The Pimped Up Bar Mleczny

IMG_20181026_085748_496

Pizza King Express is maybe the best place to eat in Budapest. I will probably get shot down in flames for saying this. At the ‘traditional’ restaurants serving Hungarian cuisine you will likely hear more English than Hungarian and will pay more money. You may also encounter surely staff if the place is popular. But not here. The staff here are a bunch of jokers and the food is ridiculously cheap even with a lousy pound sterling. A slice of pizza is 200 Forints (less than 60p). A tiramisu (enough for two) – yes, you better believe it – is 300 Forints (a little north of 80p).

During Communist times in many Eastern European countries you had these places called bar mlecznys, which in Polish literally translates to ‘milk bars’ – dirt cheap restaurants serving pretty basic food, but perfectly good. They used to be very popular with students or anyone without much money. Most of these places are a thing of the past now. There are a few still kicking around. For me Pizza King Express represents a new kind of ‘pimped up’ bar mleczny. That is, it may not be as threadbare as a traditional bar mleczny. Maybe I am stretching it using the words ‘pimped up’. But you get my drift. It has the same prices as the traditional bar mlecznys of yore filled by the same type of people who used to visit the originals. The only difference is that the menu is more global. Dare I say more ‘Westernised’. You can get pizza, kebabs, baklava (delicious sweat cake), tiramisu and rice pudding and all for just a few coins. Its a fraction of the price of Pizza Hut, which is next door, and a better and more delicious experience.

Hungary is not a rich country and wages are feeble. Budapest can be an expensive city if you are a local in menial employment. For that reason places like Pizza King Express are a godsend for locals. Its funny that most congregate here for a slice of cheap pizza and less at the ‘traditional’ Hungarian establishments no matter how good or tasty the food may be at those places.

The original bar mzlecznys were not only a product of Communism. They were a feature of when that part of the world was a much less connected place and people had limited access to information. In today’s post-communist globalised world with this tool called the internet, that has all changed. Younger generations from former communist countries are more aware, savvy and knowledgeable about the world, other cultures and how other people around the world live and their tastes. Pizza King Express caters for this younger generation as well as others who don’t want to spend too much money. In a paradoxical way, it is more ‘authentic’ to eat here than at the traditional restaurants, which promote themselves as ‘authentic’. It may be a pedantic and trivial observation, but there is a kernel of truth to it.

 

By Nicholas Peart

(c)All Rights Reserved

Solutions Solutions Solutions

light-bulb-2010022_1920

There are many problems and challenges facing the world and no shortage of writers and journalists in the media who are only too willing to heighten our awareness of all these issues. What there is a shortage of though, are individuals finding solutions to all these issues.

Talk is cheap. Withering, junk-food grade criticism is even cheaper. I am forever bored of writing that amplifies the problems of the world without shedding at least a mere pinhole of light and solutions to these problems. This is one of the reasons why I am turned on by hearing and learning about new and emerging technologies, because more often than not they provide solutions to most of these problems. They also enable me to foresee a future that is not as dire as what is often projected in much of the media.

For example, a very real and pressing social issue in the UK is the underfunding of the National Health Service and the uncertain future it currently faces. This is a huge concern as private healthcare can be very expensive and not everyone can afford it. This is especially true across the pond in the USA, where healthcare is notoriously costly. The biggest solution I see to making healthcare cheaper, more abundant and available is the further development of new and emerging technologies. Many fear the rise of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. But the development of both these two technologies will bring unprecedented benefits in the race to making healthcare not only more affordable (or even almost free) but more advanced too. Imagine robotic surgeons much more advanced than human surgeons – they don’t get nervous or stressed, they can analyze the entire human body at the molecular level and perform surgeries with nano precision. Already robotic surgery devices exist yet the scope for further development is limitless. Nanotechnology will play a very important role in understanding the entire body at the celular level and will be revolutionary in enabling everyone to maintain optimum health at all times without any viruses and damaged cells occurring. And all this can be managed via a digital application or chip without intervention from a finite supply of human doctors. I could go on but it is solutions like these to a current and real crisis that give hope and enable one to re-evaluate their hard wired negative perceptions of a situation.

Worried about the rising costs of education? Virtual Reality will be a huge game changer. This will be an enormous boon in parts of the world where there is a limited supply of teachers. With VR you won’t even need to physically step into a bricks and mortar learning institution.

