Promises of anti-globalisation, realities of fiscal revenge

Today’s so-called crisis of globalisation is nothing more than a new variable of the old battle between protectionism and free trade. On the one hand it is the tribalists while on the other it is the globalists. On one side there are the anti-Amazon, pro-retailers, losers of a global challenge, while on the other, there are the pro-Amazon, e-commerce winners.

Nothing more, really. The opening of trade walls has accelerated industrial evolution in such a way that workers have had to learn to adapt to almost every generation. The difference, today, is that the evolution didn’t happen within a lifetime, but a few times within that lifetime. This is why the Indian farmer, who initially moved to the city to work in a call centre, had to reinvent himself as an Uber driver and is now worried about driverless cars — all within one lifetime.

 Cause of discontent

Technological innovations are what accelerate the rhythm of change. The medium is the message all over again. It is the transformation of technology that affects society, not whatever that technology delivers (news, electricity, TV series). And this is why in the United States and the United Kingdom and in some parts of Europe, so many 50-somethings, unemployed, disgruntled voters who found it hard to reinvent themselves ended up voting for someone who promised to bring back an impossible past — a greater America, a more British Britain, whatever that may mean.

Up until 20 to 30 years ago, you could reach your pension age before a new radical evolution in the job market, which created its winners and losers. Today, the challenge is that evolutionary shifts happen not just once before reaching pensionable age, but often.

This is what causes globalisation’s discontent. Blue collar workers from the mid-West cannot move to Silicon Valley; it’s a totally different skill set, and only few can manage it.


 A sort of revenge

U.S. President Donald Trump’s and Brexit’s victories can be seen as a sort of “revenge of the losers”. The victims of the system described above decided to vote for someone who promised to protect them. Ludicrous. And, in fact, little has been done by Mr. Trump or British Prime Minister Theresa May to help those workers. And little is being done. Their standards of living have not improved. Or have certainly not returned to previous levels. Nor is there any policy in motion indicating that the previous levels will return.

There won’t be any promised return to the past. Which doesn’t mean the economy will not thrive. It just won’t bring back the same old jobs to the unskilled.

For example, the latest U.S. tax reform promises to lower corporate taxes, rehashing the ancient myth job, the “trickle down” theory, will not impact the lower middle classes who voted for Mr. Trump. At the dangerous cost of increasing the deficit and widening the hole, Mr. Trump is lowering too high corporate taxes to bring them down to European levels.

It would seem to make sense even though the impact on total taxation will be marginal. Lowering tax on capital may increase wages for those skilled workers whose productivity will be positively affected by increased demand for capital intensive work, but while engineers might see an increase in their wages, the unskilled won’t benefit directly from it.


In other words, instead of fighting the ills of globalisation, Mr. Trump has found a way to economically hit the coastal electorate who mocked and railed against him — the Hillary Clinton voters. By lowering the maximal for family deductions and real estate taxes, he has hit those middle to upper middle classes in the east and west coasts who hate him. They are the ones who will not benefit from this reform. This is what he’ll obtain with this tax reform. Brilliant from his point of view because the reform dips into the pockets of people who never have and never will vote for him.

How will this impact free trade globally? U.S. manufacturing is down to 11.7% of U.S. GDP (2016), while farming agriculture is only 1% (2015). America produces services such as Amazon, Google and Facebook; these are the richest corporations. Their expansion is thriving globally. And so is the expansion of other multinational corporations.

Even though the discontent of globalisation is a leftover of the crisis of 2008, today we don’t see that it will really impact globalisation seriously. At least, so far, we don’t see the results of this desire to raise barriers. Globalisation is here to stay.

Carlo Pizzati is an author and professor of communication theory

this editorial appeared in the daily national newspaper The Hindu on Dec. 18th 2017 also readable at this link.


