A Hope for the tv of 2000
by Giuseppe Fortunati
- ADVANTAGES FOR THE TV USER
-INFORMATION AND TV NEWSREELS
-INTERNET: " THE NETWORK OF NETWORKS"
-TRAVEL ON INTERNET
-ADVERTISING ON DEMAND
-THE WORLD OF LABOUR
I wrote this book a couple of years ago whit an intent to speak of the future, and now i find that many of the assumptions i made have materialized.
You might say that it was easy; however, the purpose of this booklet still hold good, as it is addressed mainly to all those who do not have the fortune of possessing a computer and therefore cannot even imagine the scope and possibilities of these new means of comunication.
I purposely chose an easily comprehensible language --- at times at the expese of technical completeness --- in order to reach the maximum number of persons. Moreover I am definitely annoyed by today' s poor manner of " making television " and I sincerely hope that whit the advent of the telecomputer the situation will change radically and in a positive direction.
I also think that the new information techonogies may improve humans relations, contrary to what one may think initially. In fact, I don't believe that the telecomputer will cause us to live better with the others.
Just think ofone of our present days: the stress to reach the place of business or study, the endless queues of cars, with pollution and wast of economic and physical energy.
Extremely long queues if front of each teller to perform even the easiest operation, the enervating waiting, clerks who are sometimes tired or just impolite endless queues only to be told: " Sorry, you' ve come to the wrong office. "
A condition of infinite subjection and helplessness in front of bureaucray that wants us to be ignorant and uninformed.
Eating out --- the classical sandwich --- to avoid coping again with the chaos of transfers. Then finally, in the evening, tired and spent, we are ready for the rite of "Television ".
No longer TV spectators, but TV protagonists: this must be our motto for the future. Of course; initially it will be difficult to change our habits, but just think of the pleasure of being able to choose both the subject and the type of activity to carry out, in the midst of an ever - increasing offer, because every event, film, text or speech will be recorded in the new manner and can be filed and kept available in our hones, now and forevere over the centuries.
A file that is continually in exponiental development because everyone can contribute to its growth and once created, every single piece of information will always be available.
There will no longer be small libraries for the collection of books, video tapes and the like, but a universal megalibrery spread all over the world that can contain all human knowledge.
It is of no importance where the information is deposited; we shall just be interested in the final result, that is, that from our home we can have the world in our pocket. We will be the ones to choose the information that most amuses, gratifies or interests us. We may get in touch whit people we never met before, whit an availability if openness of mind that are quite novel, without fear or qualms.
Just watch youngsters contacting each other via internet, for instance, on an urban network. You' ll see how rich their ideas, how genuinetheir initiatives, their pleasure in doing things in common in order to grow togrther, to share the same interests or even to listen to different opinions. There are areas here for the mind to rove without physical barriers of race or religion, regardless of your looks or your social status.
You will be accepted only for your ideas and your capability to communicate.
Because sometimes we entrench behind a shield of hypocrisy, in respect of our neighbour, for fear or simply disinterest, but the new means bare our joy of living and communicating because this is the essence of life.
I greet all cybernauts -- both old and new -- and those who don' t know the meaning of the word yet, but will soon join us.
The great love between Television and the Computer, from a purely theoretical fact, is becoming reality.
The intruments that dominate our manner of producing information are joining forces to become one -- something that is capable of exploiting to a maximum the capability of the two means: on one hand the capillarity and wide diffusion of television which, becauseof its simplicity in application, is now indispensable for every family, and on the other hand the power of the computer which the great speed of retrieving it, opens up and amplifies performace and prospects.
So far many have opposed the merging of these two means for reasons of interest.
In fact, whoever owns TV networks holds also great power to sway public opinion.
Evidence of this is found in the bitter diputes that developed in Italy between political power and TV power.
For years information and political power had reached a tacit agreement for sharing and connivance; now, with entrepeneurs who own TV networks entering on politics, the pre -- esisting equilibrium so painfuilly resched has receiving a stunning blow.
However, such a turn was inevitable, and it cannot be stopped because in these past decades technology has taken long strides both from the technological standpoint of the new hardware and because of the growth and diffusion of the software.
Indeed, it is enough that a human being whatsoever conceive and write a program on the computer and in a very short time it will become the patrimony of all mankind and it can be used anywhere in the world, thanks to the ease of copying and duplicating the information.
Another revolutionary aspect is the possibility of codifying any sort of information:
Into a single and universal language that is the elementary language of the electric impulses zero and one, that is, the binary language. Without entering into the technical details, this fact allows us to deal with any of the aforesaid kinds of information as if they were all of the same sort and thus could be filed in the same manner to be retrieved later at any time though sophisticated research criteria.
Why is it then that "this marriage mustn't be done " between television and computer beyond technical problems?
The main reasons are two:
- the holder of tv power does not want to lose the supremacy of information that allows him to manage and direct public opinion.
- Television rests on advertsing which now the spectators are obliged to suffer, but with the new technologies it will be hard to retain this situation as the TV spectator will become a TV protagonist who can choose what he wants to see.
But why is there so much talk of the new means of making television? What are the advantages and the new opportunities for the user?
Let us try to give plain answers in the next chapter.
Advantages for the TV user
First of all, let us try to better define the appliance that will enter our houses and is the result of the fusion between television and computer which, for the sake of simplicity, we shall hereafter call Telecomputer.
In pratics, a normal TV set will need a new component, more or less of the size of a videorecorder, that will contain the information system (the computer). It may or may not be inserted in the same block as the TV set. The remote control unit will be a larged, possibily with a wider mouse. therefore, from the standpoint of appearance the changes will not be so evident. On the contrary, a significant aspect lies in the fact that the signal will travel, at least initially, through a cable instead of an antenna.
In the more developed countries the cable will be made of optical fibers and will allow a greater capacity and speed in the transmission of signals; in other countries, such as ours, the cable will be a telephone cable with lower speeds and greater costs.
Will shall not dwell on these technical details because the purpose of this booklet is merely to provide popularization and perspective and also because tecnology evolves very rapidly so that it can be envisaged that in a few years time the information signal could travel via air or satellite be means of small and cheap receiver-transmitter sets to be installed in every home.
Therefore we are speaking of a new instrument that can easily be adapted to our parlour and, at least in appearance, will be similar to our TV set. But if the looks of the telecomputer are like those of a TV set, the service we can receive from this new appliance will be overwhelming.
The main advantage for the TV user will be his ability to choose, at any time, what he wants to see or do with his telecomputer. In fact, there will no longer be any preplanned daily programming; the TV emitter will have to change its role, from a simple supplier of traditional transmission to a supplier of ever-groving computerized files, services of various nature, a newstand of electronic papers, a supplier and seller of computer programs, distribution of files of documentaries, seller of every kind of music, a real estate office, a travel agency and many other things that will be mencioned later. The user's advantage is thus to become a teleprotagonist of the information system, not only in the research of new things to be seen, listened to or read, but also in the possibility of interacting with the new means so that he himself can provide information and services to the external world.
The latter factor opens a new line of chances for amusement, culture, formation and services.
Let's pretend that we are relaxing in our sitting room in slippers, in front of the telecomputer. It is a warm day in July, the heat is stifling and we are profoundly envious of our next-door neighbour who is on vacation at the seaside. We switch on the telecomputer and decide to view the catalogues of the main suppliers of organized vacations.