There are many parts of the world, which lack enough of the right type of land to grow crops. Vertical farming is one of the potential solutions especially at the aeroponic level where crops can be grown simply via the nutrients in the air. It is still a technology that is very much in its infancy yet would reduce global hunger levels dramatically once it gets to a stage where it is much more advanced.

These are just a few solutions. I am no engineer, scientist or inventor, but knowing that these are very real solutions with the capacity to eradicate many of the most pressing global problems fills me with hope and optimism for the future. It sure beats being constantly fed the broken-record narrative in much of the news about how awful things are and that they are only going to get worse.

 

By Nicholas Peart

(c)All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Through Manchester’s Musical History

Manchester skyline

A lot of the music I regularly used to listen to in my younger years came from the city of Manchester. Joy Division, New Order, The Fall, The Buzzcocks, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, The Happy Mondays and Oasis all hail from this city. I would need a good few weeks to navigate the entire musical map of Manchester, but since I only had a day for this, I had to be selective.

From my modest Air BnB lodging, located in the district of Higher Broughton in the north of the city, I take a city bus towards Strangeways prison. You may think what on earth does a prison have to do with Manchester’s music scene? It was however referenced in the final album by The Smiths, Strangeways Here We Come. Located in an industrial and non-descript part of the city, the entrance to Strangeways is an architectural gem. There are not many people passing by on this early morning and I don’t feel the urge for some unfortunate to take my picture next to the gates. I am glad I didn’t.

 

IMG_20181010_095103643_HDR-1560x2080

The entrance to Strangeways prison

 

From Strangeways I walk towards the Arndale Shopping Centre in the centre of the city. I was hoping that today would be an overcast day to set the scene for the places I’d be visiting, but there’s sadly not a cloud in sight. I am truly disappointed. After purchasing a sandwich at Sainsbury’s Local, I board the city tram for Deansgate located on the southern edge of the city centre.

Close to Deansgate station I only have to walk a short distance until I am face to face with the site of the legendary Hacienda nightclub. During those heady ‘Madchester’ days during the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Hacienda was well and truly bopping with a big enough supply of ecstasy doing the rounds to fill a good few Olympic swimming pools. Today the site of the club is now home to a block of luxury apartments.

 

IMG_20181010_111709467-1560x2080

By the site of the Hacienda nightclub 

 

A brief history of the Hacienda and its origins. The club was originally established by the founder of Factory Records, Tony Wilson, in the early 1980s. Factory Records played a central role in Manchester’s music scene since the late 1970s signing Joy Division (and subsequently New Order), the Happy Mondays and many other local bands. As instrumental as the label was to the local music scene, it was also victim to a streak of tremendous bad luck in failing to sign some of the city’s most successful talent. It came very close to signing The Smiths (yet Wilson doubted Morrissey’s potential and ability to be a pop star and encouraged him to be a novelist instead), missed the boat with The Stone Roses, and, allegedly, turned down Oasis. Much of the funds for the establishment and running of the Hacienda came directly from New Order’s royalties. The Happy Mondays, despite their commercial success, contributed towards the financial downfall and bankruptcy of Factory Records in the early 1990s. Yet it was very much the irresponsibility of Tony Wilson to give the band upfront an advance of almost £1m in cash to record their final album in Barbados in 1992. Most of the money went up, literally, in crack smoke and very little towards the actual recording of the album. The Hacienda plodded on for a few more years before shutting its doors permanently. Yet in it’s heyday during the late 1980s it was the place to be and the coolest club not just in the city of Manchester but across the whole country if not the world.

Also close to Deansgate station is the original site of the Broadwalk, which was a small live music venue in the city. For me it will be forever associated with the place where Oasis played their first live gig in 1991. Back then Noel Gallagher was a roadie for the Oldham band The Inspiral Carpets. It was only when he joined the band a year later in 1992, establishing himself as the main songwriter and driving force, that Oasis began to develop. In 1993, Oasis played a brief set at the King Tuts Wah Wah club in Glasgow, where Creation records founder Alan McGee spotted the band and signed them to his record label. The rest is over documented music history.

