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.