other without competing. Or, think about ways to combine several different solutions to, e.g., vision or balance, into the same robot.

I got nothing but glazed over eyes and open mouths from that (I know Japan is ahead in both fields that spring to mind, but I’m strictly talking robotics here. Then again, robots… never mind)

BB8

So, I tried being specific:

“Here are videos of bipedal robots, BB8-type of ball balancing robots (5 years before BB8), quadripeds (and more). And here are bipedal robots using gyroscopes for balance, and here are humanoids using fancy software algorithms choosing the optimal foot movement from an internal trial and error simulation of 100 different choices in a hundredth of a second. And here are quads learning from experience, and here are robots actually forecasting when they’re about to be hit and (simulating and) bracing before impact.”

Nothing. Except the occasional “you know a lot about robots”.

I elaborated:

“And here are robots using sound (see round corners, measure distance), laser (distance), stereoscopic cameras (Kinect 3D), radar, x-rays, object databases (to recognize objects and forecast their texture, weight etc. beforehand), memory (gradually build a coherent 3D memory of the surroundings and add incoming/new objects from there), blueprints (it helps knowing the building rather than just looking and feeling).”

“Wow! They can see in so many ways”

or

“Yeah, yeah, schmobotics, but will I get rich more predictably in management consulting than in finance, albeit richer in the latter if I rise to the top?”. “Should I take that job in the economy department of a hedge fund or stay as sales at a big investment bank?”

robot landing

No!

No, no, no! The proper reaction would have been: “Ah, but if we combined sound, laser, Kinect, blueprints, repositories and memory in the same robot, it would actually know exactly what it is dealing with. I wonder if it could catch a baseball if…”, and “What if you built a quadriped that had balance balls for feet and very small such pressure sensitive balls for fingertips (great for gripping delicate things just enough not to let them slip).”

“Perhaps not on all feet or all fingertips. It could be equipped with a gyroscope as well… several…, and a simulation engine that dealt with sudden blows as well as predictable impacts (hello vision!). “I wonder what power source they are using?”. “What kind of ‘muscles’ do they use? Pure mechanical spring systems might be better (already done though).”. “What if it falls down or rolls over?”

“Hey, Sprezza! How come a bipedal robot isn’t much better at managing stairs than humans? Why do they act as if every step is completely new to them? Shouldn’t you be able to give it a hard kick in the back, and it should be ready long before impact, and either bracing enough (judging your weight and kick speed and power correctly) or having another plan for regaining its balance, as well as be able to catch a baseball at the same time? Why not do an impromptu somersault with in-air side-split before making a perfect superhero landing on the stairs?!”

Yeah, I guess I shouldn’t hope for such a question, since monkeys are more likely to fly out of my ass long before that happens.

Ouch!

And we’re still only talking about robotics, and in very crude and tangible respects. I haven’t even updated the above thoughts in the last 5 years and still the kids don’t get it. So, here’s a slight update:

Add “cop” to the mix…, as in robocopters. There are multicopters everywhere now: quadcopters, hexacopters, octocopters etc. for filming, selfies, weaponry, inspection, search and rescue, even plans for commercial airliners. The Avengers live in a large octocopter since several years back.

So, now I can direct young people to Youtube videos of cars that can drive on vertical surfaces aided by copter fans, to swarms of small quads interacting, helping each other maneuver, accelerate, catch things, and soon, with your help, maybe showing emergent behavior as in Crichton’s amazing (his best) novel “Prey”.

Don’t forget AlphaGo’s amazing Go victories, and its future careers in health care, online poker, mining, global warming research etc. Or Alphabet’s other robot ventures (through Boston Dynamics), not to mention all the slithering, swimming, crawling and flying things on display in various TED talks.

The reason I singled out robotics as a good example of a change resistant career, was that I thought the opportunities within programming, mechanics, sales, miniaturization, materials, batteries, solar, project management etc. were self-evident. In addition, automation stands a good chance of being the last industry to be automated.

Apparently these things weren’t self evident, so let’s be a little more specific:

I think robotics has the potential of becoming for this century what the auto industry has been for the last century.