We pick the best-known one and start "running through" the pages of the electronic catalogue. This tourist village is intresting, but I would like to know more about it. Let us see a filmed documentary on it: I don't like the animation, yet I'll have a look at the technical card on services and costs. Definitely too dear!
Let us try to find something cheaper. We base our research on the limits of our meagre funds and select only the residences that do not cost more than a million lire a week.
The list is much sorter now: let us see what we can do. The first village that seems to be intresting is near the sea. From the film it appears that the parts and heart-shaped swimming pool with its childrens' slides are well kept; also the restaurant appears to be good and the rooms are clean and well furnished. Perfect! Let me call my wife to see it it is of her liking. "Right now I can't, dear, I'm taking a shower and I have to dry my hair." With normal TV, once the moment has passed I would not be able to see what has just been transmitted, but since I'm fortunate enough to own a telecomputer I can assure her: "Don't worry, dear, I'll take the references and we can have a look later. I'll come and take a shower with you; anyhow the telecomputer can wait."
After our shower we switch on the telecomputer and here is our cute little residence. "Do you want to see the suite, dear? Look how cute the forniture looks in that old navy style. The price is good, too. If you agree, we'll book immediately."
The available choices appear on the screen. "Let's hope it is vacant in the first week in August.There! Only suite B15 is available.
Let us ascertain whether there is a room for the children .
It is a three -- room suite.
Fine! Let's look at the kitchen corner: it has also a microwave oven.
Good! Let us book it.
Please pass the tuner. "
I rapidly digit our personal data, place our booking for the desired week and choose the form of payment via credit card; and I already anticipate the pleasure of my vacation.
"And what shall we do tonight?" Let us see on the telecomputer what shows are being given in our town.
There doesn't seem to be a great selection.
Let's have a look around the provinve.Here, in this village they are having an ice -- cream fair, but we want to stop at a pub or pizza shop along the way.
"Look! The telecomputer is displaying the list of places for refreshment.
I didn't know they had opened this new pizza shop.
Let's see how it looks inside: it's furnished whit very good taste.
It almost gives you the impression you'are in Tyrol and yet it's only seven kilometres away. Let us check the menu and the house specialties.
I'll take this pizza whit forest flavours, but without ' mozzarella' cheese.
Let's book for 8 p.m. so that we'll have plenty of time to enjoy the ice -- cream fair."
Thanks to the telecomputer we have organized a very pleasent evening, passing from an oppressive, drab situation.. to an aggeablee place not far away, with its charm of aromas, perfumes... pizza and ice cream, of whose axistence we had no idea.
Moreover, we have planned a vacation chosen on the basis of more information, also saving on the price and avoiding loss of time.
Having the correct information allows us to better enjoy life. Let us leave the telecomputer and the cute pizza shop, bearing in mind that what we said is not fiction science. for istance i connect with the whole world to have information, even though with some difficulties due to small technical problems .
Soon the scene described above will become a normal episode of family life.
Many are the possibilities offered by the new informational instruments; their correct utilization, the possibility of ideating a thousand other applications will depend only on us. This is only the begining of a new splendid era which it is up to us to know and discover.
Information and TV Newsreels
The old TV newsreels will no longer have a reason to exist, because at any moment during the day and night it will be possible to have accesso to a programme of information.
This fact it in itself an advantage because it relieves us of the oblication of respecting precise timetables, as is the case today.
In addition, also in this case, thanks to the possibility of choice and dialugue with the telecomputer, we shall be able to select the news of geatest interest to us and also the degree of depth.
We shall no longer be obliged to listen to a whole series of news that are of little or no interest to us, as often happens with current newsreels, but we shall be able to pick out the news we are most interested in.
This fact is not to be overlooked and actually it is one of the basic nodes linking politics and power to information. In fact, at present the kind of news at our disposal in the papers can easilly be controlled and directed towards the various power blocs and depending on their interests the latter will often giv us news that are viewed from their standpoint or are downright negative in order to convince us that, all told, we' re not too bad off in our homes. In addition, the news from the rest of the world is centered mainly on wars, murders, coups d'etat and all sorts of tremendous crimes; as a matter of fact, the more brutal the crime the more it is brought to our attention. While I watch the TV newsreel I often get the feeling that I'm being treated like a bull in the area, with the newreporter acting as the torero, waving his red muleta to distract the bull from the real danger.
On the contrary, let us now imagine our standard family dealing with the new instrument, that is the Telecomputer, and the new kind of TV information.
In the first stage of viewing the infotmation, I shall certainly have at my disposal several coices at different levels, such as:
- Sport reports
- Financial reports
- Political reports
- Society events
- Exhibilitions and shows
- Crime news
- Conflicts and wars
- Civic affairs
After that selection I can choose events of the following natures:
It should be made clear that as there are now international, national and local broadcasting stations, the data colletion centers will be structured in a similar manner, and possibly in an even more spread pattern.
At this point, after the initial selections, we may choose between filmed or written material. Nothing prevents the possibility for the laziest viewers to have prepacked newsreels at various levels and on various subjects; therefore, a much more pin-pointed and selective kind of TV information... for instance concerning only fashion, or sports or, for the most passive, the classical newsreel.
The fact should not be overlooked that every piece of news would be broadcast in real time and not according to a preset time table. All information input from any one broadcasting station would immediately be available from that very moment without having to wait for the next news report, as we do now.
In practice, "extra editions" will no longer have reason to exist, because everything will be broadcast in real time. Undoubtedly, this entails a new method of journalism; in fact, all the news in the various forms, films, writings, photographs, comments and radio reports will have to be updated and filed continually. Although more inconvenient for the person managing the network, this fact would afford many advantages to a normal individual, both in the choice of information and in the possibility of viewing again also news of the previous days or months. For example, one might want to have another look at the monthly or weekly reports on the desired subject.
In addition, we may look up the news just when it is needed, or re-view the details of an event that, initially, was not considered very important. The good thing is that we can go into deeper detail; for instance, if we should want information on our preferred soccer team, we could just look up the result or call for a summary of the salient stages or only the main actions and goals, or only part of the game. And all this could take place whenever we wish, programming our time freely without restraints.
At the political level, the situation would be really interesting, because we would have at our disposal a much wider range of news than what is available today; as a matter of fact, the political parties themselves could provide and manage the information they want to pass on to the people. This fact would entail more work for the politicians, but would also bring out a new class that is more prepared and more available for debate on real problems and not on hidden unsavoury operations.
For instance, if on our telecomputer we wanted to see the position of a party regarding a specific problem, such as pensions, there wouldn' t be much room to confuse us with absurd dramatics, for it would be enough for a single party to start representing its standing clearly and precisely to oblige all the other parties to do the same and assume their precise responsibilities.
Perhaps this is one of the main reasons why most politicians oppose this new means of spreading information, because it would undoubtedly upset at the basis all the schemes and plotting that are now the rule. In fact the main opposers of information transparence and circulation are the very politicians that are aware that information is power and that to give up the control on information is actually the equivalent of placing oneself at the service of the population. However, these are only a few of the aspects of the informational kaleidoscope that would be created with this new means of information, because in practice we would have wide-spread information on the most diverse subjects, with both full-time and part-time reporter. In fact also the TV user... I beg your pardon... the teleprotagonist coul write articles at home and submit them to a local editorial office for further elaboration or just simply for broadcasting expansion or rejection.
