The National's Agony Uncle is here to sort out YOUR problems

ON a scale of one to Elmer Fudd, how stupid is Sean Spicer? – Hannah, Glasgow

I doubt that even Elmer Fudd, the slow-witted long-time adversary of Bugs Bunny, would reduce himself to supporting the Trump administration. While the Trump ministry is certainly built on foundations of mediocrity and bullplop, Sean Spicer is very much the mouthpiece. On a ship of fools, he’s vying for lead jackass on the poop deck. This is quite impressive given that you could literally replace him with a urine-soaked sponge and expect more honesty and sense from it.

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Spicer’s comment to journalists that even Hitler “didn’t sink to using chemical weapons” exhibits inexplicable levels of ignorance and thoughtlessness – especially as his remarks coincide with the festival of Passover. Hearing the exclamations of shock from reporters, Spicer sought to clarify that he was making a distinction between Hitler’s use of chemical weapons in Germany and Assad’s use of chemical weapons in Syria. In other words, Spicer gave an alternative history of chemical weapons to journalists, who, unsurprisingly, were not to be misled.

Just as baffling was Spicer’s use of the phrase “holocaust centres”, by which he appeared to mean “concentration camps”. As if to reassure journalists that his knowledge of world history was exactly as poor as they had reason to believe, Spicer made reference to concentration camps – in which millions of Jews were murdered – as if they merited comparison to universities or retail parks. For a press secretary to the President of one of the most powerful nations in the world, Spicer seems to be quite an anomaly.

With an apparent disregard for facts, he appears quite happy to speak his mind without fear of being branded a dope, doing so with all the eloquence of a drunken billy goat. In this sense, he’s a perfect fit for perhaps the most anti-intellectual American government of all time.

Writers of ribald political satire must be tearing their hair out right now. Whether meaning to or now, Sean Spicer is beating them at their own game. Unfortunately for us, though, ridding the world of this real-life consortium of dunces will not be as simple as cancelling a TV show.


Robots are the future – work will no longer define us 

What is your take on the increasing automation of society? – Charles, Bearsden

Right-wingers preaching the “danger of immigration to our jobs” has made me chuckle for a while. Anybody who has been paying attention knows that the real threat to employment does not come from foreigners, but from machines. By the time the alt-right bigots have built their walls to “protect their professions”, the entire concept will be redundant. Robots will already have taken their jobs. In fact, technology already exists that could produce said walls with barely any human involvement at all.

Soon, most customer service jobs will be done by AI machines, call centres will be entirely computerised, and fast-food restaurants might be comprised of only a few staff and interactive digital menus. Accountancy is likely only a few software updates away from being an inessential occupation. The impending 3D printing revolution could see a string of high street shops closed in favour of online “buy and print” methods. Self-driving vehicles could make taxi drivers and truckers redundant in their thousands; whether we like it or not, 21st-century tech is going to force us to reassess employment.

Now, don’t consider this a statement against automation entirely. I’m smart enough to know that there is little we can do to stop the march of technological progression.

After all, I am presently typing this article using MS Office, an application that has likely halved the number of administrative jobs across the planet in the last 30 years. Moreover, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of you bought a copy of The National today using a self-service checkout. It’s nothing to be ashamed of – it’s the future. The only thing we must ask ourselves is how we can adapt to accommodate this new world of technology?

Universal basic income is something that I firmly believe could be an effective short-term countermeasure against this increasing automation of society. As it stands, Tories wish to shame the unemployed, but the simple truth is that work as we know it isn’t going to exist in a few decades.

Logically, the end game of this automation will result in a massive shift in the global economy, likely towards digital currency or perhaps the abandonment of money altogether. Until then, UBI could certainly cushion the blow to millennials who inhabit a world where their skillsets are constantly being acquired by machines.

Unemployed doesn’t equal lazy; in many cases it simply equals reality. It’s about time politicians acknowledged the world we now live in, and started to put together a plan that will maintain a high quality of life for citizens in an era where occupation is no longer the definition of a human being.