At present there are a lot of stupid single-purpose robots everywhere – some are status symbols, some are not anymore. They are called cars, washing machines, dishwashers, vacuum cleaners etc. Soon, more general-purpose robots will take over more and more household chores, caretaking of sick and old, companionship, telepresence/socializing. I also think robots can become the new status symbol that so far has been reserved for cars.

They had that vision a little prematurely in Rocky IV (released in 1984), but now, 30 years on, there may be just ten years more before its realization. Aibos and copterdrones have been pointing firmly in that direction for at least half a decade now.

Okay, so I’ve understood I have to be much more concrete when guiding you. I do get it, you don’t have the same experience as I do, or the overview and time to think about how certain technologies and human challenges combine to form tremendous career opportunities for you.

My bad.

I’m such a COK (meaning suffering from Curse Of Knowledge) for not being more clear and precise about these things. This post is meant to remedy that.

 

It’s not just about robotics, but all the Big 5

The way I see it is this. If you want to be as future proof as possible, you should work in areas that are hard to automate (preferably the automation-enabling industries themselves) and that deal with the largest and most challenging issues the human race is facing:

“5” Challenges

  • Energy
  • Pollution
  • Global warming
  • Food
  • Water
  • Longevity/death
  • Depression (in the wake of automation, unemployment and abundance)

 

I think the best way to deal with the above big challenges is to be found in the following exponentially developing technologies:

“5” Technologies

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Robotics
  • Nanotechnology
  • Biotechnology
  • Additive manufacturing

 

More specific areas where you could contribute are listed below. Remember that each one of the below are meant in the widest of senses. “Programming”, e.g., means everything from actually coding, to designing user friendly apps or planning out whole systems, to marketing them. The same goes for VR (headset hardware, treadmills, software, games, simulation software…) or genetics (reading the code faster and cheaper, finding useful patterns/genes/diseases, visualization software, marketing) and so on.

Subcategories

  • Programming
  • Virtual and Augmented Reality, vision
  • Bionics (sense restoration and augmentation, X-ray vision, e.g.)
  • Artificial agents
  • Space exploration and mining
  • Artificial biology
  • Genetics
  • Stem cell research
  • Organ printing
  • Driverless vehicles
  • Neurology/brain interfaces
  • Multi-resistant bacteria/bacteriophages
  • Mechanics
  • Motors/actuators
  • Psychology/emotion sensing and manipulation
  • Surgery
  • Health care
  • Pandemics
  • Carbon capture
  • Desalination of sea water (source, clean, transport, finance…)
  • Fusion (chamber, materials, fuel, storage…)
  • Solar cells
  • Housing (prospect, plan, materials, energy, agri)
  • Migration (where to live, how to be integrated, educated)
  • Debt clean-up
  • Entertainment (incl. porn)
  • Psychology (dealing with migration or not fitting in the automated world of the future)
  • Energy storage (batteries)
  • Vertical farming
  • Insect farming
  • Algae farming
  • Ecological (insect fed) fish farming

Since those technologies themselves are in the vanguard, and driven by human creativity, they are the least likely to be automated anytime soon. Rather they are advanced by humans aided by tools provided by the previous technological generation in an ever accelerating cycle. That’s where you want to be, whether it is in engineering, design, marketing, psychology etc.

I guess you need a list for that last part:

  • Engineering
  • Design
  • Marketing
  • Psychology

 

What do we want? And how?

We want a time machine! When do we want it? It is irrelevant!

time machine

by Pixabay

Alright, sorry for that. My apologies.

What do we want? Well, you want money, I know that much, but why do you want it?

“That’s irrelevant, just show me the money” you might say, but it would be wrong.

You want to buy food, clean water, a roof over your head, clothes, other stuff, healthcare, energy for running your tools. Well that and a Lamborghini, fancy food, champagne for your spray parties at Ocean Club, Marbella etc.

How are these things going to be produced? With the help of better and better tools provided by the big 5 technologies.

 

What’s your part in it?

Well, what can you do? What are you interested in? Your education doesn’t really matter, unless you want to become a medical doctor, a lawyer, a finance slave or work at a top tier management consultant. Most every other line of work lies wide open.