Certainly many will object that this type of teleinformation would be a means for a small elite and that the mass would be at a disadvantage because of this operation. A long debate might be opened on this aspect which would in any case enrich us all from a cultural standpoint. It is my opinion, in fact, that many would draw an advantage from that situation. Moreover, it should be borne in mind that such a process cannot be stopped and sooner or later it will come about. As a matter of fact, it is already being realized.
Thanks to the higher cultural standard, many could give a greater contribution at all levels; at any rate , even the less favoured persons would undergo a growth or, at least, a better situation than the present one.
INTERNET: " THE NETWORK OF NETWORKS"
This is the magic word known to many that identifies "the network of networks " as an immense cobweb which wraps the whole world with its telephone connections between computers. In the present state of the art it is a great step towards the merging of television and the computer even though a lot has still to be done in that direction.
Internet was born in 1968 as a project of the Pentagon, that is, the US Defense Department. The project consisted in creating a military network of computers spread all over the territory of the USA, so as not to be easily identified and attacked by possible enemies. It should be borne in mind that at that time a cold war was raging between the Russians and the Americans.
The designers of the first network, which was called Arpanet, came from the consulting engineering company of Bolt Beranek and Newman, Inc. who operate in Massachussetts. Among the pioneers we shall name:
-- Ben Barker, designer of the Arpanet hardware interfacing;
-- Roland F. Bryan, researcher of the Santa Barbara University of California, one
of the first Arpanet centers;
-- Stephen Crocker, designer of the protocols for Arpanet;
-- Severo Ornstein, responsible for the hardware for the commutation of the
packages of information.
We shall limit the list to the foregoing for space reasons only, because the most interesting aspect of the Arpanet network first and of Internet later is that they are born from the contribution of thousands and millions of people who use and expand the network of information with their daily work. You, too, could contribute to the growth of this information network .
The first, strictly military stage soon involved the main American universities, both because of the existence of adequate computers and because of the need for qualified personnel capable of working in an environment that was initially complicated. Indeed, it was necessary to know the Unix operative system at the basis of the operation of the system.
The university world used that means of information exchange among computers for the purpose of research and exchange of information among the various universities with the so-called Electric Mail, that is, a very fast and inexpensive means for the exchange of letters and files among computers.
With the end of the cold world, the connecting network contined to develop more and more intensely, thanks to the contribution and exchange of information among high-level minds all over the world. Nonetheless, up to about three years ago the phenomenon of Internet was mainly restricted to the university world which had at its disposal free of cost all the computer connections and the knowledge required to work on that system. Then a group of CERN researchers in Geneva created a graphic interface, World Wide Web (www), that allowed any person to work in the Internet environment with appropriate programs such as Mosaic or Netscape without any effort and actually to work in an environment in which it is easy to manage photographs, drawings, sounds and manuscripts, simply under control of a mere tuner called "mouse". A mouse checks on the screen the movement of an arrow that is used to select the desired item by means of a button; pressing the button on the mouse (called "clicking") selects the item pointed out by the arrow.
In view of the wide mass diffusion, many companies, in addition to the universities, started leasing their computers for a small price to be used as a point of sorting out and input into Internet. Once a link is established with the physically nearest input point, Internet allows travelling all over the world at the simple cost of the local connection. In practice, it is like making a telephone call to America for the price of a local phone call (provided that there is an input point to Internet in town).
To speak and write only of the things that can be done on Internet is very restrictive, because this is a multimedial system and writing alone is but a small part of the Internet capabilities. At any rate I shall try to give a small example to rouse your curiosity and to induce you to try. As a matter of fact it is easy to try: all you need is a personal computer, an apparatus called Modem to connect to the telephone outlet and a little goodwill... It won't be a telecomputer, but it's already a great deal.
TRAVEL ON INTERNET
At last everything is ready: it is time for the first connection to Internet. The modem dials the telephone number and here comes the "house page"of my provider. (This is page with a welcome by the supplier of the access to Internet.) The graphics are very smart: there are various photographs and the choice of various languages for our conversation. I select Italian and start moving the mouse down the screen , which seems to be endless. In fact, every time I get down to the lower edge, the whole page goes up, the first lines disappear and new information appears at the bottom. There is quite a full range of subjects:
in addition to specialized areas such as advertisements and available services. Each of them offers quite a variety of choices. I start moving around with the mouse and I click on the photograph file. I am swamped by an infinity of images of every kind that slowly materialize on the screen. I am fascinated by the model, who is immediately superimposed by a vew of my adoptive town, Florence. My curiosity is aroused and looking through a magazine I find the address of the Florence university: "http://www.unifi.it"--the magic symbol that instantly connects me to the computers of that university. As by a happy spell, new information relating to the various subjects, both in writing and photographs, begins defiling down the screen. I am attracted by the Science Museum: the address is all a program named "Galileo.imss.firenze". I click and there appears the photograph of the first room in the museum, with the paintings and the doors to the following rooms. I am enrapt in the visit and stop every now and then to admire old scientific instruments that I had never seen in my physical seven-year stay in Florence. The power of Internet!!
Still pleasantly impressed, I decide to go to Bologna selecting the Cineca site (this is the name given to the computer centers that supply information on Internet), address http://www.nettuno.it. There appears the god of the sea with his trident. I notice a wording "Routes of Bologna town". My idea of having an information system at the service of the individuals wasn't so absurd, after all!
I see that many of the ideas that have been crossing my mind for years have now become real; I avidly read the list of subjects; each one is accompanied by an amusing icon (a colored drawing illustrating the wording):
- Bologna Commune
- Civil Administration
- Information and discussions
- Emergency S.O.S.
- Health Service
- Transport and mobility
- Economy and Finances
- Education and Employment
- Commerce and Industry
- Continuous office hours
- Culture and leisure time.
(Every wording is accompanied by the English translation,) At last an information system at the service of the individual, information of every kind easy to read: where to stay, the town's statute, a list of museums and public parks, ecology and pollution, applications for certificates.
By clicking on the blue wording we open new windows with information on the associations, area committees, health services, road and public building maintenance... I get lost in the sea of data and regret not being a Bolognese. However, I find that other town networks are being set up in towns such as Rome and Milan and I realize that what was my dream some ten years ago is becoming more and more real.
But now it is time for diversion, even though it is so hot, the traffic is heavy and parking space is hard to find. Let me try on the Internet Shopping Network, that is, Internet's supermarket. For the moment there are more than 600 firms that sell and deliver all over the world. The electronic supermarket is divided into six virtual storeys: Personal articles, clothing, computers, services, furniture, new media.
Each storey is huge and the assortment of goods is enormous: from presents to CDs and records, from books to tropical flowers, from steel modeling to Swarowski glassware. The catalogs are rich and well illustrated, and the price of the goods is quite interesting. I am drawn to a pretty present for my daughter. By electronic mail I confirm my purchase and anticipate the pleasure of making my Mariangela happy.
I look at my watch--time has sped away. Regretfully I end the connection and exit from Internet. Anyhow, I now I can go back whenever I want to. It's a pity that it is over for today, but I need not regret, because my friends and I will take a nice trip in my green Umbria.