 

IMG_20181010_113009511_HDR-1560x2080

Site of the Broadwalk music venue where Oasis played their first ever gig in 1991

 

From Deansgate I catch a bus out of the city centre to Salford. I must add that Google maps has been of great assistance in helping me navigate this city, finding the right buses and trams and, more importantly, saving me a good deal of time. After a few stops on the bus, I disembark off a busy dual carriageway close to a large Sainsbury’s supermarket. I desperately need to pee. I resist the temptation to do it near a bush close to a housing estate and duly cross the dual carriageway making a dash for the toilets inside Sainsbury’s. Returning to the bus stop, I walk a few blocks through a series of quiet residential streets until I encounter the iconic redbrick building of The Salford Lads Club. It was of course here where The Smiths posed for that infamous photo featured inside their seminal The Queen Is Dead album. I find a passer-by to take a photograph of me by this legendary site.

 

IMG_20181010_121319649-1560x2080

By the iconic Salford Lads Club; a place forever associated with The Smiths 

 

THe smiths SLC

The Smiths at that same location 

 

A couple of blocks away is a bus stop with a direct bus to the district of Stretford. The Old Trafford, the location of Manchester United football club, is located over there, yet it isn’t football I’ve come for. Stretford is where a young Stephen Patrick Morrissey once lived before finding fame as the lead singer and lyricist of The Smiths. From the bus stop where I disembark, it is a 15 minute walk to reach his house located on Kings Road. When I approach the junction with Kings Road, there is a cheap takeaway joint serving kebabs, pizza and fried chicken. The childhood home of the one of the most celebrated vegans on the planet is about a two-minute walk away. I am mighty hungry, but I resist the urge to purchase a ‘donar wrap’ en-route to Chez Moz.

Kings Road is one wide empty street full of predominantly semi-detached suburban houses. I soon arrive at number 384. In one of the small top floor rooms of this house, an adolescent Morrissey would be furiously typing verse on his typewriter, reading Oscar Wilde and listening to The New York Dolls, Sparks, Sandie Shaw and other acts beloved by him. Oh, and the curtains would be forever closed. Morrissey often dreamt of stardom regardless of how remote the chances seemed to be for a cripplingly shy young man from greater Manchester. In fact, although Morrissey mixed with the local music scene of the city during the late 1970s and early 1980s, the consensus around that time was that he was the least likely person to make it as a pop star from that scene. And any such notion was immediately ridiculed. He was best known as the village idiot. Steve The Nutter. Bad judgement. The rise of Morrissey into one of the most iconic and influential pop stars of all time is one of the greatest black swan events ever to occur in the history of popular music. Nobody saw it coming.

 

IMG_20181010_132802003_BURST002-1560x2080

At 348 Kings Road in the Manchester district of Stretford; The home of an adolescent Morrissey

 

young morrissey

A photograph of an adolescent pre-quiffed Morrissey taken during the late 1970s

 

morrissey flowers

In the 1980s as lead singer of The Smiths

 

It was at this very address that, one day in 1982, a young guitarist by the name of John Maher (later better known as Johnny Marr), rang the doorbell to enquire as to whether Stephen would be interested in being the singer for a new band he was trying to put together. Morrissey could’ve easily just told the boy to go away, but thankfully he didn’t as this encounter would eventually change his life, propelling him from the bedroom to global stardom.

Leaving 384 Kings Road, I walk for some time towards the nearest tram metro stop, from where I board a tram all the way to the southern Manchester district of Didsbury Village. Didsbury Village is a well-heeled part of the city reminiscent perhaps of Hampstead or Muswell Hill in North London. I take a break here and order some lunch. There are some great charity shops in this neck of the woods too. Didsbury Village is the springboard for the less well-heeled district of Burnage, where the home of a young Liam and Noel Gallagher is located.

Walking away from Didsbury Village and past Burnage train station, I soon locate Sifters record shop. This is the place where Liam, Noel and their older brother Paul used to buy (or maybe, dare I say, pilfer?) their records. It is also namechecked in the early 1994 Oasis single Shakermaker in the line, ‘Mr Sifter sold me songs when I was just fifteen’. Unfortunately, the shutter is down. I read that today it was supposed to close at 5pm yet its currently only after 3pm. Perhaps Mr Sifter wanted a day off? Nevertheless, I get a young tattooed lad on his bike to take a picture of me by the shop.

 

IMG_20181010_161521485_HDR-1560x2080

By Sifters Records in Burnage; a popular haunt of the Gallagher brothers

 

Now I commence the final part of the tour towards the home of the Gallagher boys. Burnage is a rather sedate part of the city. Nothing much goes down here. Yet its in no way the craphouse that perhaps Noel makes it out to be. The only other landmark I remember is some large Chinese restaurant whose name I can’t recall. Past the busy Kingsway dual carriageway I carry on towards Burnage Lane before arriving at Cranwell Drive where their old home is located. It’s a modest nondescript semi and that is all.