Just start tinkering, taking things apart, meeting people, interviewing them, reading stuff, connecting dots, studying online (here are 144 resources) and soon you’ll be the expert, the having ‘right’ education or not. If you’re driven and interested, you could fit 50 hours a week of your future-proofing, on top of the lowly bread winning activity you temporarily have to engage in. Remember how you could play all day long as a child, with no regard to remuneration for your efforts? That’s how I feel about blogging and podcasting, and probably would about tinkering with robot hardware and software too.

After just one single year, your 2500 hours will have brought you close to expert level, in whatever you single out as your area. Imagine where you’d be in 5 (the length of a typical education) if you keep at it.

 

Speed things up with a little acid

I’m not you, and I can’t go through the pros and cons associated with every conceivable job. However, think more in terms of satisfying yourself, than living either vicariously or conspicuously. Think more in terms of exploring and possibly leading for the experience in itself, rather than becoming a CEO or other kind of manager, just for the status and money.

 

Life is not about being a rock star, it’s about rocking and rolling

 

…you still need the money however. Sure.

And you want to feel pride about your work, and not having to fear being axed all the time. Well then, back to the list of future-proof jobs, industries, challenges, their intersections with each other, with your interests and skills; and…

Perhaps, if it’s legal where you are, try 50 ug of LSD to gain a fresh perspective on it all; your interests, your abilities, your aspirations. Reading this post again right before should set the stage nicely. Here is a great 15-minute video detailing the differences between the effects of LSD and psilocybin respectively.

N.B. I haven’t. No, promise. Scout’s honor. Whatthef…, read my lips: I. Haven’t. Dropped. Acid. Or munched ‘shrooms.

Ever.

LSD

 

Do it for the rainbow, not the gold

“But what about finance?”

Well, here’s some food for thought: Finance wasn’t cool or high-paying when Buffett or Marks or Dalio and other finance gurus entered the business.

They did it because they were fascinated by understanding business models and doing research. In short: they did it for fun, not money. They did it for the rainbow; there just happened to be a pot of gold at the end of it as well. If you focus too much on the gold, you’ll miss the rainbow altogether.

Since they began in the business, we’ve experienced 40 years of falling interest rates and more and more (over-)banking, as well as rocketing valuations to the highest point in history (median MC/GAV, which unlike all other models is more than 90% correlated with subsequent decade long average returns).

That’s why and how they got rich, including dozens of followers and wannabes riding the same spectacular wave of financial innovation and money debauchement. I think that trend is about to reverse, leading to much worse prospects for employment, careers and riches.

Thus, I think it’s time to focus on real innovation and production (virtual reality counts as real) instead of the ephemeral Ponzi scheme that is finance.

Oh, and if you claim to have a ‘burning interest’ in finance, investing or management consulting, you shouldn’t care about slaving away at Goldman or McKinsey. Or about being paid the big bucks by somebody else. Open your own shop, manage your own money, develop your own models in collaboration with like-minded people on social media.

 

Rock on!

This is the summary: Rock not rock star.

Fun, unique, human, entrepreneur, problem-solving; not an employed drone in a soon-to-be-automated mindless toil in whore village – at least not as more than a short gig to get started.

By the way, my wolfram just lit up: anything worth doing is future proof. Well, unless you really think driving a truck, ship, airplane and similar extremely automation-prone jobs are meaningful and fun if it weren’t for the pay.

Now, sign up for my free newsletter, and share this article with a friend heading in the wrong direction.

When technology steals your job (Part II)

15-second summary

Fuck you money is good for escaping a soul sucking job. But don’t reverse the logic by launching a meaningless career with the intent of eventually becoming financially independent.

If you still think you want that money, no matter what, make sure to choose a technology proof path.

Here is me celebrating escaping the work vortex (picture by Ludvig at SGM)

roof top Sprezzatura

I’m finally free of obligations, and thankfully as curious as ever

 

Designing a future proof career

How does a career in the robotic (AI) porn industry sound to you? It should be (in)decently future-proof (requires human touch, creativity, and rides current trends in technology, not to mention perhaps the strongest human drive of all). It could be lucrative too (albeit, quite competitive).