Madness and being human (from The Hindu)

As the archetypes of myth make a comeback to books, they seem to capture a world that has changed little since the days of Zeus

The gods of Mount Olympus are still with us. Their tales, myths and tragedies are intertwined with our days. When we gaze in the mirror for too long and see Narcissus, when a son is too close to his mother like Oedipus, when a daughter is obsessed with her father like Elektra, the Greek tragedies are there. When there’s a murder in the family like a Clytemnestra stabbing her Agamemnon, the tragedies from the epics are still with us.

The Greek gods may have long been buried, chased from the realm of theology and temples of worship to be corralled into museums and libraries, frozen in mawkish statues and in theatre plays, but they are still with us along with their tragedies. And more so this literary season.

It may just be remarkable coincidence, but there have been three intense recent novels all reinterpreting Greek tragedies — Orhan Pamuk’s The Red-Haired Woman obsessing with patricide; Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire reimagining an Antigone among Islamic State fighters; and Colm Toíbín’s House of Names, adapting contemporary language and family relationships to the matricide of Clytemnestra.


Fragile divinity

How and why did we get to the 21st century still reworking the same old plots, still gazing at the same old gods we thought had vanished to the distant planets we named after them?

The Iliad and the Odyssey are considered the origins of Western literature. Greek tragedians took Homer’s characters and created plots of their own, just like today’s novels integrate myths with contemporary language. Once reworked by Euripides, Aeschylus’s Oresteia strayed so much from the original that some consider it the real birth of fiction. ‘Based on a true myth,’ I presume the book would warn readers were it printed today.

This literary trend didn’t fade when Greece was crushed by Rome. Latin poet Horace put it plainly in his epistles: “Greece, in fact, conquered us by bringing her arts into rustic Latium.” The victims’ culture seeped into Roman values through the Hellenisation of literature and art.

Latin poet Virgil was the pioneer; his Aeneid is a sequel to the Iliad, and tells of Aeneas escaping from the charred ruins of Troy and reaching Italian shores, the mythological representation of the cultural thread joining Greece to Rome. Then, the Empire brought Greek myths to an invaded Europe. Later, Western colonisation spread these myths to the Americas and beyond.

Throughout the following millennia, Greek polytheistic myth experienced moments of fortune but also of oblivion. Greek gods continued their metamorphosis, not only from Zeus to Jupiter, but from divine to oh-so-human. But the gods have always been keen on metamorphosis — once, shape-shifting Zeus even trickled down through a roof as golden rain to impregnate a lady. Yet, in Shakespeare, Giordano Bruno, Torquato Tasso or Cervantes, the gods began to take on very humanly fragile dimensions, while mortals were increasingly invigorated by divine qualities. These authors created a new mythology by fusing Greco-Roman with Christian themes.

Mount Olympus experienced a prolific revival of its allegories during the Renaissance and the Baroque. Ovid became a major influence for poets and artists. Enlightenment, led by Voltaire, only made parodies of what it perceived as obscurantist legends. And Romanticism seemed mostly interested in individual countries’ national pasts rather than in the archetypes of southern Europe. But the gods of Mount Olympus just wouldn’t die.

Why, then, did the 20th century rediscover Ancient Greece?

The birth of psychoanalysis has its part. The Oedipus complex, Narcissism, the Elektra complex: a now somewhat discredited Sigmund Freud borrowed from myth to explain mental conditions. In literature, Tolkien and Rowling, but before them James Joyce, Italo Calvino and Roberto Calasso all dipped their pens into the cornucopia.

March of folly

In the 20s, the Fascists discovered a renewed pride in the remote past of Roman imperialism by poking awake the sleeping deities. In the U.S., in 1931, Eugene O’Neill would set his famous interpretation of the Oresteia in the smoky battlefields of the American Civil War. In the following decades, existentialists obsessed with the Sisyphus myth as representing the frustration of modernity. What an appropriate image to represent the endlessness of the often mechanised efforts and frustrations created by the industrialised enslavement of millions of workers. Or to portray the vain struggle of an individual in pursuit of knowledge.

