The people have no skills. All they do is consume and complain. Our economy has become a gluttony of media. Too many people are paid to sit around and talk. Those that actually make what we use are underpaid. And we are all undertrained. Our biggest companies make products that people don’t even want, like advertisements and debt. Those who control capital work to ensure it goes toward raising rent instead of curing diseases. Education is in a downward spiral. We're not going to learn anything on Zoom. We need a way to teach and learn from each other. We need to elevate the innovators.
Where has all the concrete gone? I see capable minds sitting above carpets, chained to laptops, reporting and meeting and Zooming over and over and over. Talking about ideas without action. Talking about deals that never close. All because leadership and skills are lacking. They stare at the screen and make things only for the screen. Some can barely live without the screen.
I fear we are creating less and less. And since we cannot understand what we cannot create, we understand less and less. Can you believe how many people do nothing but trade things? Why can't they make things? Can you believe we idolize those that consume the most? We should revere those that produce what is really important, like children. This cannot go on.
To fix this issue I decided to start with myself. What are my skills, and how can I improve them? I made a list of useful skills and categorized them according to epochs of human development. I was shocked.
While I had trained in school, work, and at home in a few skills I enjoyed, mostly programming and electronics, I found I had spent a great deal of time and money on education and I embarrassingly lacked even stone age skills. I was also woefully ignorant of foundational societal work like welding and construction, and unprepared for the industries of the future like bionics, materials science, and biotechnology.
So I decided to go back to school, forever. We need a new renaissance. And to do it we need new renaissance men and women. But what would they look like? What would one look for in a Mars Colonist? Why do so many people stop learning after school? Why are some of these important skills so difficult to learn? Maybe nothing is that hard to learn if you have the right teacher. I believe there is tremendous value in being a jack of all trades, master of one. And the one can change over time.
I chose a scale of 7 somewhat arbitrarily. I think of 0 as having no experience and 7 as an outlier in the field. I plan to keep this page updated as I progress in my education. I designed a poster for my wall as well. Every morning I wake up and decide to improve my skill in at least one area that day. I also have a column for domain experts I know in each skill that can help me learn and I keep them close.
There are 48 skills below across 5 categories, or epochs of human development. For triple redundancy I imagine a Mars Cohort would have at least 3 people who are 7’s in each area, and every colonist would need to be at least a 3 in all areas, for a total of 150 people.
I do not pretend this is a complete education. While writing is important, there is not time devoted to a certain list of authors or thinkers. Ideally we do not study the works of men. We study nature. Also it may appear foundational courses are lacking like math and physics. Perhaps the best way to learn these is by applying them. There is math everywhere. We do not need to go out of our way to find it. It appears naturally.
I also decided that skills without morals are empty, even potentially harmful. So I also added a list of virtues, mostly inspired by Benjamin Franklin, as well as three principles for guidance.
I imagine someone wanting to skill up could devote a year to the program. They could work on one skill every week, one virtue every month, and the three principles are easy to remember. In fact, why not do this every year? But first, I needed to start with a skills audit of myself.
If you want to print this, note it will not fit well on a 8.5" x 11" piece of paper. You will need to find an expert who knows about printing and paper. There is a lot to know! Find them, learn from them, and get it printed. This is good practice.
Be Peaceful. Be Honest. Be Helpful.
Honesty | Kindness | Perseverance | Dependability | Generosity | Cheerfulness | Gratitude | Discipline | Encouragement | Patience | Helpfulness | Creativity
Social - 4
- I struggle with proactive communication but I’m kind, I’m honest, I have a good number of friends, most of my relationships are healthy, and I throw a great party. I enjoy solitude but I am working very intentionally on being a better listener, and I can bring people together for the right reasons.
Growing - 3
- I love farming. There is a ton of money and value in farming. I have experience turning dry, barren soil in to beautiful fertile loam. I have read countless books on soil and agriculture. I love worms. I know about compost. I know the value of soil biology. Farming is in my blood, and it is a big part of my life. Self-reliance is a powerful weapon against oppression. And a big part of it is farming. Farming is freedom. This is not obsolete technology. It is advanced technology. And more people need to understand it better.
Cooking - 4
- I wasn't always but now I’m a great cook, breakfast lunch dinner desert, baking is my specialty, especially bread, I’m great with meat and a grill / smoker as well. I can make a few sauces and generally can make a good meal out of what’s available and know how to use all major kitchen tools and appliances. I am also passionate about beverages and nutrition.
Learning / Teaching - 5
- I believe learning is a skill. You can get better at it. Learning how to learn also has overlap with teaching. You can teach yourself. You can teach others. You can even teach your teacher. By training myself to read faster, ask better questions, and identifying patterns in people, I have become a better learner and teacher.