 

IMG_20181010_162838253_HDR-1560x2080

The home of a young Liam and Noel Gallagher

 

oasis gallagher brothers growing up

Early photo of the Gallagher brothers (Noel, Paul and Liam) with their mother Peggy

 

Noel-Gallagher-Liam-Gallagher-pic 1

Photo of Liam and Noel taken sometime in the 1990s 

 

Many years ago, I read their brother Paul’s book on their upbringing and it was a pretty shocking read. Their father Tommy was a violent man who used to beat Paul and Noel regularly as well as their mother Peggy. Thankfully, sometime around the early 1980s, the local council were able to move their mother and the boys to another house and this is the house. I believe their mother still lives there, but I could be wrong. As with Morrissey’s childhood home, I refrain from knocking the door out of respect for the privacy of the current residents as tempting as it may have been.

I have no desire to linger longer in Burnage so I catch a bus on the Kingsway road back to central Manchester for a well-deserved pint.

 

By Nicholas Peart

©All Rights Reserved

A Weekend In Hull

Hull Marina

Over the last several days I’ve been slowly travelling from Glasgow back towards London. One of the highlights of this trip has been the weekend I spent in the town of Kingston upon Hull on the mouth of the river Humber. In the past I never thought much about Hull and any previous notions I had of the town were unfavourable and extracted from the media. Noel Gallagher only added petrol to all the lazy stereotypes by branding Hull ‘a f***ing shithole’ at one of his gigs earlier this year. Ground-breaking statement Noel. Last year Hull was made the official UK City Of Culture. I’d also heard numerous stories about artists moving to the town. In the wake of all this it was only natural that if I ever had the opportunity, I should one day go and visit the Hull. With hindsight I am glad I made that decision.

The grand and historic station of Hull was my first taste of the city. My first links with Hull were via its musical history. The members of David Bowie’s backing band during his Ziggy Stardust days, the Spiders From Mars, were from Hull. The guitarist from that band, Mick Ronson, was a key Bowie collaborator and played a paramount role in shaping the sound of some of Bowie’s most important records. He was also a gifted producer. He produced one of Morrissey’s best solo albums, Your Arsenal, from 1992. During that time he developed cancer and sadly passed away a year later. The Beautiful South and Everything But The Girl are two other bands hailing from Hull. Yet its the counterculture history of Hull, which is of great interest to me centred around two founding members of the experimental 1970s group Throbbing Gristle; Genesis P-Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti. Cosey recently published her autobiography, Art Sex Music, which is a riveting and fascinating read. What’s more, an insightful slice of the history of Hull is featured in the book from the times of her upbringing through to the late 1960s when she first met Genesis until the early 1970s when they left Hull for London. During this time they were squatting in a disused industrial building in Hull living an unconventional life outside of mainstream society and setting up what would later manifest into the pre Throbbing Gristle avant-garde performance art collective, COUM Transmissions.

 

DB spiders

David Bowie with his Spiders From Mars backing band

 

COUM Transmissions

COUM Transmissions 

 

When I arrived at the train station, there were numerous landmarks and tributes to the town’s history including a statue of the poet Philip Larkin who lived in Hull for many hears and a blue plaque dedicated to the Spiders From Mars. There were also numerous banners promoting the city’s UK City Of Culture status.

 

IMG_20181005_140459206-1560x2080

Hull train station 

 

IMG_20181005_140351077-1560x2080

Blue plaque commemorating the members of David Bowie’s backing band from the early 1970s, The Spiders From Mars, who hailed from Hull

 

From the train station, I took a local bus to my accommodation outside of the city centre. My accommodation for the weekend was a family home full of character located on one of Hull’s notable avenues; wide leafy streets in a conservation area of handsome Victorian and Edwardian style houses. The interior of the house had many works of art and lots of original features. It was a real treat to stay here. My hosts were kind-hearted, cultured and generous, and took great care of me during my stay.

 

IMG_20181005_180436903-1560x2080

Westbourne Avenue 

 

After settling in my room, I took a stroll towards the town centre. I walked the length of Westbourne Avenue, were I was staying, marvelling at all the houses. One of the houses had a small blue plaque stating that one of the main crew and survivors of the Titanic had lived there. Another blue plaque was dedicated to a poet or playwright. As I walked along Princes Avenue I encountered many Kurdish restaurants. I later learn that Hull is home to a sizable number of Kurds from Northern Iraq. The main high street is deserted. In fact there is not much life in the centre of town. At one point I enter a Weatherspoons bar situated in a grand Georgian building. It is one of the few bars in town that has at least a modicum of life. I find a table and order an IPA beer and a Veggie burger, before deciding to call it a night and return to my accommodation.