In his 1942 essay, Camus imagined that Sisyphus must be happy as the “struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart” — a rather dharmic interpretation.

It is only when Sisyphus accepts the futility of his task and the certainty of his fate that he is he freed to realise the absurdity of his predicament and reaches a state of contentedness. Or santosha. Sartre rejected what he saw as the classical pessimism and disillusionment of Camus, which caused a most notorious rift between the two. Existentialists also realised that Greek tragedies were often centred on the importance of choice and the role choice has in connecting a person to her social destiny.

Everyone knows what Joyce did with Ulysses, few know how French dramatist Jean Anouilh reworked Antigone into a clearer symbol against totalitarianism, turning it into an anti-Fascist tale, worthy of the merciless pen of exiled poet Bertolt Brecht, who would set the tragedy in the Second World War and paint Creon, the ruler of Thebes, into a Nazi-style dictator.

And as Europe began to realise the advantages of unification, the elites again became obsessed with the greco-latin Greco-Latin heredity. The matrix of its culture is inscribed in its name, Europa, after a Phoenician princess who was seduced by Zeus in the form of a white bull.

More recently, Margaret Atwood retold the Odyssey from its hero’s wife’s point of view in the feminist Penelopiad, and Madeleine Miller repainted the relationship between Patroclus and his star-warrior companion in The Song of Achilles.

As the myths make another comeback in contemporary literature, is it a symptom of our confusion and lack of direction, a need to go back to something familiar? Or is it also because of a need to make sense of the massacres, the slow war between flawed democracies and their nemesis?

The very concept of the perception of truth has been altered, so it is possible that reaching into the myth through fiction will actually bring a sharper sense of veracity, as paradoxical as this may sound.

Superimposing the archetype of a Greek tragedy on the nightmarish summer massacres of Europe in subways and promenades, or over the senseless gau rakshak lynchings, or over the bloody scenes of Syrian cities collapsing under dusty clouds of bombs can allow writer and reader to feel that in this madness, in this “march of folly,” as historian Barbara Tuchman would call it, literature is the only way to gain some comfort in the realisation that history repeats itself. Or at least that it rhymes, as Mark Twain said.

DNA patterns

Or it may be the only way to understand that the pointless wars, the beheadings, betrayals and mayhem, the stuff of Greek tragedies, are what best describes and makes us understand the world we are living in now. Because it’s all happened before. The patterns may be in our DNA, they may be in our culture, they may, sadly, be part of what a human being is. Feral, ferocious, ambitious, vengeful, but capable of noble acts, of love and self-sacrifice.

Mythological archetypes may be an oversimplification of the nuances of the present. And yet this is what history does, clearing away the fuzzy noise, outlining a crisper image of how things really went. Creating an acceptable story with a beginning and an end — with meaning.

Pamuk does it by identifying not only the personal tension between fathers and sons, but also between the citizen and the state. Toíbín takes on the Oresteiaand makes us realise how the ancient family’s implosive dynamics are similar, if not the same, as our own. As the author said in The Guardian: “I was writing, after all, in the time of Islamic State, a time when images of violence and hatred seemed to appear natural or at least prevalent…”

Ode to Apollo

The most impactful attempt to bring back Greek tragedy to make us understand contemporary events comes from the youngest and most promising voice, that of British writer Kamila Shamsie. In Home Fire, she grapples with many of the central questions of political migration and integration in today’s West versus East and North versus South dynamics, while adapting them to the matrix of Antigone. Not only is the ancient world brought closer, but there’s also a clearer understanding of our world, seen through the prism of the original tragedy.

Home Fire is sprinkled with brilliant and biting contemporary one-liners like this question from a British young man of Pakistani descent to a woman acquaintance wearing a sort of turban: “Cancer or Islam — which is the greater affliction?”