What do you say? Do you see a box of promotional lubricants in your future? Read on for 45 minutes’ dissection of your future job market.

You’ll find Part I to this article here (it’s just a 3-minute read and mostly a list of interesting science pod casts).

Wits and hard work is not enough

My main point is this: there is no career alternative that you can easily identify, and get rich from predictably, simply by being smart and hard working.

Hence, you should choose an area where you’ll be happy/fulfilled, catering to your own most important demands.

Quite possibly, you’ll become wealthy too, after long enough… or, more likely, stop caring about money on the way. At least I hope so – even if there are a lot of Ebenezers out there constantly proving me wrong.

My guess (and hope) is that you’ll dismiss investment banking and management consulting as future industries for you, instead immersing yourself in exploration of some of the big four technologies (nanotech, AI, biotech, automation/robotics) in order to solve the big five problems (Food, Water, Energy, Pollution, Health).

My personal choice would be one of, or a combination of, some of the following areas: medicine, psychology, anti-virus (IRL or VR), AI, robotics, automation, clean energy, water purification/desalination and parentless protein (plant, lab grown meat, insects).

cricket flour

yummy

 

However, if you’re dead set on whoring out (for a while), I have something for you too. A hint: it’s not finance; that’s a dead end.

Choose carefully if staying in the same industry is a priority

Flipping burgers? You’re out. Automated grinders, grillers, stackers will outdo you on every account from speed and quality to price

Cashier? You’re out.

Paralegal? You’re out. Watson will outread and outsummary you in a second. A lawyer of any kind however is a different story; think taxes and divorces.

Household services? You’re out. Not quite yet, but new materials, new robots, new methods and procedures will steadily erode the cleaning lady niche.

Teacher? Yes, for the very few of you that can thrive online. No for most.

Economics/finance?

Bank teller? Out. Back office? Out. Broker? Out. Portfolio Manager? Out (ETFs and HFTs are taking your job). Quant? There is still some road left. Marketing/Sales? You’re in! That kind of human touch and creativity is very hard to automate (but be sure to use every data mining robot available or you’ll be run over. Remember that any decent chess player, with the help of a chess program, will reliably beat the world champion)

Massage therapist? Congratulations, you get to massage the obnoxious 1% that can afford you.

Psychotherapist? Congratulations, there will be a lot of work for you. Anxiety levels are rising (not least due to the perceived threat of technology) and the need for a human touch will be there for a long time yet.

Are you an engineer? Make sure you stay on top of your game or you’ll end up just supervising computers doing your job. Okay, engineers, you’re in!

Programmer? Somebody will have to make the “robots” run. It could be you – either as a household tinkerer to save money or do barter, or professionally to make money. In!

Alright, you get my point: There are not many places to hide and it will only get worse. An area that might seem secure today can easily be threatened a decade from now. I mean, who knows how automated massage, acupuncture and sales might develop.

So, what should you do?

Secure a livelihood or live

There are a few ways to approach the issue of work for a young person these days.

  • Focus on maximizing your career opportunities, your potential for wealth, status and post-career opportunities and security. Perhaps you can do what you want later but you risk killing off your soul (obviously not the path I would recommend)
  • Focus on having fun and enjoying life in the short to mid term, and worry about middle age and retirement later. Maybe you’ll never “grow up”. Maybe fun will always be enough. NB: “fun” doesn’t mean travel and binge drinking, it means pursuing serious work that is intriguing and stimulating long term.
  • Or is there some kind of magical middle of the road alternative that is both fun and fulfilling as well as enriching? There might be, as I tangentially wrote about here.

 

I hope Tim and the others at the super cool site Wait But Why see this picture as flattery and not theft

 

 

Maximizing your work life longevity

From a pure livelihood perspective, be prepared to keep learning, keep finding ways to ride the technology wave – using hw/sw tools to stay above water, rather than be made obsolete by them – and not least: be prepared to have many different careers.

You want to keep your brain and mind youthful and fresh (best achieved by constantly trying new things and learning and practicing new and diverse skills. You might find some inspiration in the pod casts I recommended the other day).

