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On the pleasure of knowing that someone knows or In praise of Wikipedia for its 20th birthday (series: notes to myself)

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Too much has been said about the love for knowledge, a beautiful lie spread by our wonderful Greeks (Aristotle, Metaphysics , first line : "all men by nature desire to know". As if... ).   There is some truth in the pleasure to know, this much is safe to assume. Not only for its own sake, in the sense that the pleasure to know would be the same even if you were the only person left on earth, like the pleasure of eating chocolate, undiminished even by a third world war and our own self-annihilation. But also in terms of reassurance, as when you know why something has happened, or what is going to happen.  However, there is another pleasure, concerning knowledge, which I believe may have escaped the Epicurean's attention, the hedonist's sensitivity, or the libertine's desire. It is the pleasure to know that someone knows , even if you don't. Dates, facts, and formulae; equations, events, battles, and experiments; poems and their interpreters; the deeds of forgot

On not getting it (series: notes to myself)

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"You are not getting it!" you shout in our mind, thinking in CAPITALS.  And this is a fact. It's the reality. It's how the world is. You are right, and he... well, he is not getting it. End of the story. Nothing else to say. It has to happen sometimes. I mean, that you are right. And it does happen, sometimes, that you are right and he is not getting it.  And so, this is the message you should send, simple and honest: "look, you are not getting it, let me tell you how it is ...". And then you try to explain it again. Perhaps slowly, or with different words. Because the plank in front of you is thick. Maybe an analogy (too many analogies, I know, I know...), "look, it's like when ...", or a metaphor, "look, imagine ...".  But no.  Coward.  What you say instead is "sorry, I did not make myself clear".  What? Not true! You didn't didn't! You did (do I need to explain?). You were as clear as the glass which that fly of a

On the art of biting one's own tongue (series: notes to myself)

The art of biting one's own tongue consists in the ability not to engage when someone says something unpleasant, untrue, malicious, or abusive about you. Instead of answering a biased question, arguing against a ludicrous opinion, complaining about an abusive message, correcting a meaningless error, countering a fallacy, explaining a patent mistake, objecting to a groundless criticism, rectifying a willful misrepresentation, rejecting an insinuation, responding to a provocation, retorting to a nasty remark, replying to an offensive allegation, … in short, instead of engaging with your mindless interlocutors you simply ignore them and do absolutely nothing, not even acknowledging that you might have received their communication, not even sharing a “no comment”, just silence. As far as they know, you might have never got the email, read the tweet or the Facebook comment, seen the Instagram picture. If you bite your own tongue appropriately, for them their communication might have nev

On not reading (series: notes to myself)

I have not read enough. I said this with a sense of inevitable guilt. It’s not merely for lack of time, although that has played a role. It is not only tiredness, now that I have too many other preoccupations and I look for distractions, not more reflections, at night. It is not just because of a sense of unease pleasure, in which one may not indulge without moderation, like drinking good red wine. It is mostly because of a persistent sense of apprehension. Reading is formatting one’s mind, and this is risky, almost dangerous. For a convincing book may kill a tender idea you were nourishing, implanting a new one that is not yours, like a smuggled species on a new island. An insightful book may create turbulent thoughts almost unpleasant, that keep your mind rocking day and night. An interesting book may trigger a chain reaction that will disrupt your malleable reasonings, not yet sedimented. New bits of semantics will pin-pong in the head, interfering with other essential reflections.

Le tre funzioni del linguaggio digitale e le loro conseguenze

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(Questo testo è la Prefazione al volume: Linguaggi nella società e nella tecnica, 1968-2018 - Atti della giornata di studi organizzata dall’Associazione Archivio Storico Olivetti, in occasione del centenario della nascita del fondatore Camillo Olivetti, per riprendere e attualizzare i temi del convegno internazionale sui “linguaggi nella società e nella tecnica” promosso e organizzato nel 1968 dalla Società Olivetti. Milano, Fondazione Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, 15 Ottobre 2018). * * * Nel 1988, grazie a una borsa di studio dell’Università di Roma La Sapienza, fui ammesso come visiting student all’Università di Warwick, per studiare con Susan Haack, una delle più famose docenti di filosofia della logica. Tra i tanti ricordi, c’è quello di giornate senza fine, passate tra la caffetteria e i laboratori del campus, dormendo poco e lavorando senza sosta, scrivendo la tesi di laurea e facendo girare programmi di logica su uno dei tantissimi Olivetti M24, sempre disponibili, ad ogni ora e in

On bad questions (series: notes to myself)

Some questions are bad. Not because they are stupid. Stupid questions are so because of their content, or context, or implications. Stupid questions can also be bad, of course, but bad questions need not be stupid. Questions are bad because they make you look bad when you answer them. For they are questions badly formulated. They are "loaded". So if you wish to avoid a silly answer, you must be ready to question the question, and this is not only bad manners, it also gives the impression that one is trying to dodge the question . Bad questions seem to be of at least two kinds. Yes or no questions. "So, in the end, and to be clear about what you really think: is true, universal Artificial Intelligence possible or not?". If you say no, you are wrong, because there is a sense in which AI is possible, i.e. it is not logically impossible (a contradiction). But if you say yes, then you are wrong, because true, universal AI, the kind you see in sci-fi movies, is factually

The fight for digital sovereignty: what it is, and why it matters, especially for the EU

This article is forthcoming in Philosophy & Technology 33.3 (September) 2020,  as Editor Letter. Digital sovereignty seems to be something very important, given the popularity of the topic these days. True. But it also sounds like a technical issue, which concerns only specialists. False. Digital sovereignty, and the fight for it, touch everyone, even those who do not have a mobile phone or have never used an online service. To understand why, let me start with four episodes. I shall add a fifth shortly. 18 June 2020: the British government, after having failed to develop a centralised, coronavirus app not based on the API provided by Google-Apple,  gave up, ditched the whole project (Burgess 19 June 2020), and accepted to start developing a new app in the future that would be fully compatible with the decentralised solution supported by the two American companies. This U-turn was not the first: Italy (Longo 22 April 2020) and Germany (Busvine and Rinke 26 April 2020, Lomas 27 Apr