Published on August 19, 2020

What if Artificial Intelligence found a home in Turin?

The Piedmontese capital is a candidate to become the seat of the future National Institute of Artificial Intelligence. An initiative born from the experience of the Apostolato Digitale dell’Arcidiocesi di Torino which deals with interpreting digital transformation also from a theological perspective.

By Francesco Signor

The encouragement came from Archbishop Msgr. Nosiglia and the local Church with him, finding in Luca Peyron, director of the Office for University Pastoral Care of the Archdiocese of Turin, an enterprising “newtwork weaver”. The proposal consists in bringing to Turin, for the city and Piedmont, the center for artificial intelligence proposed by the Mise document, released in July, which dictates the guidelines for AI in Italy. Turin and Piedmont have, on the one hand, academic and industrial development characteristics and, on the other, value and social background that embody the cornerstones of the guidelines themselves. Now it is a question of developing and accelerating a series of processes already underway. The reactions from the territory to the proposal were unexpected in terms of quantity, speed, and density.

“I have had positive feedback both from the institutions – municipality, region, universities – as well as from intermediate bodies, professional orders, associations, and individuals” explains Luca Peyron. “Dormant or hesitant energies that have found liberation in the project and in the fact that the local Church, with the Bishop, in some way promoted it. We began to network with everyone in a perspective that must be inclusive. There have been and will attempt to escape forward or to the side, but they would be truly anti-historical and would disqualify those who make them and the institutions that eventually these subjects represent.”

Among the first members also that of Viasat Group which strongly supports the proposal to bring to Turin the new National Institute for Artificial Intelligence, wanted by the Ministry of Economic Development, making its technology and experience in the sector available to the territory. At the political level, out of institutional respect, the Roman interlocutors were conducted by local institutions, observing and respecting a correct supply chain.

“It’s no longer the time for bar politics with friends of friends,” continues Peyron. “If Turin were identified as the headquarters it would be good for the city and the region, but also for the whole country. If another city were identified, I want to hope and believe that it is for objective reasons and not for mere partisan interests or party consortiums. On this, the presence of the Church must assume a dimension of meaning, value, and prophecy. The people we meet every day need serious politics and credible institutions. This project must also be prophetic from this point of view, otherwise, we would not be in the game ”.

There are many concrete repercussions that the Turin Capital of Artificial Intelligence project could bring with it. First of all, academic ones with funds for research and higher education, but also real benefits on industrial processes, both for adults and for children, in addition to the effects on the life of the city as a whole, because a beating heart of this type revitalizes all its tissue. Finally, a relapse for the country because this could be a fundamental step in making Turin, and with it also Italy, the European capital of artificial intelligence.

“One can think of 180 million euros of the fallout between Mise and European funds” adds Peyron. “A hope for many young people with the possibility of reactivating the so-called NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training). An opportunity to think about the dissemination of digital knowledge that also engages the groups excluded today, such as the elderly. The Book Fair has contributed significantly to making Turin and Piedmont – according to the latest data – one of the cities and regions where we read the most. I hope for a similar wave effect on digital culture, governed and read with ethical parameters and anthropogenic values, those that are dear to the Church and are also one of the main reasons for this interview and for the fact that she is speaking with a priest ”.

The recent announcement by Google also fits into this framework, relating to an investment plan worth 900 million dollars over five years “to accelerate digital transformation”, most of which could be destined for the creation of two “Google Cloud Regions” in Milan and Turin. In addition, the Polytechnic of Turin is one of the Italian universities selected by the Miur for a doctorate on AI. In this sense, the collaboration between the academic world and large industrial groups is fundamental, but it must be based on national and above all European sovereignty on digital with platforms and rules governed in a democratic way.

“We have a constantly evolving road map” concludes Peyron. “It is a process that we must accompany in order for it to have concrete results. Announcements and headlines are the past, we would like to make prophecies come true. This means that many will have to take concrete responsibilities, get out of the comfortable areas in which they find themselves, take risks of various kinds. The Turin Church is doing it, I know that many will do it. To those who hesitate let me say, as Sturzo did, it is time to be free and strong ”.

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