Woodworking / Construction - 3
- I can use a table saw, miter saw, planar, and jointer. I know not to work unless it’s a saw stop. I can use a router. I know about hardwoods and softwoods. Pine is great by default but MDF is awesome too. I know about joints and adhesives but have barely scratched the surface on the world of finishing. I’ve managed the building of a lot of lab, office, kitchen, and even a few shipping container homes. Measure twice cut once. Don’t take any risks with AC. I know when to use 110V single phase through 440V 3 phase. Teflon is a lubricant not a sealant. I know the different types of pipe thread and can even thread pipe. Some drywall studs are wood some are metal. Insulation is important. Use GFCI near water. I know when to use duct AC and when to use minisplits. When to use an instant water heater when to use a tank. Building codes are stupid.
Writing / Art / Music - 4
- I love writing. I have experience in it and can explain something clearly in non-fiction and illustrate a world in fiction. I have also read a lot. In addition, I took a self-guided course on drawing. I can make a rough drawing of a design or situation and use to to help communicate the concept. I also play the piano.
Sewing / Leatherworking - 2
- I have sewed before to repair clothing but have never made a piece of clothing. I can thread a needle and know what’s in a sewing kit. I used a sewing machine once but probably couldn’t do it from memory. I’ve put some grommets in leather and understand different leathers and tanning methods and how to sew and form leather.
Fitness / Defense - 2
- I can run a mile or so. I can do maybe 50 push ups. My weight is healthy. I know the basics of weightlifting and could implement a regimen to get fitter and stronger, I just haven't. I don't know a lot about martial arts but am curious to learn.
Blacksmithing - 2
- I know my way around a forge up to maybe 3000F. I can safely use a crucible, anvil, make a knife, etc
Machining / Fabrication - 2
- I can set up and run a mill or lathe with DRO for basic cuts of wood or metal but probably couldn’t fabricate a final product within any respectable tolerances.
Welding / Soldering - 3
- I’ve done a bit of stick, MIG, TIG, and oxy-acetylene cutting and welding of steel. I’ve used a plasma torch too but don’t have that many hours of experience.
Masonry / Stoneworking - 1
- I have carved soapstone in to some interesting projects but haven’t made anything substantial from marble or granite. I do know a bit about masonry and have lots of experience with concrete. I love concrete.
Glassworking - 1
- I’ve done a bit of borosilicate work with a glassblowing torch but haven’t made anything that useful
First Aid / Surgery - 2
- I understand hygiene, antibiotics, and hydrogen peroxide. I can dress a wound and have practiced sutures.
Visual Design / Aesthetics / Architecture - 3
- I have done lots of web design, logo design, document design, nothing ready for prime time but enough to get the job done for an early stage business. I appreciate symmetry, negative space, and balance. I know the history or architecture and many names but would not do a great job at designing a building myself.
Organization / Planning - 6
- I have built and lead a sizable organization can manage a reasonably sized team and project pretty well. Sometimes I go over budget and over time or rush something to the detriment of quality. Sometimes I have trouble keeping everyone focused, but I never lose sight of the mission, and I don't give up easily. I struggle saying no to new ideas and features but only because I love making things so much. For the most part I get things done and can make a team gel. When you’re in a project meeting always ask the opinion of the person that hasn’t said anything.
Engines and Maintenance - 3
- There are 2 things an engine needs to start: fuel and a spark. If it’s not starting it’s one of those 2 things. I drive an engine-swapped car, I can change fluids, radiator, alternator, carburetor (though most cars these days are fuel-injected) can diagnose most basic issues and changed a head gasket one time.
Driving / Flying / Navigation - 3
- I’m a great driver. I’ve driven 1000 miles in a day. I’ve driven 130mph. But good drivers are safe. I’ve never caused an accident. I can drive a manual. I have driven a fully loaded tractor trailer uphill in traffic. I know that weighs up to 80,000lbs. I know when to use an engine brake. I can also fly and land a single engine plane even though I only have a few hours logged. I can use GPS and know about the celestial sphere but probably could not navigate with just the stars.
Rigging / Cranes - 2
- I went to crane school for a pretty intensive course and learned a lot about cranes and rigging. There is a lot to know. Safety is first, then much of it is calculating loads and making sure they are stable. I have limited experience operating a swing cab and fixed cab crane but not a tower crane (yet).
Hydraulics / Pneumatics - 3
- I understand hydraulic schematics and have designed my own. I have gotten custom cylinders made. I know how to do pressure and load calculations. I know what seals to use at different pressures. I know there are many different types of pumps. I have made small pneumatic systems as well. I know a lot of people that work in this field are missing fingers.