You want to be unique and useful (through unusual combinations of experiences and skills – which makes me think of the world’s perhaps foremost AI expert, Margaret Boden. She has a background as a medical doctor and psychology student who turned to philosophy and eventually to AI).

Your needs or others’?

Humans are pretty simple in general (not you of course, but the rest). We evolved as pattern recognizers (to move, understand and predict movement, find food, fight adversaries etc.) and social animals (protection, child-rearing).

Once the basic needs of nutrition and shelter are out of the way, humans want to procreate, socialize, explore/identify patterns (understand our environment), relax and sleep.

Success or happiness?

When planning your future you want to strike just the right balance between your needs/wants (and capacity) and other people’s needs/wants (the demand side). The former determines your happiness. The latter your success.

I’m sure you have your basic survival needs reasonably covered (food, water, energy, shelter/sleep) and would ideally want to focus on sex, socializing and discovery. If you are Beta you might be thinking of money and status too, but in my opinion those are more or less unnecessary steps toward the true goals.

However, half of the world’s population is still struggling with the basics (making meeting those needs a great business idea), while the other half has some potential to go after the secondary goals like yourself. And then there is the rounding error one per cent like myself:

Humans are pattern recognizers

A side note: My fellow one per centers might not have any reason for financial worries. They however still struggle to find meaning in their lives and would be well advised to think deeply about human nature to find a path that is truly fulfilling.

I would suggest Understanding and Sharing, which is just a sound byte way of saying that humans evolved to want/need to recognize patterns, to understand the world and universe, to explore and make scientific discoveries and not least to share our knowledge and experiences with others. Those who didn’t went extinct. The ones who are still around can’t be fulfilled without it.

Back to your best career path.

Fulfill your needs while fulfilling others’

Go after what is most needed both now and as far down the line as you can imagine. The more you focus on the wants of others’ the more future-proof and wealthy you’ll become.

Basic needs: Water, Food, Shelter, Pharmaceuticals and Energy (really the key to everything and has always been. We have ridden the energy source waves of wood, coal, oil and uranium to make/transport food, clean water, buildings/heating/cooling, pharmaceuticals etc).

Higher needs: Sex, Socializing/Sharing, Relaxation (entertainment), Discovery (preferably scientific)

Rich and poor

Photo by Tuca Vieira

Do it while satisfying as much as possible of your own (mostly secondary, higher) needs and building a platform to serve your needs longer-term.

Alternatively, only worry about yourself, your needs; work in something fulfilling and you don’t have to worry about getting that illusive fuck you money.

You might not realize it yet, but “scientific discovery is the greatest pleasure there is”

-Said a brain scientist on a recent pod cast. I agree.

Travel, exploration, discovery, socializing/help

You want to travel to interesting places? How about working with the Red Cross?

No, you won’t get financially rich but you will experience a lot of things, and possibly be able to do some interesting research along the way. A small caveat: you might want to be a medical doctor, a nurse, an engineer, a statistician or so to get anywhere. I don’t know if you can simply start as a self-educated bum even in that kind of organization.

Gaming, entertainment, relaxation, socializing, technology

You like gaming and virtual worlds? Go for programming and designing them or sales and marketing. Demand seems almost infinite. Further, it rhymes well with our evolutionary needs for relaxation and socializing, as well as technological trends. Learn how to code, or design, or promote, or create believable stories/characters.

Discovery

You like science and discovery? Find a path into the world of biotechnology, AI, robotics or nanotechnology. You just might find yourself helping solve the global issues of food, water, energy and health, while satisfying your own needs for pattern recognition.

man vs machine

Just rich, please. And quickly!

Fuck that! You just want to be rich – or at least get some decent job security for the long run. You don’t want my hippie mindfulness strategies for happiness. You want the mohnay!

So, how do you go about whoring out? How can you go for short term profits, before moving on to your real ambitions (after you have taken care of your finances and never have to answer to a boss again)?