Shamsie’s book freely adapts the structure of Antigone to tell us about the Lones, a successful family integrated in the British paradigm, so much so that its patriarch becomes Home Secretary, repudiating his own Muslim community. And about the Pashas, a family attempting to integrate, but whose patriarch was a jihadi killed on his way to Guantánamo and whose youngest son, Parvaiz, is recruited to work for the Islamic State. I’ll share no more spoilers.

But why use myth to eviscerate the contradictions of integration, migration and radicalisation? Or juxtapose it on internecine regional conflicts as in Northern Ireland? Or to contemplate the power of emerging strongmen muscling at the walls of Europe and Asia?

The simplicity of the archetypal human tragedy survives the precociously announced death of the novel, post-modern literature, non-fiction, reality fiction. Why? Because it captures a universal humanity which seems to have changed little since the days of Apollo. Whether this can be a reassurance that nothing changes, or a disappointment in humanity’s lack of progress, is better left to readers to decide. May the gods of the Olympus inspire their choice.

Carlo Pizzati is an author and professor of communication theory.

His most recent book is The Edge of an Era.

The article appeared originally in The Hindu Literary Review and can also be read at The Hindu website by clicking here.

What robotisation can offer to the future of work in India  (op ed The Hindu)

As we ask ourselves how employment is threatened by technology, we should look at how labour has changed in recent decades. Before we get so attached to the current job market, and feel we must defend it from an eventual robot takeover, we should examine how unfair the labour system has become and how robotics could contribute to change that.

If properly managed, the robotic revolution could be a chance to free millions of people from a system of exploitation of labour which is unprecedentedly inhumane. Or not.

In ancient Rome, a slave worked a maximum of six hours a day. A third of the year was spent in festivities. European workers in the Middle Ages had a six-hour work day and spent 150 days in religious celebrations — almost half the entire year off!

Nothing close to the 13 to 14 hours put in by the average, always-on entrepreneur of our times. Or the 10 hours a regular employee often clocks in, which explains why overwork is causing so many deaths across Asia.

The Industrial Revolution and the continuous automation of work have morphed us into becoming increasingly less human workers. This is the central premise before looking into what robotisation can offer to the future of work in India.


On the left the original photo, on the right The Hindu artist’s rendition – a hindu-ised version of the author.

Is there also a continuing percolation, in India, from the agricultural sector, through urbanisation and its consequences, into the service and manufacturing sectors? Certainly.

Could this happen in a more humane way, as easily automated jobs are slowly stolen by robots? Is farming also destined to be substituted by Artificial Intelligence (AI)? Could we then envision a future of a widely urbanised class with more leisure time thanks to robots? Utopia.

But there may be a way to go in that direction, if we think about the advantages of robotisation being equally distributed among those who will lose their jobs.

A socially sensitive policy should consider this a chance for the government to gather advantages from higher robotisation and distribute them to the work force by creating job alternatives. Or by providing subsidies and employment systems with less working hours — such as part-time and work from home. Finally, robotised work should distribute earnings to those who will permanently lose their jobs. And this could be done in very specific ways.

A kind of exploitation

First, we should consider how to capitalise from the current market. The premise for doing so requires a radical change of perspective.

When we read that in a town in Andhra Pradesh, an AI company hires women and youth and spends some of its profit on education and drinking water for the community, we should not be humbly thankful. We should be worried.


But what is passed for bringing employment to underdeveloped areas is neo-colonial exploitation at its best. Workers are paid peanuts to build the very same AI that will render them obsolete. This is not explained to them. So they are thankful for an extra little water and infrastructure, in exchange.

This trick is fooling Western underprivileged people as well. To refine conversation skills, a digital AI assistant needs to be told over and over when it has failed. There are plenty of American college students spending 10 to 30 hours a week, for $10 an hour, on phones or computers as AI supervisors, evaluating search results and chats through sites such as Clickworker. If they understood the ramifications of their work, they might demand to be paid much more.

