Opinion – Why Small Business Really Matters? – John Gelmini

Dr Alf raises an important point, regarding small businesses and the fact that they matter and why.

Essentially, with automation, robotics, 3D printing, cybernetics, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence, we are looking at a world in which 50% of US jobs will vanish by 2033, and closer to 75% in the UK and Europe, which enjoys worse worker productivity than the USA. This pronouncement came from Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO in 2013 and again in 2014 on You Tube.

Schools, colleges, academia and politicians are not discussing this publicly but instead choose to maintain the fiction that full employment is a real possibility and that people irrespective of background will leave school or University armed with qualifications and then get employed. The reality is that this will not happen, so where are the jobs going to come from? Also how is this new reality going to be communicated to the great unwashed masses, if at all?

One of the topics exercising Bilderbergers in Austria this week is the question of how artificial intelligence can be deployed whilst at the same time preserving and growing marketplaces which depend on people having bank accounts and enough money to buy things. Part of the solution in the past has been to have conventional wars, which consume resources at a rate of knots, kill off surplus population and then require reconstruction during the ensuing peace. The “military industrial complex” and their financial backers like this solution but with modern warfare the destruction may be too great and too close to home and in any case once the troops are home what are they to do? This is what happened after the Vietnam war ended, when businesses like my late father in law’s carpet store business and others saw stock turns fall from 8 per year to 4, literally overnight.

In the UK, we now have a situation in which 47 job applicants chase or do not bother to chase each vacancy and in Europe with much slower growth the figure is even worse. In addition, one school leaver in five is functionally illiterate, functionally innumerate and incapable of communicating in anything other than monosyllables, grunts and text-speak. They are in their present state unemployable.


For many practically-minded, non-academic people/school leavers, the solution to becoming employed at anything will be to create a micro-enterprise, making and selling things which cannot be produced by robots, either economically or at all. These will be lifestyle businesses, which will need to be capable of employing one person plus a spouse and a set number of children without any Government subsidy whatsoever.

For brighter people, not suited to corporate life, and who have the “wrong accents ” and university backgrounds to impress snobbish employers and recruiters who hire in their own image the solution may well be a high technology startup, which can eventually be part funded by Venture Capital and crowdsourcing as opposed to the banks who want more established track records.

America has Silicon Valley, more enlightened and less risk averse Venture Capitalists but the UK has a mountain to climb in this respect.

90% of future employment is going to come from small businesses as larger ones will go on shedding labour via automation, BPO, robotics and offshoring.

It will also come from exporting things that people want to buy which in turn means that people will have to learn languages and “swarm out” and create businesses all over the world, just as the Chinese are doing.

The business opportunities and the jobs will be spread across the globe and people will have to think globally and become culturally aware in a way that many of them have never had to before.

Like Dr Alf, I too have been around the block; we both see the evidence and can do the maths – it’s time to draw the line.

John Gelmini

One response

  1. The assumption of progress towards artificial intelligence and robotics therefore mass unemployment presupposes that energy will not be a constraint. I read an interesting statistic that in the 19th Century each calorie of energy used generated 200 calories of food. Today that is reversed and on average 200 calories of energy generates 1 calorie of food.

    Perhaps climactic catastrophe will force us to quickly cut energy consumption and revert to farm labouring and manual work. As a result, the ratio of man vs machine will also be reversed leading to full employment. Under this scenario food miles will also be at a premium meaning our diet will be largely local foods.

    Overfishing, industrial mass production of food in factory farms, using extensive amounts of fertiliser, genetic modification, degradation of soil, water scarcity and population growth all seem to be point to a future where more and more humans will need to focus on the basics of delivering food.

    Farmers are typically small businesses so the future for these small businesses is bright. But let us hope this gloomy picture doesn’t come to pass.

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