The next day I wake up early and walk back to the centre of town. On the way I make an early lunch stop at one of the numerous Kurdish restaurants. For only a fiver I am served a substantial tray of shredded strips of meat and cheap with a pile of salad and two large freshly baked disks of warm pitta bread along with an ayran yogurt drink, a traditional tea and a bottle of water. Similar establishments in London districts such as Stoke Newington, Dalston or Harringay don’t hold a candle. Gilbert and George would love this place. I just wish I could remember the name. But I’ll find it next time I am in Hull.

In town, I visit the Ferens Art Gallery, located in a Neo-Classical Grade II listed building. It has a modest but notable collection of art. Highlights include a painting by the Spanish Renaissance master Jusepe de Ribera, a painting featuring a ship entering Humber Dock after a long voyage from Calcutta by the 19th century Hull painter John Ward, and a group of more contemporary works including a couple of Leon Kossoff paintings, a Nan Goldin photograph and an imposing statue of a naked pot-bellied man holding a long fishing rod like spear by the Australian sculptor Ron Muerck.

 

IMG_20181006_143512176-1560x2080

Sculpture by the Australian contemporary artist Ron Muerck in the Ferens Art Gallery

 

Yet perhaps the most memorable works on display are the photographs by the American artist Spencer Tunick entitled Sea Of Hull from the summer of 2015. This was a monumental work which took place in Hull and featured over 3,200 naked participants painted blue; the biggest ever naked photo shoot in the UK. The event generated a lot of publicity and some argue that it was an important springboard for Hull being granted its prestigious UK City Of Culture title two years later in 2017.

 

Spencer Tunick

‘Sea Of Hull’ by the American photographer Spencer Tunick

 

I then walk to the old town and along the Hull Marina before approaching the Fruit Market district, reminiscent of a micro Shoreditch. Its principle street, Humber street, features chic arty boutiques and pop up art spaces. One of the town’s core art spaces and an integral part of the contemporary art scene of Hull, the Humber Street Gallery, is located here. It is set over three levels including a rooftop terrace. When I visited a performance art event was in the process of being set up.

 

IMG_20181006_150924949-1560x2080

The Fruit Market district 

 

IMG_20181006_152259864-1560x2080

The Humber Street Gallery 

 

From the Fruit Market I strolled towards the Hull Minster; an enormous parish church and the largest in the country. It is a masterpiece of ornate architecture dating back to 1300. It is just as impressive inside; a loving work of art. It is a delight exploring the interior of this church. At one point I sit down on a wooden seat at the back of the church and a full service commences. It is a hypnotic experience and I take it all in for some time falling into an almost deep meditation; carried away just as much by my surroundings as the service itself.

 

IMG_20181006_160400870_HDR-1560x2080

The Hull Minster 

 

IMG_20181006_161049519-1560x2080

Inside the Hull Minster 

 

Next I amble around the attractive old town of Hull to find the Lion and Key pub, which was recommended to me by my hosts. It’s a good choice. An old school tavern with tasteful aesthetics and character located on the old High Street. All the ceilings of the pub are covered in beermats and its a popular place. I am lucky to have found a corner to sit down. On tap are the usual well known lagers and ales plus a few locally brewed ales. I go for a half of one of the latter. There are a number of traditional taverns dotted around the old town.

 

IMG_20181006_171551965-1560x2080

Inside The Lion and Key pub 

 

My next destination is one of the jewels of Hull; the Ye Olde Black Boy pub dating back to 1779. This is the kind of place I came to Hull for. The outside and interior is untouched. Surprisingly, there are less people there than at the Lion and Key and I have no trouble finding somewhere to sit. I have a pint of some nondescript ale. For me it’s not about sourcing the best craft beers and everything about finding and being somewhere authentic.

 

IMG_20181006_183401974-1560x2080

The Ye Olde Black Boy pub 

 

A few blocks away in the old town, I pay The George Hotel pub a visit; another classic old pub located via a narrow alley way, similar in some ways to the historic Ye Olde Mitre pub in Holborn, London. This tavern is pulsating with life. Like the last pub I am perhaps the only outsider in the building. I order a half of a delicious stout and crash here for a while.

