Every “intelli-agent” human will soon be in part a machine. And viceversa.

To make sense of the enormous amount of data around us we need to co-operate with machines. And it will be a challenge for both.

Riccardo Zanardelli
Dec 4, 2019 · 4 min read
Photo edit & merge of Rock’n Roll Monkey and Road Trip with Raj / Unsplash

Key takeaways:

  1. To unlock the power of data at scale we need machines;
  2. Machines can empower and complement humans, but also viceversa;
  3. Driving the evolution of society through human-machine interfaces is a priority and a design challenge (not technological);
  4. Blade Runner might be now in the past, but still we have a long way to run before developing a true understanding of how humans and machines can co-operate and be intelli-agents, together.

While we were busy doing something else, we went through the age of the database, in which a few data describe the “who” of things, and then through the age of profile, where the “who” is enriched by fragments of “where, how, when and why”.

Two ages still relatively easy to understand by humans, but maybe the future has some new post in the feed for us: the amount of data about who, what, why, how, when and where of things could soon be so big as to become inhuman.

Inhuman, dis-human, dysfunctional to the human, perhaps almost perfect on a syntactic level, but progressively encrypted to human sensors.

Is our digital twin learning a language that is simply too complex for us? Maybe. And this is happening in background.

Yes, algorithms can outperform us in making sense of this complexity… but this alliance has a deeper reason to exist than a “scale/skill” gap. It is a necessary alliance, because we are designed for different roles and we are not interchangeable.

The difference between us and artificial agents is about a 100% human prerogative, the unattainable operational extreme for a machine: I’m talking about free will.

The human runtime knows only the «best-effort mode».

An intelligent agent operating for 200 years could achieve astonishing performance while a human condemned to eternal youth would probably end up being depressed, surrounded by either “happy and gone” and “sad and everlasting” memories, by pains with a precise place and time, which are there to remember the past instead of the future. An inhuman life, a life blocked by a mass of information that cannot be emotionally managed.

It is at this level, the level of limits, that human and artificial meet and take their hands. Our destiny is to be different for a long time, but we both have limitations which represent the most unattainable aspiration for the other. And the complement to one.

And, as always, we come back to Blade Runner. And to Kubrick. The eternal chase between man and machine is perhaps the most beautiful thing we have in common.


Riccardo is Beretta’s Digital Business Development Manager. Graduated in Engineering, he has spent most of his professional career in B2B and B2C marketing. Since 2016, he deals with business transformation and digital services. Passionate about digital economy and informational privacy, in 2018 he published “OPAL and Code-Contract: a model of responsible and efficient data ownership for citizens and businesses”. He is a member of the advisory board of “Quota 8000 – Service Innovation Hub” at TEH Ambrosetti. Since 2000 he deals with digital art as an independent researcher. Some of his projects have been acquired from the permanent ArtBase collection of Rhizome.org – NY (2002) and exhibited at the Montreal Biennial of Contemporary Art (2004), as well as at Interface Monthly (London, 2016, by The Trampery and Barbican). In 2015, he released FAC3, one of the first artworks in the world to experiment the use of artificial intelligence. He is married and father of two.

Riccardo Zanardelli

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Digital Platforms @ Beretta | Engineering | New Media Arts

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