Not long ago I came up with a career-inclinations quiz question, a way of identifying what one wants to do. Imagine that you and a bunch of other people, from various walks of life, are stranded on an island* — or, if you prefer, sent off to start a colony on an uninhabited planet.** Assume that climate conditions aren't too harsh, that food and fresh water aren't hard to find, that you can do the basic survival things (fire-building, first aid, and so on), and that you all have different skills and areas of expertise. Assume you're staying there for the rest of your lives, and starting a civilization from scratch. Here's the question: what could you contribute to the new society that you're building on the island/planet? And what kinds of work would you be drawn to?
I came up with the question because it occurred to me during one of those idle "what if I were stranded on a desert island?" trains of thought that, while my farming and construction and hunting-gathering skills are minimal, I'd probably gravitate automatically to the intellectual and cultural side of things (assuming there were enough other people on the island to allow some specialization). And one of the first things I'd start thinking about would be sharing and preserving my fellow inhabitants' knowledge. I'd want to make sure that the useful information in people's heads (like medicine, or architecture, or history, or the art of conflict resolution, or how to build a loom and weave cloth on it, or whatever) wouldn't die with them. I'd want to figure out a way to capture some of what they knew, and pass it on.
In the process, I'd have to figure out a medium for all this information (clay tablets? plant-fiber paper? animal skins?). I'd probably spend a lot of time talking with whoever was inventing an educational system. And when I wasn't doing that, I'd write. I'd collect stories, and learn to tell them, and write them down (which is really just another way of making sure knowledge doesn't die out — as every poet since Horace has said at some point or other).
At which point I thought, "Hot damn, I really am a librarian." Not that I didn't know it already, but extra confirmation of one's choice of professions is always a good thing.
So, Reader, what would you do on the Island (or Planet) of New Beginnings?
* This train of thought probably owes something to the return of Lost to the airwaves this week.
** Like the terraformed planets and moons on Firefly — only hopefully a lot more habitable.