PRESENT LIMITS OF INTERNET
For the time being Internet is certainly the tool that is closest to the Telecbmputer, and although it is used by some 40 millions persons all over the world (I stress 40 millions ... for the moment) it is still a tool reserved for a small number, because it requires a set of relatively expensive pieces of equipment and a fairly good understanding of the use of personal computers.
The main limitations of this communication network are:
- Complexity in the research of information. In fact, the bulk of data is immense and the tools to move about them are relatively limited. That explains why Internet users are called navigators of the cyberspace.,
- At present, the network travels on telephone lines so that the transmission of photographs is very slow and it is practically impossible to transmit filmed material.
- It is necessary to know English, because the major sites are in the United States.
- The telephone lines are often clogged and it takes several attempts to get through (we must bear in mind that each connected user occupies a telephone line).
- At present the telephone service operates under a monopoly system, and private concerns are afraid to invest in the fear of a direct intervention (actually announced) by Telecom, which might provide access directly to the user, overriding whomsoever has invested time and money to create a network of services and a bulk of information already available on their computers.
-It is not clear yet how a profit can be made with Internet; indeed, the rental fee is comparable to the TV fee, but advertising is hardly operable. In addition, the main motor of Internet is the University world which operates on no-profit bases as it is already financed by the national governments, thus in open competition with private concerns that must necessarily square accounts.
ADVERTISING ON DEMAND
The real master of television is advertising; this subtle instrument used to finance every TV programme allows the networks to have the income needed for their survival. One might debate at length on this subject, but rather than the past it is appropriate to think of the future.
In the future it is difficult to imagine a voluntary choice to watch an advertisement, whereas at present the TV user must passively the advertising on each programme. As a matter of fact, the more interesting a programme , the more advertisements it contains. What will happen when the TV user will become a TV protagonist? If I am in a position to choose, will I still choose to watch programmes full of advertisements? And again, how should advertisements be introduced inside the new telecomputer?
These are only some of the questions, but they are enough to explain the reason why the large interests that at present rotate in the televi sion world and thus in the advertising world are clearly in opposition to the new way of considering the telecomputer This is certainly the real problem to solve before passing from traditional to interactive television.
Who will finance the new TV programmes and how? How will advertising spots be in the future? Will advertising continue to be as we know it today?
There will certainly be a transition stage, but the information acience moves at a giddy speed, and what took years before now occurs in a matter of seconds.
Let us have some fun conjecturing on the advertising of the near future.
Excluding the total absence of advertising (pleasant idea but not quite conceivable), let us see some of the alternatives.
Certainly most of the advertisements could be inserted in the introductory pages of the main suppliers of information, next to their symbol. Another possibility could be supplied by the various selection menus that could accommodate advertisements Of course, also films and transmissions of a various nature could contain TV spots, as now occurs in traditional TV.
The real innovation could be a new type of publicity, no longer limited to simple slogans and short spots, but actual documentaries both on the producer and on the characteristics peculiar to each product, with evidence and explanations on the manner of use or employment. Many firms are inserting their catalogues in the Internet network, with written information and detailed images. The various producers could reach the final user directly, skipping several rings in the distribution chain; in fact, the presentation of the products listed in their catalogues could be greatly detailed, with wordings A images and films, and the price lists related to various levels.
Furthermore, it should be borne in mind that the teleprotagonist will be in a position to place an order directly from his home for any kind of goods, simply by using the tuner of his telecomputer. Therefore, hard times await small merchants and tradesmen who will see their role more and more reduced. Hard times also for old-style publicity agents who will have to change their kind of job completely so as to attract the interest of the new users who are no longer passive but protagonists also in the choice of advertisements. Hence a greater awareness in the area of publicity, but with frontiers yet to be discovered and invented, with ample space for moving around and thus new opportunities.
FORMATION AND CULTURE
At present television has very little points of contact with culture in the strict sense; it is rather a tool for diversion and amusement, sometimes of a very low levels But with the telecomputer, quizzes and shows could be just as successful as a multimedia encyclopedia or a course of interactive formation, because culture mustn't necessarily be boring.
I imagine my daughter busy with a research of ancient Roman history. I don't know how many of you have had an opportunity to see a multimedia, maybe simply on a computer cd-rom. At present it is enough to insert the disk(similar to a cdmusical) into the computer and start the program. @This will all sorts of research to be carried out among an encyclopedia made out of writings, images, films, sounds and animation.
"Well, then, Mariangela; why don't you use your telecomputer for your history research?" "You're right, dad; it is even more amusing. I select the new multimedia encyclopedia and .choose the ancient Roman history. But there is too much information: I must be more precise. The teacher asked us to speak of the origins of Roman civilization. How nice these drawings! I want to see how they lived; look, there is even a reconstruction of the life in a Roman camp. What a pity that I don't remember the dates! I will select the chronological index: here are the most important events of the period. Fantastic! I can even watch a short film on the rape of the Sabines. But this is a little too far ahead. I can review some of the main battles, with animated reconstructions of the troops dran up in battle order and a description of the forces on the field, the names of the leaders and even a picture of the statue of the leader kept in the Capitoline museums. If I wish I can also learn all about the life of that leader. But I prefer to go a little further ahead and see the spendours of Imperial Rome, with a virtual reconstruction of the imperial forums and the possibility of spending a day in the pretty residence of a Roman matron with all the comforts and the luxury it offers."
"Mariangela, how many times must I tell you not to waste time with the telecomputer. Why don't you get on with your research? Every time you start studying, you never stop it. One would say that you are having funl Well, now, as a punishment, you will do also your English homework."
"Thank you, really a fine punishment. Actually I did want to visit the San Diego zoo and since the interactive visit is in English, I will take the opportunity to practise To begin with, let's have a look at the general map of the zoo and let us start a guided tour first. The pleasant aspect of it all is that I can simultaneously watch films on animals, read an English description of them on the display and listen to a voice with a perfect American pronunciation reading what I see on the display.
It is very amusing to be able to choose the area to be visited: birds, reptiles... Then I can listen as many times as I wish to sentences I haven't understood either because of the meaning or because of the pronunciation. Really, a very nice exercise.
In addition to the scientific part, great care has been devoted to the description of the minor everyday events at the zoo, with afew oddities of some of the animals, their stories, the silent work of so many operators that contribute to improve the general conditions of the animals and tourists.
I have finally succeeded in understanding the exact pronunciation of that word which I always mistook, also because by seeing the words written, and listening and associating to the images that run along, it is much easier to understand and follow a certain speech. Therefore, at the same time, I can improve my knowledge of the English language, know more about animals, see scenes of life in different countries, all while sitting in my parlour and thus saving the money of the classical trip to England for the acquisition of the language and also running less risks because the lions are only virtual."
This is only a small application, but generally speaking the formation could draw enormous advantages from these new means. It should suffice to think of the benefits for home university courses. Instead of expensive transfers to cities that are more and more crowded and unliveable, with the related costs of rent, transport, food, etc., how much handier would it be to follow the teacher's lessons on one's own telecomputer, possibly integrated with practical applications in the industrial world and with laboratory exercises performed in a virtual manner--all this while sitting comfortably on one's own sofa at home at the most convenient time.