This is policy recommendation number one: enforce a high international minimum wage for all data-entry and data-supervision workers. Help people who are “feeding the machine” be better paid for contributing to coding reality into its virtual version.

There is a more serious issue in the Indian job market. In 1810, the agricultural sector was 90% of the U.S. economy. In 1910, it was down to 30%. In 2010, it was 2%.

Is this what’s in store for India, where agriculture is still occupying half of the work force? Will it happen faster here? How do we retrain farmers? And where are they to relocate?

What will happen to “the rejected” as Pope Francis called them, “the forgotten,” as U.S. President Donald Trump labelled them during his campaign?


A new era

More interestingly, will we move into a “humanistic intelligence” era in which we transform our workers, first with wearable computers (smartwatches and Google glasses are a beginning, the new smartphones operating according to moods, gaze and gestures are the next step), and then with deeper integration, like the Swedish company Biohax, implanting chips under the skin of their employees’ wrists?

It is called “shortening the chain of command”— from the smart screen era, to the cyborg era.

At first, technology might not immediately take all our jobs, it will take over our bodies. Of course, it’s already doing that. For example, I wear a hearing aid. Would I wear a bionic eye for sensory and visual augmentation, or for, say, drone operation? Maybe.

Is this how humans will compete with robots in an intermediary phase? What does it mean for society and its sense of identity, our relationship to our bodies?

There might be a lot of jobs for our new cyborg selves out there, in what is called the aug-mediated reality. Humans, some argue, are not to be defended, but expanded. So, will we be become transhumanistic, pimped-up cyborgs, with mechanical elements expanding our physical limitations? Isn’t this already happening? Is this the Nietzschean Übermensch we are supposed to become? Shouldn’t policy regulate that as well?

The focal question here is: as labour is being transformed at its roots, should economic forces be the only thing that matters? Aren’t we in front of an ethical and political, rather than an economic, question? And what if the answer is simply that everyone must benefit from the capital generated by robotisation?

Shouldn’t we begin to think of an alternative form of ownership of the robots? Shouldn’t they be public property, since they are objects that occupy and operate on public grounds, impacting public economy and nation-wide employment?

Shouldn’t they be owned by everyone? Should India consider nationalising robots? As ludicrous and anachronistic as it may sound in the post-neoliberal zeitgeist, it is something at least worth opening up for reflection.

Or could robots owned by private companies be allowed to operate only by purchasing a costly state licence, benefitting society at large or, specifically, displaced workers, thus funding unemployment?

Is it conceivable to create “job permits for robots” so that 30% of the revenue they raise with their work goes directly to finance the pension funds of the workers made redundant by robotisation?

This may not be the specific solution, but discussion should begin on these topics, as one of the ways to avoid famine and death possibly brought on by massive unemployment in a relatively short time.

Carlo Pizzati is an author and professor of communication theory. This text is part of his contribution to the “Technology Foresight Group on the Future of Work in India,” a collaboration between Tandem Research and the International Labour Organisation

This opinion piece originally appeared in “The Hindu” newspaper editorial pages and can be read also clicking here.

“The spiritual android within us” chapter 27 of “Technoshamans” (2010)

The creative evolution

The initial interest in the investigation on the relationship between man and machine was  stimulated by a French philosopher, a Nobel Prize winner for literature who inspired Marcel Proust and Deleuze.  In his “Creative evolution,” philosopher Henri Bergson outlines the “vital force” in the surprising way in which life acts. Bergson looks at the first spring of life on the planet as an impulse received at the source and still present in every form of life.

This spark is at the root of the tree of Evolution in whose trunk three different branches are hidden – vegetative torpor, instinct and reason. On one side plants, on the other insects, and still on the other, mammals. We know well who sits on the evolutionary step right below us, in the branch pursuing reason – it is those animals like monkeys and elephants, who can in certain contexts use an artificial instrument. In other words, they understand and are able to utilize technology. And right below, there are those who are at least able to recognize a man-made object – like a fox, who knows full well that a trap is a trap. But who is on the step right above us? There’s no step yet, maybe, but if up there, high up, in the darkness, there’s the light of intelligence which Evolution follows and chases, what will the next step be like and who will sit on it?

