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Science and technology: new resources, new challenges

Meeting and discussion with Roberto Cingolani, Chief Technology & Innovation Officer of Leonardo.
Milan, 22/01/2020, Roundtable for the Aspen Junior Fellows

The resources now available to science and technology have become immeasurable. The human brain has been creating increasingly smaller and powerful technologies that, in many cases, surpass human strength and capacities. Machines are digitalizing and perfecting nearly every sector, some of which are undergoing a revolution of unprecedented proportions.  

A good example is the chemicals and pharmaceuticals sector, where science makes use of intelligent machines to conduct tests, produce medicines and save lives. In the aerospace sector too, the evolution of machines is allowing humans to envision new and incredible space missions.

In other sectors, this extraordinary technological progress is triggering a major shift in skills, nudging electronics firms into the automobile industry, for instance, automotive manufacturers into air transport and air transport into space travel.

New resources, however, also imply highly complex considerations, the first being that in the absence of skills we will be left behind, unable to build that hospitable future – indeed, there are no short-cuts to knowledge. The second is of even more vital importance, and concerns the planet on which we live; science and technology must be useful and healthful for people and the environment. The third is the indispensable mandate to leave future generations an efficient world: rebuilding the collaborative relationship between public and private.

Investments, foreign investments included, are urgently needed in Italy and institutions must act more rapidly; a good start could be, for example, to establish maximum timeframes within which to conclude civil and criminal trials, administrative and fiscal procedures and so forth – i.e. to exploit the speed of technology for the common good.  

News and information on scientific and technological topics must be accessible to all. New technologies and their economic, social and environmental consequences must be taught in schools from the earliest years onward.

Social education and State investments are vital to progress. In Italy unfortunately, society remains uninformed, at least as regards science and technology. It is urgent that this deficit be reduced.

The future can be hospitable only if everyone strives to realize what they can do individually, every day, with or without technology. Because every action has its consequences. The discussion must continue.