Thursday 2 March 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 2/3/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Felix Brüggemann

Opinion / Chiara Rimella

Page against the machine

I suspected for a while that this would happen but now it’s official: the robots are coming for my job. For years I filled out online quizzes to find out how at risk my profession would be once automated work rose to prominence. I consoled myself that journalists would, at least, be among the last to capitulate. Apparently not.

This week, German media group Axel Springer’s CEO, Mathias Döpfner, told his staff that artificial intelligence (AI) would make some jobs in the company redundant. Such technology, he explained, has the potential to make journalism “better than it ever was – or simply replace it”. And he’s not the only one who thinks so. UK titles the Daily Mirror and Daily Express are also exploring AI’s possibilities; in January, Buzzfeed revealed that it would start using tools such as the suddenly ubiquitous ChatGPT for its quizzes and to tailor articles to its readers.

The thought makes me shiver even though I’m aware of the pro-AI argument: let the machines do the “run-of-the-mill” bits so that journalists can focus on more adventurous, in-depth pieces. Döpfner has declared that no reporters, authors or specialist editors will be losing their jobs, so it remains to be seen who will be axed, given that he reportedly believes that ChatGPT is better at aggregating information than journalists. But years in the newsroom have taught me that no process of selection (or, indeed, “aggregation”) is neutral. Every bit of information, every word, is a choice.

And what about flair, style and opinion? Before starting this column, I asked ChatGPT to write “a Monocle column about using AI in journalism” (don’t worry, what you’ve been reading so far was penned by a human). The bot obliged, filing 421 words – a bit long for this slot – that raised some fair points (“If an AI algorithm is used to make editorial decisions, who is responsible if those decisions turn out to be flawed or unethical?”). It was also remarkably boring and flat, and missed the mark completely on tone. You’ll have to trust me when I say that you’ve been better off reading mine.

Chiara Rimella is Monocle’s executive editor. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Reuters

Defence / Hungary

Price of entry

Hungary’s parliament began debating the Nato applications of Finland and Sweden yesterday. As every member state of the military alliance needs to greenlight the requests, Stockholm and Helsinki have been forced to wait. So far, it has been Turkey (and its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan) that has complicated the process in the hope of extracting concessions from the Nordic applicants. Now there are concerns that Hungary could follow suit. Though the country’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán (pictured), has said that he supports the two countries’ membership requests “in principle”, he has also expressed his dissatisfaction. Among his criticisms, he has accused Finland and Sweden of spreading what he claims are lies about the state of democracy and the rule of law in Hungary. While it’s not clear what Orbán hopes to achieve by playing hardball, he clearly doesn’t view the matter with any urgency. Where nations such as Canada and Norway ratified the applications in a matter of hours, Hungary has already taken eight months to get to this point. For now, the waiting game continues.

For more on Hungary’s Nato debate, listen to today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Reuters

Geopolitics / India

Meeting in the middle

The war in Ukraine has dominated a meeting of G20 foreign ministers in New Delhi, which concludes today. During its year at the helm of the bloc, India has tried to highlight the interests of developing countries through issues such as climate finance and sustainable development. Its success at the summit could be limited, however, given that last week’s meeting of G20 finance ministers ended without a joint statement amid divisions over Ukraine.

But there are opportunities for India too, says Sajjan Gohel, a guest teacher at the London School of Economics specialising in Asian security and politics. As a member of both the Brics group of emerging economies and the Quad security alliance with the US and Japan, “India is in a unique position to bring together two sides of the multipolar world,” he says. While the country’s climate and development priorities might be overlooked, it has a chance to play the diplomat.

Image: Shutterstock

Society / Japan

Few beginnings

Japan has recorded the lowest number of annual births since records began in 1899. A new report reveals that 799,728 children were born in the country last year, a 5.1 per cent year-on-year drop. Though low birth rates aren’t a new problem in East Asia – South Korea, for example, has the lowest rate among the 38 OECD nations – there is concern nonetheless, especially as the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research had forecast in 2017 that annual births wouldn’t fall below the 800,000 mark until 2030.

Low and stagnating salaries, expensive higher education and a lack of living space are some of the key factors behind the data. The government plans to allot funds to tackle the issue but Japan’s prime minister, Fumio Kishida, has a tight budget and has just allocated ¥6.8trn (€47bn) of it to defence, the largest such expenditure to date. The causes of the country’s low birth rate are complex but the government must act quickly.

Image: Dior

Fashion / Paris

City of darkness

Paris Fashion Week marks the end of a monthlong medley of similar showcases. As per tradition, Dior, LVMH’s second-highest-earning brand, kick-started the nine-day event in the French capital. Inside a vast venue in the Jardin des Tuileries, Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos’s fabric sculpture Valkyries (pictured), named after the female warrior deities of Norse mythology, became the backdrop for creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri’s new collection. “It’s a tribute to the women of the 1950s and to Catherine Dior, who is celebrated as a Valkyrie,” says Chiuri.

Referencing postwar Paris, Chiuri focused on dark colours and strict silhouettes. Her pieces reflected the sombre mood on most catwalks this year as many designers favoured quiet luxury and classic designs. But this season there are also new talents bringing a different perspective. One to watch is Róisín Pierce, who made her debut yesterday after receiving Chanel’s Métiers d’art Prize in 2019. She is known for handcrafted designs made by artisans in her native Ireland.

For more on Paris Fashion Week, listen to today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Alamy

Monocle 24 / THE URBANIST

Books and banks

Can ordinary buildings have an extraordinary effect on their communities? From libraries to banks, we explore examples of places that have made a big impression on their neighbourhoods and what connection they have with local people.

Monocle Films / Husavik

Ísbíltúr: Iceland’s ice-cream road trips

We hit the road with journalist Egill Bjarnason, finding the best spots to grab a cone on a journey into the Icelandic custom of ísbíltúr. It’s one of many Nordic lifestyle concepts that can teach us a thing or two about quality of life. Discover more stories and ideas from the region with The Monocle Book of the Nordics, available now from The Monocle Shop.


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