 

IMG_20181006_184651806-1560x2080

Inside The George Hotel pub  

 

After my jaunt visiting some of the old pubs of Hull, I head back towards my accommodation via one of the local city buses. En route I make a stop to visit the Hull Fair, which has been in full swing since the start of the weekend. It is a huge event and the biggest fair in Europe. The main thoroughfare is bursting with people and its sometimes a struggle to make any movements.

 

IMG_20181006_204209087-1560x2080

Hull Fair 

 

It is also louder than a Motorhead concert. A myriad of piercing sounds and bright flashing lights thunder at me from all directions. If I were on acid, it would be the worst trip imaginable. It is a fascinating experience and sight though. The lyrics of The Smiths song Rusholme Ruffians whirl around my head, ‘the last night at the fair, by the big wheel generator, a boy is stabbed and his money is grabbed, and the air hangs heavy like a dulling wine’. Yet I don’t sense any menacing danger. Just an overwhelming overload of sensations. I am not tempted to hop on any of the rides nor am I swayed by the fluorescent coloured Slush Puppy like beverages. After some time I decide to walk back to my accommodation located not so far away from the site.

On Sunday morning, I order and pack all my things. My host Ruth kindly allows me to leave my luggage at her home so I can have another day to explore Hull before heading to my next destination. I take the local bus into the centre of town. Around the modern part of town I find a chippy and have a brunch consisting of battered haddock, chips and mushy peas with a can of Cherry Coke. It goes down a treat.

On the edge of the old town and opposite the Ferens Art Gallery is the town’s Maritime museum, located in a lovely historic Grade II listed building. The museum contains information, artefacts, paintings and documents related to the maritime history of the town. One of the most visible objects in the collection is the entire skeletal structure of a North Atlantic Right Whale, which was killed off Long Island, New York in 1907. Nearby is a large cabinet containing a collection of whale teeth and tusks including a few of the sword-like tusks found on narwhales in the Arctic.

 

IMG_20181007_125136315-1560x2080

Whale teeth and tusks inside the Maritime museum

 

One of the most important, if not the most important, figures to come from Hull is the English politician and anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce. His drive to abolish slavery led to the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833, which ended slavery within the British Empire paving the way for other Empires and nations to follow suit. There is a tall and prominent column monument entitled the Wilberforce Monument dedicated to him in town identical to the famous Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, London.

 

IMG_20181007_134216212-1560x2080

William Wilberforce monument 

 

Located in the Museums Quarter of the old town is the Wilberforce House where he was born on 24th August 1759. The house is now a museum dedicated not only to his life and work, but also to the history of slavery. It is a real education and an eye opener to the inhumanities, injustices and brutality of the slave trade. In the outside Wilberforce House Gardens there is a white marble statue of the man himself.

 

Hull photo WW house

Entrance to the Wilberforce House Museum 

 

My time in Hull subsequently comes to a close. I go for an aimless stroll by the River Hull before taking a bus back to my accommodation to pick up my luggage and then take another bus to the train station where I await my train to Leeds.

 

By Nicholas Peart

(c)All Rights Reserved 

 

*All photographs are my own except the main article photograph at the top of the article and the photographs featuring The Spiders From Mars and COUM Transmissions

 

Solutions In The Age Of Job Security Decline

IMG_0790

This is an unpublished piece I wrote back in May 2017

Today we are living during an extraordinary time where technology is advancing at an exponential pace. The growth of the internet and powerful emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence are disrupting industries and jobs that were once considered safe. It seems to me that the traditional Industrial Age job seeker 9-5 modal of working and job security are in decline. Replacing this is the rise of the precarious gig economy of job scraps with zero hour contracts.

Any job where the work is repetitive and/or is work where there are patterns in the tasks is most certainly at risk from potential automation. In fact the whole notion of ‘a job’ is changing. Restricting yourself to the mindset of solely looking for work is restricting yourself to a periodically shrinking pool of increasingly scarce opportunities. On the other hand, if you can move away from the mindset of a job seeker to one of a job creator or entrepreneur than you have already prepared yourself. That is the new job security.

