From Brawn to Brains; The Evolution of the US Workforce in The Information Age

February 18, 2014

Ask a Fortune 500 CEO what her company’s most valuable asset is, her answer will be, human capital. This, by no means, has always been the case; and reviewing the evolving definition of human capital over the last century is the ideal backdrop for understanding the evolving healthcare needs of the 21st century American workforce.

When referenced in the first half of the twentieth century, it is no surprise that human capital was essentially a fungible resource similar to the heavy machinery of what was, after all, an industrial based economy. All that would change in 1957, when in response to Soviet’s launching of Sputnik, President Eisenhower vowed to “prevent technological surprise” and created Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA).  To fulfill its mission, ARPA developed networks by which computers communicated with each other called the ARPANET. In addition to being the precursor to what would become the world-wide-web, ARPANET’s impact on Humankind’s ability to disseminate information sparked the servicization of the US Economy in earnest. Prior to 1957, about 40% of the US GDP came from the manufacturing sector. As of 2011, 80% of US GDP came from the service sector with less than 20% manufacturing.

Thus, from the dawn of the Information Age through the Digital Revolution up to the present day, the US workforce evolved from one dependent primarily on its brawn to one almost entirely dependent on its brains; so, the health issues most commonly affecting the work performance and the healthcare needs of its members’ have evolved as well. Our health-care system as well as the workplace wellness movement have failed to adapt in a way that readily and effectively recognizes these critical health issues or meets the needs of the modern, largely cognitively driven, workforce. However, adapt they must, for the health and well-being of America’s Human Capital as well as the global competitiveness of US Companies hangs in the balance. 

End Post

Mitchell R. Weisberg, MD, MP

Internist-Psychopharmacologist-Corporate Wellness Consultant

Founder-CEO and Personal Physician at:

Optimal Performance MD

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