Electronics / Radios - 5
- This is what I went to school for. I understand more electronics theory than I ever needed to use. More importantly I can select components, capture a schematic, do basic layout, and get a board fabricated, assembled, and tested. I have done analog, digital, and high speed boards and I know what contractors to use for the tasks that are beyond me. I’m good with an oscilloscope and logic analyzer. One of my first companies was a radio company. I am a licensed Ham. I have built many functional radios from scratch and know quite a lot about software defined radio, IEEE and GSM standards, and how to use advanced analytical equipment like spectrum analyzers and network analyzers. I have used HFSS to design antennas which I then fabricated.
Robotics / Automation - 3
- I can use a co-bot, and program a CNC machine but I’m not writing my own g code. I can set up and master a Kuka and know the basics of KRL but I would rather program it via middleware like RoboDK, which I have done as well as used the python API.
FPGAs / Microelectronics / VLSI - 4
- I know the basics of Verilog and VHDL as well as higher level languages like Chisel. I can build a RISC-V processor and run it on an FPGA. I can do a FPGA design using IP blocks and custom code. I also know my way around Cadence IC Compiler, Virtuoso, and various simulation and verification tools. I can run timing and power analysis. I know what a foundry PDK is. I have a MOSIS account. I know what a MPW is and how much it costs. However I still have never taped out my own chip, as much as I would love to. I can also do basic mixed signal and RF work with ADS.
Programming / Linux / AI - 5
CAD / CAM - 3
- I can do from Sketch Up to Solidworks but I prefer Fusion 360. I know my way around Revit and Inventor. I have designed basic parts that require a few tooling steps, simulated the toolpath, and run CNC mills and lathes of various sizes and complexity with multiple tools.
Polymer Chemistry - 2
- Polymers are fascinating. I have synthesized Polyurethane and PMMA in several different ways. Polyester is not one thing. There are tons of polyesters. Even specific polyesters can vary immensely in the way they chain and branch. Polymers like Dyneema can be stronger than steel. I have a good collection of glassware and I know when I need a hood. A lot of chemistry is like cooking: ingredients, temperature, time. And there is such a world of polymers and polymer-"esque" substances like MOFs that I am eager to explore.
Optics / Lasers / Imaging - 3
- I'm getting the hang of Zemax, which helps design optical systems from camera lenses to telescopes to microscopes. That helped me learn a lot about optics but there is still much more to learn about different glasses and coatings. I also have used laser diodes of various types and for a while killed flies with lasers. I know a bit about CCD / CMOS specfications too. Did you know the Hubble Space Telescope's highest resolution camera is only 4MP? Optics are important. I would love to launch a Gallium Nitride UV space telescope.
Batteries - 2
- I know the major battery chemistries and the tradeoffs between them. I have set up several solar power systems of various complexities. I even built a prototype beta-voltaic nuclear battery once but it didn't work that well.
Biochemistry - 1
- I know the theory of biochemistry but haven’t done many experiments. A lot of my experience comes from in silico molecular dynamics simulations.
Analytical Tools - 2
- I am familiar with sample prep for various processes but lack hands on experience. I know how a genome sequencer works. I know chromatography columns are expensive. I know FTIR is relatively cheap. I own a GC-MS but would love an HPLC. I once saw an ICP-MS run and it blew my mind. I know where to get NMR done.
Microbiology - 3
- I can grow yeast, algae, and bacteria and keep them happy. I can pour my own plates. I can run a bioreactor. I have also made beer and maintain a sourdough starter. I know the conditions needed for a happy fermenter and can keep it there at a reasonable, though not huge, volume.
Biomaterials / Bioprocessing - 2
- I have grown acetobacter for cellulose and algae for lipids but don’t totally understand extraction and purification. Lately I've been interested in sugar cane for biofuels. I know drying can be very expensive. I know a little about His tags, enzymatic extraction, centrifuging and ultracentrifuging, and membrane disruption.
DNA / Protein Networks - 1
- I can use SnapGene to design and order a vector for basic proteins and get them to express in yeast and bacteria and even chlamy on a good day. I understand the theory of promoters and extra copies of genes but am not a stellar bioengineer.
Protein Design - 1
- I have used Nanome to modify proteins and know Lysine is reactive and Arginine is stable but couldn’t design or modify that useful of a protein or antibody. I know the basics of drug interactions and what to look for in toxicological data but wouldn’t trust myself to run a study
Plant Engineering - 2
- I’ve used a gene gun and am getting better at using agrobacteria. I grow arabidopsis in agar.