 

Solutions for Workers in low paid Unskilled Jobs

Low paid jobs such retail and bank clerk jobs, cleaning jobs, transportation driver jobs, factory workers and all kinds of call centre and admin work etc are the most at risk from automation. In fact many of the jobs in these industries have already been automated. It is important that people in these jobs take a moment to retreat and try to understand a bit more about themselves. What are your interests and passions? What inspires you? If you have a passion, say for example, for cooking or gardening, you could start a blog and connect with people and impart some unique and sought after tips and extend this into offering a paid service like cooking or gardening classes/workshops. There are also more potential revenue streams like providing advertising space on your website especially if you have lots of subscribers and followers. You could also focus on a more specialised form of something that you are passionate about which would make you stand out if the market of the area you are focusing on is overly saturated.

 

Solutions for Professionals

Professionals in the medical, legal and financial services require more skills than people in low paid unskilled work yet it does not mean that their jobs are not immune from the potential threat of automation. As I already mentioned, it is important to understand and know what interests and inspires you as it can potentially be translated into a successful online business or project. Alternatively, if you are, for example, a lawyer working for a large law firm and you want to remain in the industry, you could start your own online law business in an area of law you are most interested in. In a way, AI will be very beneficial to the legal industry since super intelligent deep learning systems will be able to (and already are to a degree) crunch through reams of dry data and documents in far less time than a human can. This will have the added benefit of freeing up more time to work on more cases and more interesting aspects of law. Furthermore, all these new technologies will make running your own business easier, saving you both time and money.

 

Solutions for Creatives

If you are an artist, musician, writer or fashion designer etc, the most important thing is finding and connecting with your biggest and most loyal fans since they are the ones who will always willingly fund what you do whenever you try to sell your products and services. With the rapid growth of the internet and social network sites this is easier to do than ever before. All this enables creatives to potentially bypass middle agents and deal directly with their fans, meaning all profits go directly to you without any middle people taking a cut. Twitter is an indispensable social networking site for constantly networking, connecting and keeping your fans up to date with all your developments. Instagram was made for creatives and is a very powerful platform to network and showcase your uniqueness.

If you are a creative that is shy and feels uncomfortable with networking and are inexperienced in the business side of things then my advice is to find a trustworthy and experienced manager to do all the networking, promoting, funding and sales on your behalf in exchange for an agreed percentage of your net revenues.

It is very important that you are constantly connecting with your fans and making them feel a part of your creative journey, since if you ever wanted to raise funds for your projects via crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter, you will stand a higher chance of reaching your financial targets.

 

By Nicholas Peart

©All Rights Reserved

A World Where Everybody Is An Entrepreneur Doing Something They Love

IMG_0545

This is an article I originally posted on Elixtacy on July 10th 2017

 

We are currently living in a time of great technological transformations. The internet has created enormous opportunities for individuals, entrepreneurs and businesses. The most clear game changer with the internet is the direct peer to peer contact it offers with all kinds of people from all around the world. It creates a fabulous opportunity to develop an online business or project in something you truly love and enjoy. In the process, you get to directly connect with many different people finding potential fans and clients who appreciate, love and value what you are doing.

 

Moving away from old Industrial Age model jobs

Currently many people are still stuck in Industrial Age jobs. These jobs are often of a repetitive nature even if, for now, they may provide a stable income and job security. And it could be argued that many people who do these kind of jobs don’t enjoy them (even if they may pretend that they do) and do them purely for the money. Yet these are the jobs most at risk from automation. These are not just jobs in the retail, manufacturing, construction, transport and basic service industries but also high skilled jobs in the legal, financial and, ironically, even tech industries (there will come a time when AI will be able to do most of the programming/data analysing jobs and create better software than humans can).

 

Tapping into your creativity 100%

When the above scenario occurs, instead of the dystopian reality that many predict, people will have a great opportunity to develop a business or project doing something they truly love. They will be using their creativity 100%. They will have to. They will have no other choice. It will be the most important “commodity” we have to offer. The alternative option is to be part of a society of “useless people” (a most disempowering term) who constantly lament about how they used to have a solid job and no longer have it due to automation. These are people who sadly haven’t tapped into their creative resources and the immense power within themselves. Instead they fail to change/adapt and are constantly stuck in the past. A very sad state of affairs but it doesn’t have to be like this!

 

The importance of using your initiative

In our current society only a small segment of the population use their initiative. Most people are crippled by fear, anxiety and low levels of self esteem to take the initiative to start their own business or project. They are more comfortable applying for a limited and dwindling supply of jobs. But one day in the future everyone may be forced to use their initiative. Yet it will be by utilising their creative gifts to their fullest capacity. After automation has made obsolete many jobs in existence our creativity will be king and the entire global economy will be full of individual entrepreneurs and startups all utilising their creativity and operating in something they love, which even benefits and contributes to society in a meaningful way. It will be a truly pure and direct sharing economy of people interacting and transacting with their unique services.