Also check tests could be carried out with apposite programmes developed to verify the students' progress and to set up a permanent formation process at all levels, both in the industry for their employees and in any other area of commerce, utility, craft all the way down to advanced tertiary activities.
Just think of all the energies and economic resources are dissipated every year to carry out formation courses, perhaps sponsored by the European Community that are followed only by a small number of people and that can neither be checked nor, even less, reproduced. In fact, at the very time when they are carried out they are also lost without leaving any traces. Instead, if these courses were reproduced in a multimedia form they would become a long-lasting asset available practically to everybody, with no limit either in time or space.
It would be necessary to create an extensive data bank in which the teachers could file their lessons, update and integrate them with new items of information of a various nature, creating special committees of teachers who, in association,with the industry and society, will superintend the organic and harmonic development of the formation processes under their responsibility.
One might object that this would lead to a predominant and undemocratic monocolture. But it should be borne in mind that this is only an instrument and as such it is up to us to use it in the proper manner.
At any rate, formation could be left to the free market, so that the individual could choose the type of course and the teacher he wants to follow. Or more simply we could say that in addition to the old and dear textbooks that we could use as a cultural basis, we should have recourse to multimedia texts that take full advantage of the new capabilities offered by the telematics technology or--if you wish--by the telecomputer.
I can already envisage the new TV studios equipped with multi-media techniques to create interactive formation courses in which the lecturers can record on a digital support all their lessons, creating a network of interdisciplinary connections that will favour a more complete method of education that is closer to everyone's requirements.
Moreover, we should not forget that with the new media it will suffice to have a lecturer (or better, a group of lecturers) assisted by information-science experts and multimedia operators in any part of the world to produce a lesson to be filed on the telecomputer, and it will become immediately available to millions of persons all over the world. It wouldn't be necessary to upset the present formation system, but simply by using the new technologies as a support to integrate the classical university lessons it would be possible to draw great benefits in many sectors, starting from the personnel specialization and refresher courses that often require a great expenditure of energy for a limited number of persons. Why not have a wider vision and dream of a traditional school equipped with a telecomputer? This subje in itself would deserve the writing of a whole book, maybe a multimedial one, so I will not well on this matter now. However, I leave it with you to think of the possible implications of such an innovation.
THE WORLD OF LABOUR
The new means will create many new opportunities for jobs, both as concerns the so-called "Telework", that is, work performed from home rather than in an office, and as concerns the jobs associated with the production of new networks and above all of new data, in addition to the maintenance of all these systems.
Many employees already have the possibility of working at home instead of going to the office every day. For instance, many research workers can make use of Telework as a further opportunity. Also bank employees could perform their activities at home by connecting to the bank terminal. Stock exchange operators have long been working with the new tools, and the telematic stock exchange is not fully tested. To write their articles news reporters could work whrre it is more convenient to them rather than go to the office. Draughtsmen already use a computer to perform their work, which could be considerably facilitated by telematics.
Classical tellers, civil service employees, bank employees, .the staffs ofithe health service, automobile registry bureau, ministries, as well as bureaucrats of every kind and area will see their job radically changed owing to the possibility, for the private citizen, to put in his applications for certificates and bookings of any nature from home.
Service agencies will evolve in a different manner: from travel agencies to real estate agencies, from financial services to marriage agencies. They will all have to update their services, from their office to the residence of each potential customer.
Also telemedicine will allow remote diagnoses to be made since doctors can be consulted in teleconference; in addition, urgent clinical cases.can be forward to the appropriate hospitals with well-documented booking centers.
Many other applications can be envisioned, but instead of dwelling on them let us analyze the jobs that are strictly associated with the production and fabrication of the telecomputer. Of course both the research and the fabrication proper of telecomputers shall have to be extended, with personnel working in the design and fabrication of the various components besides the assembling of the machines. And then there will be an increasing number of persons involved in the production of transmission and information devices, therefore telecommunication operators, whether by telephone cable or optical-fiber cable; in addition to the construction of all the signal-clearing stations, there will be the physical laying of optical fibers between one city and another, but even more from the exchange to each single house (it will be like bringing the lighting of "information" to each private home).
At the.same time other services will be developed via satellite, with orbiting stations and receiver-transmitter centers, then parabolic plants, installation of receivertransmitters, and signal-transmitting centers. For this reason the stock exchange quotations of telephone and telecommunication stocks have been increasing costantly in recent years.
Then there will be many new:ljobs in the studios for the production of telecomputer programmes, with artists of every sort;, who will operate next to scholars and scientists in all the disciplines. There will also be a need for programmers anf technicians of the information system conversant with the work methods of the news means. For instance, for Internet there is now a need for the knowledge of the HTML language, a hypertextual language that allows the writing of information connected to images.
Another important fact is the continuous updating of information, which will require a considerable commitment of means, materials and manpower. At present new jobs have been created to convert the information on old supports, such as photographs, films, video tapes and paper documents, into the new universals language, with the production of devices such as the scanner, to transmit writings and photographs into a binary format.
Also film and tape collection libraries will have to be updated by conversion into the binary system so as not to lose the enormous patrimony already produced of all the films, TV reports, documentaries and filmed material of every sort.
We are witnessing the creation of a system of alliances between major film companies and TV companies with information and telecommunication companies just with an eye on the event of the century, to wit, "the birth of the Telecomputer".
Of all the services that the new means makes available the electronic mail is one of the most widely tested. In practice, instead of writing on normal writing-paper, I write on the keyboard of a computer; then I "mail" my electronic letter in the nearest computer of thenetwork. The operation is very simple and allows letters to be delivered instantenously at very great distances. In fact, once the ltter is written and inserted into Internet, it is immediately avilable to the addressee. In other words, if I write a letter now in Italy to an American friend, after a few seconds he can read it on the monitor of his computer.
Usually, at the beginning of each connection I am told whether I have mail in my electronic mail box; if I do, it is enough to enter the E-mail area to read the letter(s) I have received.
Another interesting thing is the possibility of mailing the same letter to a group of persons I have selected; for instance, with only one operation I can send my letter to hundreds of persons. With this criterion, the so-called news groups are formed, and they can exchange views on subjects of common interest. For instance, a group of researchers of AIDS can communicate all who are interested the latest findings or ask for information on any sort of matter. The same can be done with news groups of any kind, such as the fans of a soccer team, who can exchange information on the team of their heart.
At present there are thousands of subjects on the Internet network on which it is possible to hold discussions or receive information.
Another strictly electronic possibility is the exchange of programmmes from one computer to another regardless of the distance between them. This operation is called ftp (file transfer) and allows programmes to be taken from, the computer in a private dwelling, located for example, in Australia at the mere cost of a local telephone call. In this manner it is possible to have computer programmes, be it games, study courses, pictures and films, songs and music, work programmes and many others, staying at home and selecting from a very vast hypermarket located all over the world.
To make a selection in this huge supermarket there is an electronic file (Archie,) that is not only a command but also, in practice, a catalogue that allows the desired programme to be located among the billions of files in the whole world.
For instance, on Internet there are computers devoted to the performance of this work alone and are available to all the users. In this manner, while scanning a certain subject, such as television, I am told how many articles or programmes are present in the world file and the electronic address of the place where I can find them.
