#Eurovision2015: Culture Mirroring International Relations?

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Our Friends Electric? New Wave of Robots ‘Will Destroy Graduate Prospects’!

Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 20.35.15As a London-based company with a reasonable level of exposure to all things technological, it takes a seriously impressive advance to animate us into writing about it, but the robotic chef recently unveiled at the Hannover Messe industrial fair by Moley Robotics (‘Moley’) has our Creative Director & CSO spooked. This is a bot capable of preparing a bowl of crab bisque in twenty-five minutes – which ordinarily would be news enough – but the really interesting feature is its pair of hands, which are eerily similar to human ones and reveal the extent to which robotics is beginning to threaten large swathes of the job market as never before:

  1. Entry-Level Jobs – Going! The amazing growth being registered in the market for domestic robots is an ominous sign of things to come for those students without the necessary skills to defend themselves against the merciless march of technology: according to the wonderfully-named International Federation of Robotics (‘IFR’), 2.7m household robots were sold in 2013, a 35% year-on-year increase; from 2014-2017, an estimated 24m personal service robots will depart the shelves. Entry-level jobs like cleaning risk entering the history books in at least some (post-)developed countries.
  2. Student Jobs – Going! For now, Moley’s robo-chef has limitations that render its applicability rather limited: it can only cook using prepared ingredients. Advanced AI and the ability to use a knife are beyond it – for now. But given a few years, is it really so hard to believe that the general state of robotic technology would have progressed to the point where traditional student jobs in colleges, cafes and bars would be under attack from glorified humanoid vending machines?
  3. Graduate Jobs – Going! As we have written about previously, robots are already displacing humans in Japanese banks – not as tellers, but as customer advisors. For now, this is still a phenomenon in its infancy. But once mass production and economies of scale begin to have a serious impact on the pricing of this type of investment, big companies may find it irresistible to dispose of many of their human staff like so much organic trash; SMEs may well follow in their slipstream. Only the very best students will be able to shield themselves from these dystopian developments.

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Fortress #ASEAN? Fishermen Show Up Inert South-East Asian Governments as #Rohingya Crisis Deepens!

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Over-Subsidised Savages? Londoners ‘Extravagantly Cream-Off UK Rail Infrastructure Budget’!

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Extreme Russia: An Extreme Version of the United Kingdom?

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Regular readers of and subscribers to this blog will by now be well aware that we at Mediolana like little more than a genuinely perceptive piece of reportage or analysis – no matter where in the world it comes from. So it was with unexpected pleasure that our Creative Director & CSO stumbled upon a provocative and compassionate documentary broadcast on a channel almost on our doorstep: Reggie Yates’ Extreme Russia: Teen Model Factory, recently telecast on BBC Three (first showing: 27th April 2015). This piece – clocking in at around 56′ 20” – sees the personable former children’s television presenter of Ghanaian descent head to deepest Siberia to observe a number of ambitious teenage girls who have the shared goal of wanting to break into the modelling industry.

What could easily be a topic for salacious and sensationalist car-crash voyeurism is instead handled with striking sensitivity; Yates is clearly moved by the uncertain futures that lie before his documentary subjects, who are portrayed sympathetically as well as realistically. By the end of the programme, the viewer is left reflecting on the state not just of Russian modelling but what can be a brutal and dispiriting global industry. Indeed, after some contemplation we noted that far from coming away with the impression of Russia as a distant and alien society, at least three threads within the documentary resonated strongly with this UK-based company:

1. Systemic Failure. As Yates himself remarked, the Russian education system is not a bad one by many metrics; in fact, in many respects it is easier to be a student in Russia than it is in the United Kingdom, particularly when it comes to financing. However, like their counterparts both in the UK and across much of Europe, Russian graduates are facing a dysfunctional job market, though not one characterised by high levels of unemployment – instead, chronically low salaries for many professional occupations mean that modelling represents much more of an opportunity than it should.

2. An Over-Centralised Society. Alarmingly similar to the United Kingdom’s relationship with London, the cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg – which are connected to each other by high-speed rail – are evidently where virtually all the really juicy opportunities in Russian society lie. This chasm between the centre and the periphery is a trend which is crushing the dreams of the majority of young people, who are increasingly being forced to choose – if they are lucky – between the security of their home environments and making themselves anew in the big bad (capital) city.

3. Galaxy of Emptiness. Tigran Khachatrian – the controversial Armenian CEO of Noah Models, who features numerous times throughout the documentary – outlines a dim vision of ordinary life in provincial Russia for those girls who do not break into the modelling industry; while he clearly has a very particular perspective on the exact nature of the alternative that his industry can provide, Khachatrian has a point. Mediocre postgraduate salaries, rampant domestic violence and alcohol abuse, and the world’s highest divorce rate (2012, United Nations) mean that for young females in the Russian Federation, getting on an aeroplane to almost anywhere is the best rational option; in this sense, Russia represents a more extreme version of our increasingly fragile selves.

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Our Posthuman Future? New #Study Claims Sex ‘Heading for the History Books’!

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Strewth: Australia #HigherEd Sector Enjoys Record-Breaking Revenues!

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