The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Wednesday 24 October 2018

Environment

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Suck it up

Both moral and financial implications are behind a likely European Parliament ban on plastic straws and their ilk.

European users of plastic straws, cutlery and balloons may soon have to look to more sustainable means for their party supplies. Today the European Parliament is to vote on whether it will ban all single-use plastics in the bloc by 2021, in an attempt to reduce the amount of litter that ends up in the sea. Recent years have seen the subject of marine pollution come sharply into focus but there is a commercial angle to cleaning up the sea as well as an ethical one according to Frédérique Ries, the Belgian MEP who drafted the legislation. “These steps are essential in order to protect the marine environment and reduce the costs of environmental damages, which are estimated to be €22bn to the period of 2030.”

Development

Image: Getty Images

Room for growth

Singapore has launched a new investment drive to challenge China’s colossal Belt and Road Initiative.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative – a multi-trillion-dollar investment, trade and infrastructure project across Asia, Europe and Africa – may have some competition. Singapore, not to be outdone, announced yesterday its own regional investment initiative that will fund infrastructure in Asia: a market worth up to $460bn (€401bn) annually. The agency in charge, dubbed Infrastructure Asia and led by Singapore’s central bank, will also work to make regional infrastructure more attractive to private investors, who are often hampered by the lack of standardised regulation or secure backing from a larger entity. While the initiative is small in comparison to China’s gargantuan Belt and Road, it could be the beginning of a meaningful challenge to Beijing’s hegemony in the region.

Art

Image: Getty Images

Get with the program

Tomorrow the gavel falls at an auction of a historic artwork. The rub? It’s painted by algorithm.

In many ways the portrait of "Edmond de Belamy” is a deeply unremarkable thing. But blotchy and indistinct as the painting is, the smeary daubing of a rotund frock-coated figure is the first piece of art painted by a computer to go under the hammer. The product of three Paris-based programmers, the canvas is expected to fetch between $7,000 (€6,100) and $10,000 (€8,700) within the Prints & Multiples sale at Christie’s in New York. “If we go back to 1839, people were asking questions about whether photography was art,” critic and academic Estelle Lovatt told Monocle’s The Briefing. But for computer-generated art this is the first time, and the world is watching.”

Design

Visions of work

A Köln fair highlights the changing design of office furniture – and our shifting attitudes to workplace wellbeing.

As anyone who has been to Orgatec – Köln’s biennial workplace-furniture fair – knows, there is much more to office design than swivel chairs and boardroom tables. Given that we are spending more time at work than ever, creating spaces that are imaginative, comfortable and welcoming has never been more important. At this year’s fair there is an emphasis on working environments that are less cold and more human-focused. At the Boulevard – Meeting Culture exhibition there is a marked departure from masculine metals, glass and grey hues and a move towards colourful, soft materials. While a nicer office won’t automatically deliver employee satisfaction, it might usher in the beginnings of a more empathetic working culture in some corners.

From Monocle 24

Architecture for animals

Monocle On Design

We ask what designers dream up when they put animals at the centre of their thinking, see the silkscreen printers pushing on in Beirut and visit a Stirling prize-winning building to augur the future of the news industry.

From Monocle Films

Healthy income

As the fitness business pulls in new and inventive players, how can cities encourage their citizens to live healthier lives?

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