Many services are already available with these basic criteria, such as the classical newspaper. This will no longer be bought at the newsstand, but it will arrive directly through ftp at the computer at home where I can read it and, if I wish, print it, thus saving the publisher all the'expenses for paper, transport and distribution. In addition, it will be available at our home as soon as the sheets have been composed--even at two o'clock in the morning.
With the same method we may decide to buy some books. Instead of going to the bookshop, it will suffice to switch on our telecomputer.lat,home to consult the various catalogues, choose the book and order it through the elctronic mail-here again with ease, simplicity and cost reduction.
Likewise, we may order some good music, selecting the kind and artists we prefer, and we can listen again whenever we wish to the musical passages we purchased through E-mail, because also music can be delivered in the form of a programme for the telecomputer, possibly integrated by a video tape proposed by the author to accompany his melodies with images.Another important area is the purchase of any kind of goods through the telecomputer; in this case an active role would be performed other than what we see today in promotional sales on TV in which charlatans and quacks try not so much to explain the characteristics of the product, but rather to involve the spectator emotionally to the latter's own expense.
With the new interactive means we shall no longer be obliged to listen to idle talk repeatedly for hours and hours to find the product we are interested in, but we can look through very rich electronic catalogues that provide the technical characteristics, clear and detailed quotations for each product. So we can place our orders at any time without the constraint of the now sadly famous words: "Great presents for the first telephone calls ... In fact, the order can be placed at ease at any time and we can choose among many products also of current use, from food to stylish clothing, from gardening items to exotic craftmanship. The list is practically endless and includes whatever is saleable.
In addition to electronic supermarkets, many other services may be involved by the telecomputer; for instance:
- Touristic agencies in which can find not only the leaflets of the journey, but also much more detailed films and descriptions of the site, of the services and costs and the possibility of making an immediate booking after having checked for vacancies.
- Real estates agencies, with the possibility of viewing the interior of an apartment directly from your own home and selecting, by aimed research, only the types of apartments you are interested in; after all the detailed films on the kind of house you wish, it will be possible to make a series of grounded choices.
- Marriage agencies: also in this case you will have at your disposal the possibility of seeing on your telecomputer all the potential twins souls and possibly , establish a first contact electronically and go on to direct contacts later.
- Automobile exhibitions; viewing of the latest cars on the market, possible virtual testing, catalogue of the bargains with photographs and costs.
- Financial consulting services: many specialistic magazines are getting equipped in this direction and offer the possibility of collecting information on the various opportunities for investment, in addition to a vast range of new-generation products
- General consulting services: all consultants could open up a virtual office through the telecomputer to assist their customers. In fact, lawyers, business agents, engineers, work consultants and information consultants, professional men of any sort could offer their services via telematics.
- Automatic application for certificates: also in this area considerable time and maney could be saved especially for handicapped and elderly people who could stay at home and avoid tedious queues and stressing waiting.
- Citizen window: services for the citizen are becoming more and more common. For instance in Italy various civil networks are being experimented to offer all the citizens a better contact with the civil administration, both'at the information level and at the general service level.
- Bookings for tickets of various shows: it will be possible to order tickets for the theatre, sports events, cultural events, concerts, variety shows,operettas, soccer matches, etc.
- Simultaneous translation services; to have texts translated into other languages automatic or semi-automatic translation systems will be available electronically, possibly with the assistance of a translator to integrate the text when it comes to words of infrequent use.
To this list we might add many other opportunities that are related only to our fantasy,.because this new instrument multiplies our capabilities of operating, communicating and interacting ; therefore, any limits are only dictated by our creativity.
TELECOMPUTERS AND ASSOCIATIONS
Many could say that the two things are incompatible with the old argument that television and now even more the telecomputer will render man lazy, isolated from the rest of the world, confined in his own home, destined to be an antisocial being.
Obviously they don't know the telecomputer or at least they have a distorted view of its possible application in line with the old concept of television. In fact, the telecomputerg if properly used, will be mainly a source of information and communication withe other peoples as it considerably favours the exchange of information among people who share the same interests and the pleasure to cultivate similar activities among them. Therefore, in view of the foregoing the huge capability of the new means in creating a thick network of interconnection among the members of various associations should not be surprising.
Let us think for a moment of a hypothetical association; for instance, the Association of Professional Information System Workers (APISW) decides to utilize the telecomputer.
Let us see what is new today: I switch on my telecomputer and I connect with the Milan seat of the APISW. of all the various items,I am interested in the news bulletins addressed to the members. I am pleased to notice that the information system workers have become aware of their role and have now passed from slaves of the system to promoters and protagonists of diverse types of Projects. In fact, the association has long created the roll of professional information science workers. Finally the enormous waste of economic resources in public and institutional utilities of the past years has been reduced considerably', thanks to the contribution of professional men and not amateurs for the choice and management of information systems.
The very many bad investments dictated at least by ignorance or dishonesty of corrupted civil servants and politicians--who without any knowledge but with the arrogance of those who wield power and consider it their private property--are by now a distant memory. However, there remain indelible traces in our pockets; in fact, because of the purchase of inadequate information equipment that is incompatible and does not allow a dialogo between the various kinds and therefore lies in the basement together with projects and programmes that were never completely or were badly exploited.
I still remember the times when simple clerks that were hardly capable of switching on a computer were entrusted with the purchase of billions of lire of equipment, only because in the land of the blind blessed are the one-eyed men...
But let's drop all sadness and look ahead to the future. On my computer I start leafing through the new projects under way. I am pleased to read of the establishment of a European association of information workers seated in Rome that will gather all the experiences of the operators in that sector.
I now look for the filmed report of the last national conference on the subject of information and public administration. I see that the project set up in Milan will soon be extended to the whole national territory without foolish and absurd development of similar projects, carried out with kinds of hardware that are completely different from one another and totally incompatible.
I then answer the request of cooperation by a colleague of mine in Catania who is looking for information on environmental monitoring systems and, through the electronic mail, I send him my experiences and the Internet addresses that can provide further documentation.
I also look through the catalogue of refresher course and in addition to an interactive course on the new system of development I am interested in,.I note with pleasure that the Terni media-library is producing CD-ROM on the subject. I also request a videoconference with the President of the association and the board of directors so as to avoid useless trips to Milan with related travel and living expenses. Anyhow for me it is only a question of exploiting the digital telecamera in my studio which will then converse with the similar system (telecomputer telecamera) in operation at the association headquarters.
Finally I see that the national information science bulletin available as an interactive visit; so I enter through the Carlo Magno gate and direct my steps to the first stand to begin my cybernetic visit...
When the visit is over there is nothing more for me to do except set a date with my Umbrian friends for a meeting, for instance in Assisi, to be held next week. It will suffice to leave a message in the association's E-mail box in Umbria and immediately all my colleagues (several hundreds) will be able to read my letter with the agenda, times and place of meeting and the main subjects to be discussed.
In this manner, instead of a fleeting meeting we can dedicate more time to our convivial reunion and-spend two days together instead of one, and maybe we can also take a walk around Assist' because, anyhow, we have saved time and money thanks to the telecomputer.
Many associations would undoubtedly draw great benefits from these new technologies so as to have a more and more direct relation with their members while increasing the quality and functionality of information exchange considerably. This means could be of interest to:
- Cultural associations of various nature.
