The Economic Singularity

The Economic Singularity

Vernor Vinge, a science fiction writer, coined the term “singularity” to denote a technological passage. It was the moment in time when machines become smarter than humans. When that occurs, life will undoubtedly be different for every single one of us. It will be a transformative event that affects us forever. The same is true of the economic singularity, but it has already happened.

The economic singularity occurred when the workers in other countries became smarter than the workers in the U.S.. If a nation’s workforce is qualified by its academic preparation, we passed this milestone in 2010. That’s when international testing revealed just how far we had fallen. China’s students were #1 while those in the U.S. were a lowly 23rd out of 65 nations. In effect, the economic singularity signals that we’ve lost what it takes to compete.

But, here’s the problem with that view. Genius is not a prerequisite for operating successful businesses. If it was, colleges and universities would be significantly better run. What propels economies isn’t smarts; it’s talent. And, according to that criterion, the United States stands head and shoulders above the competition.

Why? Because the populations of China and our other principal competitors are homogeneous. By choice, they have only one kind of talent. We in the U.S., for all our disagreements and problems, are the only nation on the planet with a workforce composed of all the world’s talent. It is an unbeatable advantage … if we bring that talent to work with us.

The economic singularity isn’t about genius. It’s about talent. Smarter workers use more of it. And, today, the employees of our competitors are bringing more of their talent to work with them than are many – not all, to be sure – but way too many of our workers. That’s why we’re now struggling in the global marketplace, not because their kids score better on academic tests.

To survive and prosper in this new era, therefore, we’re going to have to unleash and apply more of our talent. Each and every one of us is going to have to up our game. We’re going to have to draw more out of what’s inside us and use it on-the-job.

What does that mean? America’s workers – Boomers, GenXers and Millennials alike – all of us have to tap into our inherent ability to create, innovate, and invent so we can perform at a higher level in our work. You see, that’s what talent is – the capacity for excellence. The ability to find and apply – over and over and over again – a better way of doing things. It alone is a meaningful measure of a nation’s economic strength, and the USA is rich with reserves of it.

So, the economic singularity isn’t a passageway to defeat at all. It is, instead, a wake-up call. It tells us that the time has come to reset the American standard of excellence. Doing so will not only preserve our position as the leader of the world’s economy, it will reaffirm the American Dream … for each of us and for kids and grandkids, as well.

Work Strong,

Note: To read more about Career Fitness and Career Activism, get my books, Work Strong: Your Personal Career Fitness System and The Career Activist Republic. Both are available at, in many bookstores and on

1 Comment

  1. Peter,

    Your comments are spot on. The US is and can remain a viable competitor in the world economy. The one aspect you did not touch when discussing why we need “unleash and apply more of our talent” is the lack of political leadership in the US. What made this country great was capitalism and the free market. The current efforts to turn the US into another progressive state has lead the country into a financial crisis.