 

By Nicholas Peart

(c)All Rights Reserved

How Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality technologies will transform education

49800E9C-A917-4C12-9FF5-CCD0AB3C433A-1385-0000012826A0F745

This is a piece I wrote back in May 2017 on how new technologies could enhance, change and revolutionise the education system

 

One of the true benefits of virtual reality technology is how it is going to impact education. Already there are online courses offered by educational websites such as Coursera. This is a godsend for those who not only can’t afford physical onsite education, but also for those who don’t have enough time and flexibility to always commute to a physical institution. For some, time is actually more valuable than money.

 

Digitising the class room

The real game changer will be when all classes and lectures are recorded and then stored online. Some university lectures are already filmed and made available online but I can see this increasing not just with university lectures but also with typical school classes. This is helpful not just for students who are unable to turn up to some classes/lectures but also for students who did attend the classes/lectures yet want to recap on what was already discussed.

If one can’t physically attend classes because they are unwell, they can catch up via the growing archives of recorded classes. Also if they are not too unwell, they can attend a class virtually in live real time via their VR headsets while resting in bed. They can even participate.

 

 

On site teachers augmented by AR, VR and virtual assistants

Also whilst being present in a classroom one could use Augmented Reality glasses (the original 2012 Google Glass was the earliest example of this technology), which are poised to be brought to the mass consumer market soon, to enhance the learning experience as the teacher is talking. The AR glasses could have intelligent speech recognition sensors which pick up on everything the teacher is saying and pick up crucial words and sentences and create visual examples in the students field of vision as an extension of what the teacher is conveying. In addition the sensors could contain algorithms which translates everything the teacher is saying into key bitesize points with several links to relevant related websites for further research and reading.

Intelligent virtual teacher assistants, especially one which one could have an intelligent and deep two way conversation with (given time) is the holy grail of VR and AI in truly transforming the education system. This is not to say that teachers are replaceable. On the contrary, truly inspirational teachers will always be needed regardless of the quantum leaps made in the field of AI. It’s just that teachers are human and one can only consort with their teachers for so much time. Whereas with virtual teacher assistants, one has 24/7 access to them. Struggling with some research at 2am and want to talk to talk to someone? Even your favourite teacher will not want to be disturbed at such an ungodly hour yet your virtual teacher assistant will always be available.

The hybrid situation of having both on site human teachers and virtual teacher assistants is more likely to seriously enhance the educational system and one’s own learning development than turn it upside down. As I’ve already mentioned, good inspirational teachers will always be needed but teachers who periodically don’t make the grade and don’t have their heart in educating and empowering their students will struggle against virtual teachers systematically becoming more intelligent as time marches on.

 

Virtual teachers designed for primary schools

What’s more, I think virtual teacher assistants will be crucial for primary school education. In my view, it is not very wise to expose children under the age of five to too much (if not any) technology. Yet after that age, virtual immersive teacher assistants may truly assist that stage of the education system. Teaching young children can be very challenging and it takes a unique teacher with vast reserves of energy and a special knack to truly connect to them and get their attention. Most of the time teaching children of that age group can be an incredibly gruelling and trying experience. As a result there is sometimes a severe shortage of good teachers. An intelligent and highly interactive virtual teaching assistant which children love to connect with could revolutionise and be a godsend to the primary school sector.

 

Understanding something better by being totally immersed in it

Children with a short attention span invariably struggle to absorb what a teacher may be trying to get across. Especially if the teacher is explaining things in a boring and uninspired manner. The best way for a child to understand and grasp something is to be fully thrust in that environment. This is where virtual reality can seriously revolutionise the whole education/learning experience. During a history lesson, a film depicting the horrors of the Second World War will likely move most people, but to actually live and feel it vicariously via VR technology could very effectively help people better understand that period of history far more effectively than through books, traditional storytelling and 2D visuals via film and TV.

I think there is a huge market for VR technology to recreate virtually certain periods in history to give people the opportunity to better understand them. In addition to this, there are countless more opportunities for VR (especially when it is more advanced at replicating our sense of touch, taste and smell) to recreate any environments for people to immerse themselves in.

 

By Nicholas Peart

©All Rights Reserved

Image Source: www.nbnco.com.au