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Home > Newsletter > Issue no. 4 - 2004

Issue no. 4 - 2004

by Redazione FGB [1], 21 August 2004

From June to August 2004 the FGB site followed two main lines of discussion. The first, prompted by the publication on the site of Roberto Panzarani's interview with TILAB (Telecom Italia's research centre), focuses on the common ground between Training, Research and Innovation. The second, which also gave rise to a new initiative called Collaborate, was inspired by Bill Joy's strong concerns over what the Genetics, Nanotechnologies and Robotics (GNR) of the future hold in store for us.

The interview with Roberto Panzarani, entitled "Training means working alongside researchers", addressed the relationship between innovation and training in the information society. The emphasis in the interview was on the role of trainers, while readers' comments tended more to a political standpoint.

For example, Giacomo Correale noted that: "while there is no doubt that those dealing with training must not lose touch with, and in some respects must anticipate, technological innovation, they must also play a part in developing a responsible management class". He concluded by underscoring the political responsibilities of corporate leaders: "just being a good manager is not enough (indeed, it should really go without saying). A good manager needs in some ways, as Richard Norman commented thirty or so years ago, to be a 'man of state'".

Moving on from Correale's analysis, Carlo Penco underscored the need for precise strategic proposals and noted that those who could actually do something in concrete terms to nudge the country into a higher gear - for example trainers, managers or entrepreneurs - seem to lack a sense of responsibility and political passion: "we know what we no longer want to be but are unable to say what we want to become. But if we want to create a movement that can take a stand against decline we need to identify a minimum set of objectives and values towards which to direct our efforts".

A contribution by Vittorio Bertolini went on to mention the importance of developing a training system that gives the "hands-on" approach its due recognition by integrating purely speculative knowledge with knowledge of a more pragmatic type. He took up the leitmotif of the information society, a context where trainers need to know their way around and be able to draw on their own direct experience in their teaching: Internet and the Web are, as Panzarani observed in the interview, an effective context in which to apply this sort of approach.

A comment by Bill Joy, from his article "Why the future doesn't need us" (Wired, April 2000), distils the theme developed in one of the first pieces submitted in the Collaborate initiative (conceived, as the name suggests, as a form of collaborative writing): "Accustomed to living with almost routine scientific breakthroughs, we have yet to come to terms with the fact that the most compelling 21st-century technologies - robotics, genetic engineering, and nanotechnology - pose a different threat than the technologies that have come before. Specifically, robots, engineered organisms, and nanobots share a dangerous amplifying factor: They can self-replicate."

This opening concept was echoed by the publication of Giuseppe O. Longo's essay entitled "Il futuro tra incertezza e responsabilità" ("The Future: Uncertainties and Responsibilities"), which sets forth many key elements of his vision of the future. His ideas can therefore be compared with those of Joy and other leading scientists and intellectuals discussed in the first four articles of Collaborate. These articles, entitled: "Danger", "The Ultimate Danger: apocalittici e integrati", "La questione della responsabilità secondo Joy e secondo Kurzweil" and "L'inevitabile e il desiderabile", are modelled on other experiences designed to foster knowledge-sharing through the Internet: individual readers can make their thoughts and ideas available to others in the form of considerations, some of them very free-ranging, or of information, news or links that expand upon or where appropriate correct (in a word, "improve") the material published in a site. The model is loosely based on a Web that is not just an instrument for passive consultation but also a means of contributing directly to the content made available on-line.

Taking part in Collaborate is simplicity itself: all you need to do to see your contribution immediately on-line is write it out using the form that can be found at the foot of each article of the series.

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