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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 qu…

On bad questions

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 im…

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 April…

On "howevering"

Howevering is the second shoe dropping, for which you inevitably wait, successfully, in that suspended moment between a "yes..." and the almost inevitable "but...". Most people love to howeverise (as Kia says). Philosophers are masters in this. Colleagues and friends sometimes seem unable not to howeverise. Critics are addicted to howeverising. They all agree with you, but only howeverly. 
Howevering is a sleight of hand, which retracts what has just been conceded. "Of course, global warming is a life-threatening problem, however...". 
Howevering deflects the immediate confrontation of a disagreement, and this seems polite. I do not wish to say you are wrong, but I think you are, and so I dismiss the yes I just uttered to pacify you, to replace it with the however, and show you what the case really is. 
Howevering is a license to fill the gap with anything you wish. Once you start howevering, there is no end to the chain of clauses supported, or the meta-lev…

On being mansplained

I wanted to make a brief point. I thought it was original. But I was too late, it had already been made: mansplaining is gender-neutral.
I know because I have had people explaining to me – your average Caucasian, male, middle-aged, European bourgeoisie, in other words, the stereotype of the mansplainer – how to spell my name. But let me hasten to say that, no, my dear, this is not literally, thank you for explaining to me that it cannot be the case. I meant it metaphorically.
What puzzles me is how can you be so sure that you are not the one who is not getting it? Please pause for a moment and ask yourself whether "o buraco é mais embaixo", as they say in Brazil, which roughly means that "the hole is further down".
And if it looks obvious to you, if you thought about it, why do you assume I did not?
In short, next time, if you see me behind you, please do wonder whether I might be almost a whole lap ahead, before explaining to me how to run.

L'intellettuale critico e la bacchetta magica

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(Grazie a Arianna Bonino per l'immagine)
Leggo (anche se cerco di non farlo) tante interpretazioni e tante critiche della nostra epoca. 
Alcune sono strampalate (Agamben) altre esagerate (Klein). Alla fine della lettura mi viene sempre da dire: "BUM!", il che non è un buon segno. 
Ma a parte i loro limiti intrinseci (le troppe cose sbagliate o tirate per i capelli che sostengono), mi delude sempre la mancanza di una visione propositiva. È facile fare l'interprete e il critico con le idee altrui (cit.). Come ricordo alle mie studentesse e ai miei studenti, per criticare basta essere smart & sharp (e chi arriva a Oxford in genere lo è) ma per dire qualcosa di propositivo bisogna essere un po' deep (e su questo Oxford non è necessariamente una garanzia, il sistema sembra privilegiare s&s). E le critiche e le interpretazioni in questione non mi risultano deep, solo profondamente superficiali. Non mi danno mai una bella risposta (sulla quale poter anche essere in…

On taking care of the roses

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They say that what matters sometimes is not the outcome but the process: not the success or failure of an action, but just the action itself. 

Maybe. But I always thought it was a bit of sour grapes. Didn’t really want beautiful roses in my garden, kind of line of thinking. The important thing was gardening. Or so you tell yourself, trying to be convincing. 

But I recite this loudly a few times and it still sounds quite lame. It's the philosopher's fault, because he asks the unpleasant questions. Would you have done it anyway, even if the roses had no chance? But above all, what if the process itself is also pointless? Perhaps the gardening is a failure too, like the dead roses. 

So you pause, on your way to the roses, and think: if the outcome is not what matters, and the process is not what matters, why caring for the roses? Better stop, or kill the realist awareness that shows the worthless nature of the whole enterprise. 
Is there anything left, if all is a failure? 

In the thi…