I hate to break it to you but there is no easy and surefire (or legal) way of getting your hands on real fuck you money in short order. For that you need luck, contacts, skills and maybe a higher education diploma from a top college too (even if I think skills such as programming are becoming more important than formal education). And even if some paths are more consistently lucrative than other, they typically take decades, not years.

Job security

Okay, forget about rich or fast, you just want job security:

Porn could work, but to get your hands on serious money, I imagine you would have to get (your hands) really dirty on the way. Competition must be hard considering how much cheap and free stuff there is online.

AI-robotics-porn will become big someday. And I’m serious about this. Whoever cracks this market open will be rolling in dough, and my money is on there being a lot of adjacent IRL opportunities too (voices, faces etc).

The finance industry is crowded, shrinking and built on central banking stimulus quicksand.

If you study engineering, math, statistics and then whore out as a quant at the right HFT firm you just might make it.

Nota bene: I can very well imagine working as a quant can be challenging, fun and fulfilling if you like it. Here however, I’m talking about the situation where you only do it for the money.

However, considering the disservice HFTs are doing to society, how easy it would be to regulate the industry to death (transaction taxes) and the likely coming market collapse, do you want to take the chance? I wouldn’t.

Some finance outfits will continue to consistently make a lot of money in finance. It’s just very hard to know which ones and how to get in on it (and high enough in the hierarchy). Perhaps it will be fundamentally driven hedge funds – that would be new. Unfortunately they are struggling now, so no new hires for a while.

“Business” (making deals) will still create value, be in demand and can be fun and meaningful. Start small, slowly build up your deal making empire, while acquiring more and more skills on the way. This is the Always Be Investing Way. This line of “work” could be just anything. Observe your environment and buy and sell products and services to make life easier for others. 

By the way, one researcher on a science pod recently said that it’s deal making that separates humans from animals and forced us to develop a nuanced language. On the other hand, another researcher said that the first religion was centered around the newly invented cheese (which helped neolithics, who were all lactose intolerant, from starving to death during a drought), and that writing was invented to keep track of all the cheese.

Technology, engineering, programming, math, statistics etc. all enable, as well as ride the wave of accelerating progress. It’s creative and requires non-automated humans. Here you will stay ahead of the automation curve for the foreseeable future. This is where you want to be.

Law: You might try becoming a tax or divorce lawyer. The legal system seems to be the only industry I can think of that will keep growing and that is complicated enough to make a decent living from. Unfortunately you must have a long formal education and on the job training before you start making money.

Law just might be the ultimate whoring out alternative: boring as well as parasitical, and possibly paying very well  after a few invested decades. Oh, did I say that New Scientist already thinks that lawyers might be becoming obsolete?

The anatomy of a change resistant job

It must be non-repetitive, creative and require a human touch in some way. It should create value, satisfy the demand of others, improve the productivity of others, and use technology rather than easily being replaced by it.

The following areas from the top of my mind appear robust, attractive, fun and meaningful to me:

  • Robotics
  • AI
  • marketing
  • psychology
  • anything creative (games, music, movies, virtual worlds)
  • food (vertical farms, insects, algae)
  • energy (fusion, solar, wave)
  • water (desalination, purifying)
  • the environment (carbon capture, cap & trade-schemes, toilets)

The last few weeks I have actually been seriously toying with the idea of starting an insect farm to produce insect food (on paper it’s the holy grail of food: omega-3 rich, protein rich, non-animal food, made from things most of us wish didn’t have to exist at all. In addition, insects eat anything [or just sugar, which is extremely cheap] and breed like crickets).

It might be fun too, but since I would mainly do it for the protein for myself, I could just as well order it from companies like Aspire instead.

You will always know the details better than I do

The job market has become more complicated than 25 years ago but the more it changes the more it stays the same.

I don’t claim to know exactly what career opportunities there are for you. I’m sure you have a better grasp about the specifics relevant for you for the remainder of this decade. However, I think I can give you some food for thought and perspective on how to approach the decision problem to avoid the worst mistakes.

When I was 15 and had just finished 9th grade (1987, the year of the black Monday on the stock market), there were only 3 real alternatives for secondary school: Natural sciences, Economy and Engineering. There were some other weird alternatives, but none that anybody took seriously.

