My interest in Artificial Intelligence goes way back.
I was born in 1967, but it was Kubrick’s 1968 film – which I first saw at the age of 15 and then numerous times ever since – that sparked my interest in Artificial Intelligence and what it could represent for all of us.
(Actually, to tell the truth, I first saw the images of 2001: A Space Odyssey at home with my parents in black and white: it was the answer to a TV quiz that they allowed me to watch with them in the evening; maybe I was 4 years old.)
I often reflect on the fact that society usually imagines the future it wants through novels and cinema and then, in a very human way, made up of small and often imperceptible moves followed by a few sudden leaps forward, the collective of humans at some point builds that future.
Artificial Intelligence, in many of its current facets, seems to have followed this principle and moving forward with this line of thought many other interesting things are looming on the horizon.
The other period that largely determined who I am and how I tend to ask questions was the elementary school I attended in Milan, more than the years spent in the high school or university.
This is the Giuseppina Pizzigoni school in Milan, which was founded at a time when Italy – but generally in a part of Europe – was discussing how to rethink or improve school education. It was a unique moment that saw the birth of the Montessori method, the Steiner method, and the Pizzigoni method.
At the entrance of the school, there is an inscription which shows the vision and mission of its founder: “Temple: Nature; Purpose: Truth; Method: Experience”.
These three commandments, incredibly modern even in our times, are what have made me – and many other lucky ones like me – a curious person stimulated to think outside the box.
A classmate from back then, who became a surgeon, told me that this made us a bit “outsiders”, in the sense that in a highly polarized, strongly homogenized society, we are the ones who are apparently out of place.
I still see this as an unexpected gift: the ability to see patterns that others may glimpse much later, to play with ideas when they are still in their infancy, to experiment and see with open eyes what will happen.
Artificial Intelligence today is still a small thing compared to the ideas that have developed and succeeded from the 1950s onwards and, by direct testimony, from the 1990s onwards.
Nevertheless, if used correctly, it can represent the most important turning point in humanity ever, something (I still don’t know how to define it: a lever? an entity? an oracle?) to turn to with curiosity and the “right” questions, to produce new ideas and new solutions to experiment with.
Maybe I should give a clear and single definition of myself, but I can’t: I feel that I am inhabited by multiple souls, and each of them needs space and respect.
I am an engineer, graduated from the Polytechnic University of Milan almost thirty years ago, and as this suggests, I am used to seeing the world as a set of problems that need to be solved.
I am a musician, who studied composition in Milan, and a passionate reader.
I am an inventor, perhaps the first trait that I have exhibited since early childhood, and one that my preschool teacher attributes to me with great sensitivity in a letter.
I am a manager, accustomed for a quarter of a century to motivate people, manage projects, and deliver solutions.
Overall, I am a humanist, a figure that has long disappeared and that seems to be regaining the value it deserves in our society: maybe my surgeon friend is truly wrong, we are not – no longer – the ones who are out of place.
Notice for Entrepreneurs
Those who work as entrepreneurs – from freelancers to captains of industry – are among those who are most obligated to consider the developments of Artificial Intelligence and the impacts that this technology can have on both business and society.
This statement is the consequence of a direct and, in some ways, ruthless observation: nothing will be the same as before.
Everything we see today appears to be the consequence of successive improvements where what allows us to move from one situation to the next is human intelligence, always necessary to hold everything together.
Starting from a certain point in the future, it will no longer be (only) human intelligence that is necessary to identify patterns and solve problems, nor will it be (only) human intelligence that is needed to outline future scenarios: in other words, much earlier than one might think and in different ways, AI itself will have its own “agenda” that will need to be considered (and possibly directed).
For an entrepreneur, this means that their world, made up of reasonable certainties and measurable timeframes in years, will instead become full of uncertainties, constant turns, sudden adaptations, and timeframes measurable in months or weeks.
This is an important transition: there may be an AI (co)governing the companies they interact with, and this implies a new way of experiencing the profession.
Notice for Managers
The manager’s job, a demanding job where the detail counts as much as the overall vision, requires a trained mind, the ability to anticipate problems by imagining what could go wrong, the ability to keep the work team motivated and in the right direction.
It is necessary to put together the activities, plan them, coordinate them, monitor them, manage them: all activities that will be carried out by AI.
On the other hand, precisely the advent of AI poses the problem of the transition between pre-AI and post-AI and how this should take place and what kind of skills Managers should have in order for it to happen in the best way: in this sense, the manager’s job is about to undergo a major change.
Notice for Consultants and Professionals
The definition of consulting is the provision of expertise to third parties, acquired in part through education and largely through direct experience.
This knowledge is partly formalized (and formalizable) and partly not, which makes it particularly valuable.
The widespread arrival of AI puts the focus on the change of skills that we will all be subject to: from pre-AI personal experience to during-AI and post-AI experience.
The latter is, of course, entirely absent today, and the speed at which consultants will be able to acquire it in practice may make an entire new class of professionals interesting for the market – and society.
However, what appears clear is this: consultants will be as good – and interesting to their Clients – as they are able to ask innovative and surprising questions, assisted by the various artificial intelligences that will increasingly populate our lives and existence.
As many people learn throughout their lives, questions have more value than the answers we then find.