Skip to content

Homo Sapiens Digitalis or Dataman? Humans in the digital age

    Italian Talent abroad
    • Rome
    • 9 June 2019

          The digital transformation is an unstoppable force that is revolutionizing contemporary society. However, the polarization resulting from the ongoing social and economic changes is highlighting the need for this transition to be guided with a view to preserving social equity and stability in an increasingly complex scenario. Moreover, the disappearance of traditional intermediary roles and the advent of work managed by platforms and algorithms (the so-called GIG Economy) have raised a series of questions on the future of employment and on the best governance for a constantly changing market. A good strategy is surely one that stimulates initiative and encourages job mobility and flexibility while providing adequate protections.

          Thus, politics returns to center stage to play the role of facilitator and mediator between the various other actors involved. The challenge is a steep one, since technology has been moving for some time now at a faster pace than policy makers have. These latter appear to be called upon today to create a framework of more certain rules and to make some “future-proof” decisions on guiding – and not impeding – the technological evolution by maximizing its social advantages. The concept of Best Practices has led to the idea of Best Policies, which would be those capable of confronting the three aspects of automation: robotics on the physical side, artificial intelligence on the cognitive, and platforms from the “protocological” standpoint, i.e. concerning the rules and protocols underpinning these systems. Alongside that of policy makers, a fundamental role must also played by citizens, who need to expand their digital skills and raise their awareness of the changes under way in order to fully exercise their rights.

          Nevertheless, increasing polarization is considerably reducing the number of political actors capable of truly intervening with regard to the digital transformation. Although the European Union is trying to impose itself as a legislative power, it continues to lag behind from technological and industrial standpoints. The predominance of the United States and China raises major issues, not least in light of the different approaches these systems have to the treatment of personal data. While Europe seeks to safeguard the concept of the inviolability of data, in the United States they are bought and sold; while in China rights in this regard are perceived as belonging to the society and therefore to the government.

          Data accessibility and the capacity to harvest and analyze them are, moreover, the key to Artificial Intelligence. Indeed, this is a technology that has been available for decades, and that is now growing exponentially thanks to the enormous mass of information available. The present – and increasingly the future – belongs to those who are capable of mining Big Data and making sense of that information. An effort that calls for substantial investment and that is concentrated in very few geographical areas. Once again, the challenge for Europe, and for Italy, is to keep pace in order to be able to contribute to the development of a technology that is going to be central to the economic and social transformations of the coming years.

            Related content