- Sport associations and fan clubs.
- Association of industries, small and medium companies.
- Associations of the handicapped
- Civil security volunteers
- Blood donors' association (AVIS)
- All types of trade unions.
- Music fan clubs
This is only a small idea, but surely if the telecomputer is used correctly, instead of isolating us this means will allows us to have a much more intense social life and relations than we have at present, because information and communication are means that amplify Human relationships.
It seems strange but the foregoing is already an actual fact; therefore it is not utopian to speak of future scenarios. Let us see, for instance, a hypothetical sitting room in the year 2010 and let us follow our friends' conversation. Don't be bewildered by the complexity and speed of the events (because the cybercomputer travels at very high speeds). Everyone can follow them at his own speed later on.
"Look! I've bought a new cybercomputer; it has an incorporated camera and a card with the automatic translation of the voice. 'Switch on'. You see, how it obeys orders ..."What do you wish, master?"
"Switch on the videotelephone."I have to contact that firm in Paris to see whether the goods I have ordered meet my requirements
"Good morning, monsieur. You look well and maybe you have also put on a little weight. I would like to know whether my order is ready for shipment.' (But I have forgotten to activate the simultaneous translation by the cybercomputer :'Translate into French')."It's okay now. Let's see if the goods I wanted is satisfactory. How cute that hat. Please add it to the order.
I don't like the collar of these shirts. Take them out, please. There, I think the rest is all right. Just improve the packing of those dresses a little. See you again soon."
Now that I've finished my work I wan to amust myself with my preterite game: "Sailing around the world".
-"Look how amusing, it's just like being on a shop. Let us see the large reception hall...very beautiful! Now we steer towards Polynesia.. I've- been wanting to go for so long ... The treasure hunt is about to begin. First of all I must find the mysterious island and then..."
Once the game is over I decide to gather information from the cybercomputer concerning any organized excursions by mountain bike. I would like to ge for a bicycle ride tomorrow (thanks to the cybercomputer I have much more time to spend with the others.). I connect with the club in my town and run through the list of weekly excursions. I note that tomorrow there is a nice trip to the Franciscan hermitage, leaving at 4 p.m. Since I'm free I place my booking. There are also some of my friends, so we'll have a good time.
Now I must record on the'cybercomputer that lesson on the new operative systems of information science so that my students will be able to go ahead with the study program. But I must first correct their homework; let's see in the E-mail box if they have already done it. As usual, Mark's are missing. I shall have to send him a reminder.It's nice to be able to work at home without spending hours and hours in exhausting queues of cars that clog the traffic.
- Since I have time, I want to see if there are any faxes for me. "Fax, please". Here is the list of the last faxes that have-arrived and have not been read yet. Let me print this fax because it contains the stock exchange quotations. By the way, I must remember to contact my bank to find out th,e Situation of my current account. "Bank, please" and then "Display the last twenty operations." It is advisable that we save a little otherwise we shall not get to the end of the month...Let us now see whether there is anything new in our town. "Look!!! They are finally paving that road. I think the cost is too high; I'll submit a request for further information."
Then I want to respond to the referendum on the city dump and on the reduction of school taxes. I must also remember .to apply for the family certificate and birth certificate. I better do it immediately.
"It seems impossible; it's 10 p.m; and I can find the town computer open." After having voted on the referendum and printed my certificates, I decide to relax, maybe watching a traditional variety show.
Let us go to the Lido in Paris. It's a fact that compared with the old television this is quite different: the quality of the image is exceptional, to say the least. It's just like being there ...
- Well, what do you think? Do you like the cybercomputer? Don't be afraid because for the activities illustrated above it will be enough to devote only a few hours a day: the same time we spend now in front of the television set. However we can also perform some work from home and carry out a number of activities that otherwise would cause us to lose time and money.
It is gratifying to become a protagonist in the choices concerning information and it will be even easier and economic to purchase new products, presenting them according to our personal experience. For instance, we might make our personal newspaper by picking out of the various dailies only the news we are interested in, transferring it on to our private cybercomputer and then printing it on paper. This will entail a greater flexibility in the choice and a considerable cost reduction, in production, transport and distribution, No longer will tons of paper be wasted; petrol and gas,bil will also be saved thus reducing pollution.
I could also personalize my record collection by creating records I myself have assembled choosing bnong the various kinds of music. Just like what Pavarotti does at his concerts in which opera, rock music and other music coexist. It will be enough to choose the passages and click on the mouse to transfer them on to my cybercomputer.
Publishers will only have to introduce their products in the world network. Anyone can insert his own work; then it will be up to the public to choose and not sectarian, not better defined, critics. Even the costs may go down and there might be even more justice by granting to those who produce ideas and jobs the possibility of collecting a reasonable fee on the basis of the number of persons who have read or taken their articles or products.
Specially the weak and handicapped could draw benefits from these new technologies. Think, for instance, of a deaf man: he could read the telephone calls and sound messages directed to him on the monitor; or a blind man who could copy the newspaper with his Braille printer at home without an increase in cost.
Our dear grannies could order their shopping and any other product from any part in the world without leaving their home, .without tiring walks in the center of town to apply for certificates or simply to.gather information. They will be able to spend their precious time in more sedate and relaxing activities, such as walking in the park or having tea with their friends.
Even the manner in which information is proposed will be easier and easier,.and friendlier so that it can be used by everybody, even persons who are very simple and at a disadvantage. We could even choose the character or the tone of the voice with which the computer is to give us the information. For instance, we might have the newsreel read to us with the synthetizadvoice of the President of the USA, or the stock exchange bulletin read by Alberto Sordi's voice.
Finally, at the level of amusement and entertainment, the classical videogame will be supplanted by the cybercomputer which will be quite capable of carrying out that activity, even with the aid of three-dimension devices such as virtual helmets and all sorts of sensors that will bring about an .emotional involvement so far un known.
Moreover, a sector that has realdy undergone great development is that of eroticism. For instance, in the United States the production of CD-ROMs of this nature is by far one of the markets with:the highest sales. But I shall avoid giving you spicy details on the subject. Indeed, even if this is an interesting area in rapid expansion, it is far too personal and everyone should be free to-assume whatever attitude he prefers towards it.
But I don't want to terminate this review on that subject, because my hope is that these new technologies will be, above' all, an instrument for cultural growth, a new possibility of positive communication among human beings, in order to grow together and share all the wholesome and beautiful that the human mind can create.
Therefore I shall close mentioning the artistic beauties that are our country's pride. In fact, I am reminded that many of our museums are already making, their cultural patrimony available by transforming into a digital format all the works of art they contain to render them accessible to us through telematics. Therefore, in the year 2010 we will be able to visit a museum with the cybercomputer by making it come to our home.
Man is always looking for new horizons and our century is characterized by the enormous growth of the means of locomotion. We have gone from horse-drawn wagons to automobiles, from the first airplanes to the supersonic jetliners. We have all acquired new knowledge and new freedom thanks to the greater possibility of movement. Now there are new outlooks: "Travelling with the mind"; the dream is coming true thanks to the new generation of computers.
