1- Portrait of Galileo Galilei, Ottavio Leoni, 1624, Paris - Louvre Museum, © Scala Archives
2- Leonardo da Vinci, James Passelwhite, 1835, © Scala Archives
'On the occasion of the end of the year 2022 celebration, my friend Francesco showed us some wonders of contemporary technology: artificial intelligence that can arrange and manipulate complex ideas, write them down and then translate them in any language, controlled with a few key words. A software that is able to create another software; almost a robot that is able to build another robot.
These wonders had been announced to us by our friend Reid Hoffman when, in May 2019, he came to see us in Solomeo during our first Symposium on Soul and Technology, together with our many friends from the Silicon Valley whom I like to call “the young Leonardos of the 21st century”.
Honestly, I was greatly amazed; and from this amazement came the giddy sense of how much good for humanity can come from technology, and of how much interest is placed upon its development.
I went back in time, and I thought about when, already in the time of Humanism, but actually even much earlier, in the gardens of the aristocrats of the 16th century or in the palaces of Eastern rulers, robots of lions, birds and people were found, which moved thanks to water or other internal mechanisms, and were able to execute actions similar to their live models. In this respect, the Renaissance was able to combine Plato’s knowledge with Archimedes’, because invariably the humanity of the former suggested the path which the technique of the latter would follow in order to enhance the life of humanity: who can forget Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo? It was from their ideas that centuries later came the steam engine. The people of the 19th century must have felt lost in seeing the disappearance of horse-drawn carriages, which had been with them since humanity had the first memory of itself, but they were nonetheless able to understand and use the new inventions appropriately. Today, a time when the products of contemporary technology are so extraordinary that they can be a wonder even to their own creators, I think that, just like in the days gone by, our humanity will choose the most adequate use of the new science to enhance the life of Creation in every way, while at the same time controlling technological innovation so that it might never steal the soul we have received as gift. Two great thinkers of the past, Montaigne in the Renaissance and Jacob Burckhardt in the 19th century, believed, almost in an identical manner, that Science is useless without the guide of our mind.'