“They appear New quantum technologies that will definitely change the futureEven if it is difficult to determine the direction, in the end they will find their way.” Giorgio Parisi is certain but also curious to know where the development of quantum theories will lead. The 2021 Nobel Prize in Physics spoke to LOGIN during his visit to Naples about the relationship between science, citizenship and new frontiers For technology. And it was the occasion Meeting with the Italian community of Quantum Technologies The capital of Campania is witnessing an exciting season, with the appearance of the first public quantum computers in Italy and studies on the future quantum internet. This meeting had a great impact on the students and citizens present In the new headquarters of the Federico II University built in Scambia. The presence of the famous physicist celebrated the transformation of the crime scene into a place of redemption and a modern agora where Parisi shared his idea of science.
Professor, speaking of groundbreaking technologies, how will quantum technologies change our lives?
“In fact, they’ve been doing that for a long time. Let’s think about transistors that are the basis of all electronics and that are designed based on the laws of quantum mechanics. Or the laser and all its applications, which is quantum technology. It is difficult to predict the trend of new technologies now. I’ll give you two examples: Edison invented the sound recording system but he was against using it in music, because in that case it wouldn’t be successful. The same thing happened later, when the first personal computers were created: a top IBM executive announced that a maximum of five computers would be sold!
They often work for the environment. Do you think technologies like quantum technologies could be useful in combating climate change?
“It’s already happening. Let’s think about solar panels: they work thanks to quantum technologies. The ones we use today have very high efficiency, but it is difficult to increase them much. The real question is finding Sustainable solutionsBecause the material from which these panels are made pollutes the environment. There are already some types made of organic materials in the form of films that can be applied, for example, to building windows. However, they are currently very inefficient and very expensive, hence it is clear that we need to find solutions through which we can convert solar energy into fuel effectively and directly. That is, performing some type of photosynthesis because it is inconceivable that there would be a situation where 100% of the fuel would be eliminated, but if it could be produced effectively and directly from solar energy, that would be key. “So there are many conceivable technologies to contribute to the fight against climate change.”
Will we be able to control artificial intelligence?
“Artificial intelligence 70-80 years ago, i.e. computers, were able to perform calculations faster than humans. A person who was around 40 to 50 years ago was also able to perform algebraic calculations more quickly than humans. In short, we are moving in the direction where AI will be able to do certain things better than us. Think about the possibility of machine translation of a 500-page book in one minute with good results. In short, we are definitely increasing human capacity. Just as machines allow us to increase our manual ability, artificial intelligence allows us to increase our intellectual ability. But there are still risks. For example: AI today represents a historical change similar to that of journalism, which had a huge impact when it was introduced, but journalism is subject to dozens and dozens of laws. Imagine what would happen if we abolished the rules regarding copyright, or the rules regarding the responsibility of journalists. The AI also needs to be completely tweaked. People who see an image have a right to know whether it is real or made up so as not to lose the certainty, which we currently have, of saying that an event actually happened. Changes must be controlled and regulated, otherwise they tend to lead to disaster.”
Is there a risk of losing part of the project funds allocated for research?
“My understanding is that there is a big planning problem, because we have gone from an Italian country that plans very little, to a situation where a huge amount of projects have to be submitted. Thus, while on the scientific side, Pnrr funds can be used because we have capable universities, it is clear that the municipal or regional administration has for decades given up the ability to plan and therefore does not even have the necessary people to do it. “This issue should have been discussed a lot with Europe, but I am confident that it will be possible to resolve it somehow.”
Italy is still losing graduates, especially in the south. How can this trend be reversed?
“It is certainly necessary to make investments, but you must have the ability to choose wisely, without financing everything. I remember looking at European research funds allocated to the first target areas in the South and finding that they often did not generate cutting-edge research or even proved harmful. The key is something that is rarely practiced in Italy: project evaluation. “We must first understand well whether the program makes sense, then evaluate what we are doing along the way, and if things are not going well, know how to come back.”
Science has a great social impact. Why is it important for citizens to have a minimum level of scientific knowledge?
“Often decisions are made on the basis of scientific arguments and citizens must be able to understand them. We can say that it is a tool for achieving complete democracy. The problem is that the school was probably organized in a somewhat outdated way, with century-old “gentile” programs that viewed high school as an elitist, humanistic education. Therefore, it is not possible to be sure that schools have the specific purpose of training citizens to understand how science works to avoid having to publicly give their trust. Education is a crucial point and it is important that we start with it as children. The practical importance of science is abundantly clear to us in countless ways, however, in these times, there is even greater mistrust, something I also personally encountered during the Covid-19 pandemic when I was the target of attacks. This may seem paradoxical: as society becomes increasingly dependent on advanced technology, which is the fruit of scientific discoveries, citizens become more skeptical of scientists.
What is this phenomenon due to?
“We are entering a period of pessimism about the future as we face crises of all kinds: climate, economic, resource, increasing inequality, job insecurity, and last but not least, wars. We were all convinced that the future would be better than the present and that science would lead us to this bright future. Then this confidence in progress and in the future eroded, and science began to be blamed by many for this situation and considered a bad teacher who pushed humanity in the wrong direction. Moreover, scholars are sometimes viewed as an elite paying the price for intense resentment against all elites. But distrust of science can be disastrous. In fact, we need more science, otherwise we will not be able to combat risks such as global warming, infectious diseases, poverty, hunger and resource shortages on a planetary scale.
Do you think, then, that the world should be ruled by technicians and scientists?
“I’m not a technocrat and I don’t think a government of scientists is the best thing, but science is the only honest attempt to understand reality and make predictions by estimating uncertainty. Therefore, the task of science is to help humanity along a path full of risks, and it must point out different options. But the decision then falls to politics.”
What impact has being at Scampia had on you?
“I am very happy to be there because this name conjures up something that no longer corresponds to the current reality and most likely did not even correspond to the reality of the past. Because the renaissance is underway in Scambia due to many factors, such as the new headquarters of the Federico II University, but above all, due to the struggle of many towns and citizens who fought to obtain a better situation.”
October 30, 2023
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