When I graduated from my Natural Sciences program (18 years old in 1990, not long after the Berlin wall came down, and 5 years before the IPO of Netscape and the advent of the world wide web), the choices for college weren’t any more complicated: Engineering, Economy, Law and Medicine (and some other esoteric non-starter alternatives).

There was no on-line education, no realistic way to acquire skills outside of the system. Things have changed a lot since then. Now the choices are endless, and so are the pitfalls.

So, you know the details better. I can’t tell you which alternative is better. Programming? Porn? Finance? Engineering. Medicine? Law? I don’t know. The problem at hand is too complex and too difficult, in particular for an outsider (without skin in the game, it’s impossible to motivate myself to peer through every conceivable education and career path).

All I want to do is provide you with some tools to help you think systematically about making a robust education and career choice. If possible.

Ask yourself the right questions

1. What do you want? Money or happiness. Duh! You want happiness (and that you get by fulfilling your higher needs), it’s just that you might still think you have to go through money to get there. Okay, I get it: You want Money.

2. What do others want (that’s how you get the money; by fulfilling higher and lower needs of others)? What do you need to provide that? Formal education, skills, money, contacts?

3. What opportunities will technology ruin for you over time? What opportunities will be enhanced by technology?

4. Make a list of what it is you really want. And if it starts by money, be explicit with what it is you are going to buy with the money (cars, sex, drugs?). It might just focus your mind toward your real wants.

5. Make a list of areas you think could be future proof (not easily automated by robots or IBM’s Watson) and where you stand a chance to get in. They should pass the test of satisfying real and eternal human demands (or possibly cater to wanna-be Ebenezers, looking for fame and fortune).

6. Make a list of what you are prepared to do in terms of education, training and work (you whore you!) to get the kind of money you want/need, before quitting and doing what you really want. Compare that to the alternative of starting with what you want right away instead of taking the detour over money.

7. My guess (and hope) is that you’ll dismiss Goldman Sachs and McKinsey as future employers, and go for some of the big four technologies (nanotech, AI, biotech, automation/robotics) to solve the big five basic problems (Food, Water, Energy, Pollution, Health).

An impossible equation requires a sidestep

The choices are overwhelming, and the landscape is changing ever faster. You are facing a decision cube (at least 3-D) of what you want, what others want, and your capacity & willingness to whore out.

career choice

So, how can you choose the right path to wealth? One that makes you rich enough before losing yourself. I think you can’t. So choose happiness instead. Altucher might call it “choose yourself”. For some that will mean money as well, for other “just” happiness and a meaningful and well spent life.

Take it from me, wealth, fame and status are mirages. It seems fun to get drunk on a yacht, but it’s just as fun anywhere else. Driving a sports car in 200 mph is fun (and probably unnecessarily dangerous) but so is riding a roller coaster. Even better is the “simple” pleasure of discovering something new.

I suggest you aim for feeding your inner pattern recognizer through science and exploration, instead of wasting your years on the intermediary goal of becoming wealthy. Also, please note the difference between doing something fun and meaningful vs. just goofing around or trying to follow your”passion”. The latter is also quite misdirected.

You still need a livelihood, I get that. What I’m saying is that that could be just about anything you find interesting and rewarding intellectually long term. Worry about satisfaction and skills first, pay later. However, if you cast a wide enough net (living laterally) quite likely you’ll find that something productive and useful is what speaks to your pattern recognizing self.

Keep investing in the things that matter

Just remember that there will be no welfare state in the future, unless technology evolves so quickly and spreads so widely (more or less The Singularity scenario) that not just the automation oligarchs get to participate in the abundance.

Therefore you should cultivate a mindset of  adaptation, a diverse set of skills and a wide net of friends. While building layers on top of layers (“investing” is accumulative) over the years, I think you’ll find yourself change resistant, highly satisfied and “happy” and, with time, quite possibly financially wealthy as well:

layer upon layer career investing

Always Be Investing (in yourself)

 

Your call

So, time for soul searching. Do you want happiness or do you want success?

If you decide on the latter, think hard about human nature and which areas might be more long term stable than others.

businessman