Clockwork Mind

What follows is the text of the article I published within the magazine Oracoli. Saperi e pregiudizi al tempo dell’Intelligenza Artificiale. The Italian title was La mente nell’ingranaggio.

Non è il primo automa della storia, non è nemmeno davvero un automa, ma è uno dei congegni più suggestivi dell’era moderna, sicuramente il primo a porre il problema della concatenazione e dell’ibridazione tra essere umano e macchina. Per questo il Turco giocatore di scacchi, concepito nel 1769 dal barone ungherese Wolfgang von Kempelen per meravigliare l’imperatrice Maria Teresa d’Austria e la sua corte, resta una delle invenzioni più famose di sempre, un “robot” ante-litteram che non si lascia archiviare come una bizzarra curiosità antiquaria, ma torna a interrogare l’umanità, quasi come se tra i suoi ingranaggi fosse nascosto il mistero originario della tecnologia.

Continue reading


I participated in the organisation of the project Oracoli. Saperi e pregiudizi al tempo dell’Intelligenza Artificiale, designed by the publisher Luca Sossella Editore with Emilia Romagna Teatro Fondazione and Unipol Gruppo. It is a series of lectures on the philosophical, historical, social, ethical and economic challenges connected to the emergence of artificial intelligence. I designed and edited a journal describing the project and expanding the reflection around the main issues it will address.

I also published an article in the online magazine CheFare, Oracoli’s partner, discussing how literature over time diversely imagined possible extensions, evolutions, empowerments and re-creations of the human mind and body.  Continue reading

Out of the comfort zone

On April 7th I participated in the British Society for Literature and Science annual conference at Oxford Brookes University, with a paper entitled Out of the Comfort Zone. Dan Brown’s Origin as a standpoint on literature and science. What follows is the text of my talk.

In his last novel Origin, the bestselling author Dan Brown imagines that an acclaimed scientist and futurist, whose name is Edmond Kirsch, is about to announce a disrupting scientific discovery on the origin of life. Right before the spectacular presentation of his research, Kirsch tells his long-time friend and old-fashioned humanities scholar Robert Langdon, the main character of several Dan Brown’s novels, including the groundbreaking Da Vinci Code: «Tonight is all about pushing people outside their comfort zones».

Similarly, the novel itself can push literary criticism and the humanities outside the comfort zone of their acknowledged interpretative practices, usually at unease with the analysis of such cultural objects, socially meaningful but aesthetically controversial. For sure, it pushes me out of the comfort zone of my research on Italian Studies, unfamiliar with popular and science fiction. Still, I decided to take-up Dan Brown’s challenge and displaced myself to look at the relationships between literature and science from the standpoint of a popular bestseller novel. To learn from the bestseller, where outstanding scientific discoveries are both simplified and overstated to fit into an appealing narrative framework, how literature and the humanities could address the major challenges entailed in the current scientific debate.

Continue reading