Challenge 9: The human being

The introduction of Artificial Intelligence in the world involves existential and psychological issues that need to be addressed as they affect the possibility of perceiving, understanding and acting on the world, and how human beings are individually positioned in relation to the society and the environment, with substantial impacts on rights, freedom and opportunities for personal and professional fulfilment.

AI is already present in many spheres, services and processes of our everyday life: the technologies we use to mediate relationships with other human beings, the objects and places in which we live, influence behaviour, methods of working, learning, communicating, and having fun. All of us have, more or less consciously, faced this reality, even if on AI there are still perplexities due to the lack of understanding of the technology itself and of its real effects in the society.

In this lack of knowledge, which is present at all levels of society and education, it is easy that a narration made of distorted news or influenced by despotic fiction is inserted. This risks to negatively affect the collective imagination, degenerating into distortions of reality typical of the self-fulfilling prophecy theory [1].

Several empirical and sociological studies, and social psychology experiments [2], have repeatedly shown how radical these capabilities of intervention can be on imagination. Therefore, these are actions that have an impact on the psychological, social and existential spheres. To accompany citizens, laws, regulations and good technical and technological practices are not enough (though necessary): we need a narrative and an imaginary built by society in an inclusive way outlining the meanings of AI and the roles we want to assign to it.

Contemporary society, characterized by strong digitalisation, has the task of creating the prerequisites for which people can develop, together and responsibly, a vision of the world that is coherent with the innovations that these technologies bring with them. In this sense, the value of social sciences and of public communication is enhanced even more compared to the construction of a predominantly strategic narration [3]. If the future is the consequence of the choices made in the present we cannot raise the issue, leaving unattended the interpretation of technological development and of its social consequences.

There are several approaches that, in a transdisciplinary way, contribute to the construction of a scenario that facilitates the understanding and involvement of the human being in the introduction of AI solutions.

Design, arts, psychology, anthropology, sociology and other humanistic disciplines can and must create links between research, industry and society, to support pedagogical initiatives capable of helping different communities to understand the boundaries and implications of these technologies.

On the one hand, art and design have always played a crucial role in involving people in a common narrative. On the other hand, they allowed the great processes of innovation suggested by not focusing on needs, but on aspirations [4], desire and imagination. Historically, Art has helped to draw new imaginations and open new opportunities, raising the level of criticism and causing the participation and involvement of people, crossing cultures, social classes, professions, and skills.

This task [5] is finally recognized also at European level, thanks to programs that use the arts to bring innovations into the common imagination, contributing to build a positive social meaning, which is shared and above all aware of the advantages and uses of innovations. The non-secondary effect of this approach is, in economic terms, the creation of new markets; in social terms, instead, it generates greater participation, solidarity, a sense of belonging to a cosmopolitan world.

Offering its citizens the opportunity to socially build a shared imagination of the role of technologies such as AI, is of fundamental importance not only in terms of social inclusion but above all as a citizenship investment. A conscious citizen, who understands and feels understood, is a citizen whose sense of belonging generates greater trust in institutions. The citizen participating in public action and to the proposed solutions, inclined to support and constructive criticism of the government activities, is able - with different levels of involvement - to support the design of always better systems and solutions, in an context increasingly free from digital and cultural divides.

Historically, Italy has played an exemplary role in innovating through beauty, aesthetics and well being and in stimulating leading cultural and social processes. Innovative by tradition, as a Nation we must not give up on bringing the characteristic features of Italian style (design, creativity, aesthetics) within this narration of the system, still to be built but focused on the well being of people

A vision that constitutes for our Nation an international competitive advantage, built on the ability to “imagine the world”. For this reason, it is necessary to create and support initiatives in which artists and designers work side by side with AI researchers, humanists, engineers and managers.


[1]Ref. Robert Merton, R.K, “La profezia che si autoavvera”, in Teoria e Struttura Sociale, vol. II. Il Mulino, 1971.
[2]Ref.‐experiments‐on‐users/#386 e02291c3d
[3]Ref. Challenge “Accompanying transformation”
[5]For example, the STARTS program of the European Commission and the “Arts program” at CERN