“The responsibility will only be human”

We are not only navigating the web, but also towards a new world. A world that is neither completely offline nor online. We are therefore onlife, to use an expression coined by Luciano Floridi, professor …

"The responsibility will only be human"

We are not only navigating the web, but also towards a new world. A world that is neither completely offline nor online. We are therefore onlife, to use an expression coined by Luciano Floridi, professor of Cognitive Sciences at Yale. We are suspended between two realities that want to coexist, sometimes with difficulty. And who help and contrast each other in a strange paradox.

Professor Floridi, when we talk about artificial intelligence (AI) we often find ourselves faced with either great supporters or fierce critics. What is the truth?

«There are both excellent opportunities and great risks, which however are not presented correctly because we always look at the extremes».

Let's try looking towards the center, then

«There are serious risks if very powerful technologies end up in the hands of the wrong people, but they don't have to do with science fiction scenarios or artificial intelligence dominating the world. All the risks we take – today, tomorrow and forever – are human. We see this with the use of AI in the war in Gaza: if a disaster occurs it is because someone made the wrong decision. If AI is used badly, the responsibility is entirely and only human.”

So will man still have his part, for better or for worse?

«Yes, all the problems we have are of three types: bad, excessive and under use of technology. The first case is that of those with bad intentions, such as criminals. The second is when we use AI unnecessarily and end up having a negative impact on the environment and society. Finally the third: having no ethical and legal rules, we use this technology little, as in the case of medicine.”

Can we say that artificial intelligence is a tool, therefore neutral?

«It is not a question of neutrality, but of tension. AI is like a rope that doesn't move not because no one is pulling it but because it is pulled from both sides. Everyone pulls it this way and that: if one of the two forces takes over, then the AI ​​stops being in tension and becomes unbalanced. For better or for worse.”

Up to this point in the conversation, though, AI seems more negative than positive

«We must warn against excessive enthusiasm for immediate applications because they are sold as a panacea by those producing AI. The business world is cautious because it wants to understand clearly which advantages are worth pursuing and which will come with enormous costs.”

For example?

«It is clear that in a context where I want to improve the efficiency of systems, a similar tool is positive. But it is equally true that this tool arrives in an exploratory phase: it is a bit like being the first to test a product. There is a temporality that is linked to competition.”

The worry is that we live lives that are increasingly online and less and less offline. Don't lives like this risk being sad?

«I would say that they are more complicated lives. Some time ago, I coined the word onlife. Neither online nor offline but a hybrid form of digital and analogue, online and offline. The online experience is expanding with profound cultural transformations that have to do with who we are and who we want to be. Those things that make us say that society has radically changed compared to the analogue one of a few decades ago.”

What will our life be like?

«Of greater responsibility. It could be extraordinary or miserable, as in the case of kids who suffer or manage social media. Culture and social interactions, legislation, good training and individual responsibility will be fundamental: a bit like in the past when television was spoken of as a bad teacher, but we were all saved.”

Making prophecies is always a gamble, but how do you imagine the world of tomorrow?

«It risks being partly like Huxley's Brave New World, in which entertainment, laziness and the desire not to make a difference will be a very dangerous siren. And partly like Orwell's 1984. But this should make us more responsible: there is a viable path between these two positions.

The passage is narrow and difficult, but both can be avoided.”