Wednesday 18 September 2019 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 18/9/2019

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Josh Fehnert

Does not compute

The robots are coming and the UK is woefully unprepared, according to a report published today by the House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee. This morning it released a screed entitled Automation: The Future of Work, which warns that the country has fallen behind its G7 friends – or “competitors”, as it frames them – and must put forward a cogent robot-and-artificial-intelligence (AI) strategy by 2020. The aim? To take advantage of the “opportunities for economic growth and jobs” that the coming gearshift will doubtlessly yield.

The sound you just heard is the baby hitting the ground with the bathwater. As grabby governments eye the dividends of automation and AI for the economic bottom line, there’s not much in the way of hope for the souls who stand to lose their jobs. And there’s a real danger of widening the UK’s regional disparity and economic inequality. The solution for those who stand to be replaced by robots? Retraining. The irony? This responsibility will be shouldered by an underfunded education system that for years has been funnelling students into a narrow science, engineering and maths-based curriculum that, after graduation, makes them easy prey to be replaced by, um, robots. Time for a reboot, maybe?

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / Asia

Caught in the crossfire

Recent developments in Saudi Arabia have worried leaders in Tokyo and Seoul. A drone strike on a refinery in Abqaiq last weekend caused a spike in oil prices and the two resource-poor Asian countries depend on the kingdom to provide them with crude at a low cost. While prices have now stabilised – and Japan has said that it has enough oil reserves to last 230 days – it is clear that more disruptions could lead to further economic pain down the line. Observers in Asia will be hoping for a rapid de-escalation of tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which is blamed for the attack. But with the US becoming more hawkish, this outcome looks unlikely.

Image: ALAMY

Environment / Paris

Air to Z

Authorities in Paris have come up with a solution to quell the moral panic surrounding air quality in the French capital: a digital map showing pollution levels across the city. The idea is that citizens can use the map to identify areas that are hazardously polluted and then, supposedly, avoid them. The infographic updates in something close to real time by refreshing every two hours and enables people to see which areas are likely to be polluted the following day. Paris has come under fire for its dangerous levels of air pollution; last week a study by the International Council on Clean Transportation revealed that air quality in the city is below the legal standard set by the EU. Measures to improve air quality, rather than map it, should be the next step.

Image: Getty Images

Elections / Tunisia

Lessons learned?

More than two thirds of the votes are accounted for in the first round of Tunisia’s presidential elections and authorities have revealed that law professor Kais Saied is in the lead, having edged past imprisoned media mogul Nabil Karoui. The academic has touted an ambition to devolve more authority from Tunis to local administrations, in a move that he believes to be an answer to the country’s myriad social problems. While questions remain over how he might lead if elected, the ascent of a political outlier in the race illustrates the progress of Tunisian democracy in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring. Whoever the candidate, a freely elected leader is a good place to start when it comes to pulling the nation up by its bootstraps.

Image: Claire Tabouret, "The Swimmers", courtesy of Night Gallery

Art / Chicago

In the picture

Today marks the debut of Chicago Invitational, an art fair organised by the New Art Dealers Alliance (Nada), scheduled to coincide with Expo Chicago and the opening of the second Chicago Architectural Biennial. The four-day contemporary-art show, which takes place at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, will feature 39 international exhibitors, including Tokyo’s Misako & Rosen and Los Angeles’s Night Gallery. Nada’s former New York fair was cancelled in 2018 after six years; high costs convinced organisers to move to greener pastures. For Chicago – a city that’s home to top-notch museums, artists and collectors – this move is a promising sign that its credentials as a global arts hub are on the up. Give it a visit: there’s plenty to see.

Image: Luke Evans

M24 / Monocle on Design

Under the covers

We welcome back design writer Katie Treggiden to run through the sharpest magazines and publishing projects catching her eye. Plus: our creative director Richard Spencer Powell talks about designing not only the latest edition of the magazine but a new soon-to-launch title from the Monocle stable.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle preview: October issue, 2019

Monocle had to spend an age in front of the wardrobe making outfit decisions for this latest issue – after all, an autumn fashion special isn’t something you can just throw together at the last minute. We also find out who owns the weather, pull up a pew with Nicola Sturgeon and preview a season of cultural delights.


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