Crystallography - 3
- I love crystals. Did you know there are 230 types of crystals? That's it. That's the number of space groups. Fascinating. Crystallography has applications in metallurgy, semiconductors, bioimaging, and many other fields. I have grown basic crystals and am seeking to crystallize and image my first protein. I know the basics of XRD and CryoEM as well as how to process and assemble the images in to a PDB file.
Mammalian Tissue Culture and Engineering - 1
- I can grow HEK293 cells and make them glow as well as get some nice pictures with a tissue culture microscope. I have a clean air hood.
Bionics - 3
- I have had a magnet implanted for years. I know a medium amount about biomaterials and biocompatibility. I know how to evaluate a good stack up of materials for an implant, how they are made, and how the implant is coated. I also know some of the design challenges of prosthetics. Don’t get me started on brain / computer interfaces.
Numerical Method Simulations - 4
- I would consider this one of my hobbies. I’m savvy with NAMD for molecular dynamics, GIZMO for cosmological simulations, and COMSOL for everything else.
Vacuum Technology / Plasma / Nuclear - 2
- I have built a few vacuum chambers and gotten one down to the mTorr range. I know feedthroughs and how to detect leaks. I have made plasma several times in different chambers and know the basics of plasma physics. I know fusion is always 30 years away. I know what materials not to mess with. I once built a betavoltaic cell with some friends using Tritium and a liquid scintillator.
Cerebral Organoids - 1
- I have met Alysson Muotri. I know what cells to start with and when to change the media. I know the formulations of these media. I know the main issue is vasculature which may have been solved recently. I know they are growing a retina for input and using electrodes for output. I have thought deeply about the ethics of this situation and had dreams of brains in bioreactors and brains the size of buildings.
Quantum Engineering - 1
- I know experts here but am not that capable myself. I know where to buy equipment for entanglement experiments and the basics of how one would build a quantum lattice light microscope. I don't understand quantum computing that well. I'm much more interested in quantum biology. Yes there are very important quantum effects in biology such as photosystem, avian cryptochromes and the fascinating Fenna-Matthews-Olson complex.
Psychonautics - 3
- This is the practice of having safe, educational explorations of the spirit world, with or without the assistance of psychedelics. Safety first. Always make sure people know where you are, and keep a log of how much you are doing of which molecule. Molecules are not necessary however. Breath work and meditation can also work. I have only had a couple of experiences with psychedelics but they were very enriching.
Meditation and Prayer - 4
- I have done a vipassana. I meditate regularly and enjoy it. And I pray almost every day. Usually multiple times. I would like to reach the point where I am almost always prayerful. Meditation is like rest to the soul but prayer is like exercise. To me both are important.
Love / Empathy - 4
- I love God. I love people. I love nature. I make mistakes but I am willing to listen and learn from them. I feel other people very strongly and it pains me deeply that we live in a system that is not conducive to empathy, that Jesus has been suppressed, that greed and individualism have replaced love. Strong families are a rarity and money seems to be the answer. But it is not. The world is very sick. I very much want the freedom to love and speak my mind but this is not allowed. It is not permitted. It is not correct. We are living in a spiritual stone age. These primitive concepts are heretical to the establishment. The world is very sick.
Remote Viewing / Astral Projection - 2
- I have been to beautiful places, and I have been to dark places. Our mind is not physically attached to our body. We separate the two all the time, when we sleep, when we think, when we die. I am becoming more skilled at this travel. It makes little sense to ship organic bodies and water across the galaxy. It is much more efficient to just move the mind.
Clairvoyance - 3
- I have visions of the future but I know they are only probabilities. I know how to make them clearer but it is not easy.
Divine Communication / Innovation - 3
- I was raised Christian. I have many Bible verses memorized and read the whole book cover to cover. Proverbs is my favorite. I have read it countless times and enjoy it. I have also studied the Vedas, the Upanishads, Lao-Tzu, Confucius, Allan Kardec and various occult theories. Maybe in the future we will have better religions. I often think about the early Christians arguing over whether God was in nature or if he was in the temple. Maybe we got it wrong. Maybe we don't need these temples and these priests and these costumes to listen to God. Maybe he is all around us, if we could only learn to listen. If we could listen, and love, we would stop giving away our power, we would see clearly, and we would be able to innovate again.
There you have it. My journey as a journeyman Mars Colonist continues. I am very fortunate that for a time I had access to a wonderful place where I could learn and practice these skills called Mothership. Sadly I had to close that place, but that is a story for another time. You can be a Mars Colonist too. It's easy to start. Just close your laptop, call a friend that has a skill, and ask them to share it with you. Maybe you can teach them something too.