Indeed, with our mind and the use of a computer I could go to Paris ,for instance, and visit the Louvre museums, without physically leaving my house. I could admire the painting of Mona Lisa, without the stress of the journey, the air-line strikes and the queues to enjoy the view of the painting only for a few seconds. Of course, with the computer I would lose the thrill of looking at the original, but 1 could appreciate all its details at ease, and maybe even read, at the same time, the comments of the most famous critics, which would allow me to have a'deeper knowlege of the masterpiece.
Up to a short time ago the computer was only a work tool used in several areas of production and accounting. Now we have the great opportunity of using the computer as a means for culture, education and diversion. We information science experts are more and more involved in this challenge, but unfortunately we are so rapt in our work that we haven't got the time to stop and reason on the great ethical-moral subjects and choices related to the application of this science.
There are, in fact, positive sides and negative sides, like in any other human application. Excess and abuse can lead to strongly negative events. Communication means and t he old structure of power have so far abundantly illustrated the risks of information science. The computer, "Dictator and controller of man's freedom"; I remember with anguish the often-feared "Big Brother" by Orwell-- a pessimistic view that stemmed from the dictatorships of our century.
Personally I could quote on the negative side the experience of some of our colleagues, programmers that have abused of their minds by devoting too much to computers. Such an incorrect behaviour entails also evident physical signs, such as, loss of hair, a glassy stare, pallor, induced automatisms also in movements.
Negative tendencies may develop also in the users, for instance an abused recourse to games, an erroneous use of the virtual reality and, generally speaking, the use of the computer to escape reality. Information science--a new drug to avoid thinking or to look for obsessive pleasure.
These tendencies will become more and more important in the near future, because the new technologies are being directed more and more towards domestic users, entering our homes and flanking or,replacing the television set. It is just from this that the greatest dangers arise for the weaker characters. I have in mind, for instance, man's ability to exploit the lowest instincts of his fellow-men. A classical example can be found in commercial TV programmes, with banalities, desire of possession, low sexual instincts, research for the occult and horror, violence spread all over the first page.
It is the present way of performing television that is a form of violent dictatorship of thought.
They prevent us from choosing and thinking with our own mind. They make us desire objects and persons to satisfy our negativi instincts.
Also television could have been a very powerful means to "travel with our mind"; unfortunately, however, more often than not we are not the ones that manage the journey. On the contrary the computer and the new technologies offer us this new opportunity . But negative signs can be seen also in this direction. For instance, the mass application of Internet distorts the initial cultural ed educational contents inserted into the network by scientists and university-level researchers, thus rendering the contents banal and introducing new forms of publicity.
I can envisage at the horizon forms of "telematic prostitution". In America, the market of CD-Roms with a pornographic background. The information system like "Meretricell that allows one to choose, from an endless catalogue, virtual prostitutes ready to satisfy every shameful desire. I think with horror and a little irony of TV magicians who, thanks to TV and the 144 telephone lines are proliferating and running excellent business. Surely, we shall soon see them on Internet.
And what can we say about the immense power of some companies like Microsoftware, who are becoming real centers of power by purchasing television and cinema chains, and even Leonardo da Vinci' s book with all the related rights.,
I have great hopes in information science, but we must beware of power centralization. Just think that the most democratic and powerful thing is Internet because, owing to its very nature, its control is distributed among millions of people all over the world. And yet, even Internet runs the risk of being monoplized by Microsoftware, which is now trying to developp its own private Internet network.
All this and even more I could mention, but I prefer to think positively. And since I live in Umbria and was culturally raised in FLorence, I take the liberty of wishing you a "new cultural Renaissance". In fact, mankind has always aspired to a spiritual elevation and modern technologies can be of help by widening the horizons. Therefore, the computer and electronics can be seen as a means for positive amplification of our minds. For instance, I am a professional information science wtethnician, but I love to play a guitar, compose music and songs, write books, travel around the world, visit museums, listen to concerts and enjoy all the joys of life: from village feasts to cultural conferences, from good food to the pleasant company of friends.
I can assure you that the use of the new technologies, when sensibly used, can provide an incomparable experience. Personally, I try out all the old and new means of knowledge. For instance, I am re-discovering television as a positive means, I follow with interest local channels that point out the concrete problems of people, exercise culture and enhance the assets of the territory. Also in the national channels I try to watch the more interesting programmes , as concerns both diversion and information. Thanks to my wife's job (she is a school teacher) I have seen a series of video tapes that are hard to find on the market,and contain lessons of history, art, geography and the lives of great men.
From the televideo I get interesting information on the latest events (as you all know, "under" most of the TV- programmes there are pages of televideo information). And then I personally tape shots with my amateur telecamera, recording the beautiful scenes that surround us, the cultural events or just moments that are dear to me, in order to watchthem again with relatives and friends.
By means of the parabola and the receiver via satellite I can also watch over a hundred international channels. Also in this case it is necessary to make a choice. For instance I prefer the satellite Eutelsat because I can see Euronews for the news, ARTE which is a French cultural channel, DW and EBN, which broadcast in German, English and Spanish, many programmes of information, also technological.
I have also produced local television transmissions trying to teach people the notions of information science and the proper way to use the computer. I have edited docu mentaries on my town and on the natural beauties of flora and fauna in the territory.
Information technology and telematics are even more powerful means. The CD-ROMs produced in Italy are prevailingly of a cultural and touristic nature; the USA produce many optical disks of an excellent quality. For instance CD-ROms can be found on the market concerning: virtual touristic visits all over the world, artistic documents on cities and museums, encyclopedias integrated with films and sounds, multi-media reading of classical works like the ""Divine Comedy".
Internet is also an inexhaustibile source of information, and, if properly used, it can become a very powerful instrument to acquire knowledge, information and participation. Much has been said already, but much more will be said on this subject in the near future.
With my limited means I had created a structure similar to Internet in 1989 without knowing of its existence, but just for the pleasure of letting the people in my town participate in the town political life.. I used simple.tools like Commodore 64 and the telematic adaptor and then I inserted in the main computer all the resolutions passed by our town council, in addition to information on the school, on youngsters' meeting points, and on the cultural events in the district.
At present I am trying to create a local Internet node because I believe this will be the road to a new form of democracy that the "town civil networks" will allow to grow and divulge. It should be borne in mind that I am trying to achieve all this without any political support, but rather with some opposition.
To make ideas circulate and to use the new technologies in the correct direction it is not indispensable to have very large economic means. "Dreams don't cost anything" and many technologies are already present in our homes. The television set and the tape recorder are present in many houses, the parabolic.antenna for the reception of broadcasts via satellite costs.,.a few hundred thousand lire, a small computer costs a couple of million lire ... and then there are friends who -are willing to share their resources.
I will close with an appeal. Use the new technologies correctly; choose instead of accepting passively. Give your trust and control power to the experts of electronics and information technology so that they will protect your interests. Be alert on the coming choices in the information area, so that they will be friends and not enemies. Keep an eye on the tariffs for telecommunications and consulting; information and culture are means for everybody and they are not to be a tool for the enrichment of a few. Give your children an education: maybe they won't become rich, but they will be able to better appreciate the beauties of life.
I thank my wife and my daughter Mariangela for having let me live in my green Umbria. I thank my mother and mamma Le' for having allowed me to study. I thank the Lord for having allowed me to live in this wonderful.era. I thank you all for having read me.