I'm give two sets of options, based on whether or not you think that we're about to see the end of the world as we know it...
If we're assuming a complete economic collapse and 15-20 year Depressionary period:
1. CHEAP, safe alcohol. We're talking, sell it VERY cheap, but make sure that it's safe enough that customers don't have to risk blindness/death by
drinking it. There is a huge market for this. You might have to go to the black market to sell it, but you could make a small fortune.
2. Weapons and defense. Tasers are growing in popularity, and self-defense classes boom when there's an economic collapse.
3. Cosmetics/beauty. Yeah, I know, it's not the smartest investment, but when people can't afford anything else, they invest in the small pleasures
of life (in this case, feeling attractive).
4. Find a cheap way to produce drinking water. This is actually a major problem in third world countries as we speak, so this is a good thing for any
prospective engineers to get into, regardless. Getting the cost low enough to ship it into Africa is problematic, but if it becomes an issue in the
"Developed" world, then this could become very lucrative. Same goes for more efficient "off-grid" technology -- if you can do it cheap.
5. The "General Repair Shop" idea is a good one. Gone are the days of buying a new car because the old one needs new spark plugs; or a new TV
because the flyback transformer went out.
6. If there is a total collapse, a lot of people are going to need "survival" classes. Teach them how to hunt, fish, camp, etc. I'm one of those
people. You'd be surprised how many of us city-slickers would be utterly hopeless if we ventured out to the country. Anybody who wants to get out of
the city is going to need to learn these skills.
If we're assuming a relatively quick recovery, however:
1. Computer Science, with an emphasis on Artificial Intelligence. If you're 18 and looking for something to major in, then by the time you're done
with grad school, AI should be about ready to blow up. This is the time, and if I were a bit younger, I'd get in on the action myself.
2. Robotics. This runs parallel to AI. Companies are going to continue to cut jobs via automation. You think we really
need to pay workers
$7.00/hour to flip burgers or stock shelves? Within the next ten years, the technology should exist which would allow these mega-corporations to
completely cut-out the little guy, and save billions of dollars per year.
3. Medical research. This area is more exciting than it's ever been. It's not inconceivable that they could cure death (
) within our
lifetimes. Oprah recently did a special about some pig-bladder goop being used to grow back body parts; organs and bone being grown in laboratories
(in just a few weeks, using your own blood and a mold); calorie restriction and it's ability to slow down aging; etc. I think that Bio-Gerontology
could give us some very important insights into cancer and possible avenues to a cure, but that's just a hunch.
4. Anything relating to mass-transit. This area is about to blow up, as more experts are predicting a return to one-car households and there is
increased sentiment that mass-transit is a necessity, at both the federal AND local levels. If you can get the fundamental patents on a vastly
superior MagLev system, you should become a billionaire.
5. Energy. There is a major push to get away from "dirty" energy sources. The alternatives all have major problems. Nuclear, for instance, is such a
high-risk proposition that investors will only build nuclear plants if they're subsidized (heavily) by the federal government. If you could find a
way to increase efficiency in Solar and Wind, to bring down the cost of these plants, then you'll become wealthy, save the world, and win a Nobel
Prize. It's easier said than done, however.
Just a few things that came to mind. If I were about to graduate from High School then I would go into one of the last five that I suggested, but I
would hedge my bets by learning to do the first six. Go to college and get a good education, and while there: learn to make your own alcohol instead
of buying it (stay away from liquor, at least at first -- make it wrong and you can go blind or die); learn to fix things; learn to cut hair and do
makeup; and take some defense classes.
[edit on 3-4-2009 by theWCH]