I mean, whose monkeys will we humans be? What man is building with technology, isn’t it maybe the next step of evolution?

It’s conscience, says Bergson, “the principal engine of evolution.” But if machines will be one day be able to download the “software of conscience,” reaching computational powers similar if not superior to the those of humans, how will the much-feared victory of machines over human kind not take place?

The day in which machines learn intuition from humans, and it’s not inconceivable this could happen soon, the countdown for us humans, if it hasn’t started already, will begin.

TECHNOSHAMANS NEW COVERAbout 160 years ago Samuel Butler was already writing that “it appears clear that we are creating our own successors…that we are providing them with powers superior to ours and that we are designing them, with ingenuous machineries of all types, with a power of self-regulation and automation which will be for them what intellect is for the human race.”

We humans, then, are not the owners of machines any more than we own fire or the wheel. Our new virtual setting, which we are creating on the other side of the screen is not controllable any longer from the natural world. 

One of the greatest programmers in history, Bill Joy, known as the “Thomas Edison of Internet” confirms it in an opinion piece in Wired magazine: “But now, with the prospect of human-level computing power in about 30 years, a new idea suggests itself: that I may be working to create tools which will enable the construction of the technology that may replace our species. How do I feel about this? Very uncomfortable.”

Since Kubrick’s “2001: Odyssey into Space” with the sentient computer Hal until the conflict of humans and the “computer soul” in “Matrix,” from the legend of the Golem, automaton programmed to work on the sacred Sabbath, until the legend of Frankenstein, the very human fear that the instrument substitutes his inventor is becoming more and more pressing, as the instrument begins to look more and more like its inventor.

Our metamorphosis

In my journey to the end of the world, until that finis terrae in Argentina and that India that borders on the Absolute, I’ve always observed the constant confrontation of man with his own animal instincts. Demons, obsessors, challenges to my brahmacharya period, the fights with Salome and having to face the most tedious aspects of life in all its difficulties were nothing but the unchecked expression of the animal nature within me.

Often, religions are just an attempt to calm that beast in order for us to become something higher – the famous transcendence. But instead, there are those who are convinced we are experiencing a return to bestiality. And this is what makes Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” a key-tale of modernity.

you are here smokeyScience also provides us with the illusion of being able to transcend the animal instincts that pervade us. As John Gray wrote in “Straw Dogs,” the imminent possibility of choosing a human being’s DNA, aspiring to immortality through hibernation or abandoning our body in order to enter virtual reality are all testament to the constant aspiration to control one’s self and the world – two fatal illusions, rooted in the even greater illusion of being, us humans, different from animals.

We are bestial sorcerer apprentices: “When technology enters in human life, be it fire, the wheel, the car, the radio, TV or Internet, it changes it in a way we will never fully comprehend,” Gray writes. Technology does not belong to humans: it is as old as the earth. The work done by ants is very similar to human agriculture: ant colonies are colonies just like the ones we humans have, and our cities are no less artificial than bee-hives, the shape of the Internet is no “less natural” than a spider-web. What remains to be established is who is the spider and who is the fly?

Are we are ourselves “technological mechanisms” invented by a primordial community of bacteria as a means to survival, as biologists Margulis and Sagan say? Or, as Richard Dawkins writes in “The Selfish Gene,” are we just instruments who pass on genetic software from one generation to the next?

We think we are at the center of the universe but instead we are only organic robots at the service of an end whose meaning escapes us because, maybe, we are only its slaves. Our own capacity for using rationality is exaggerated – Benjamin Libet has shown that the electrical impulse that stimulates action happens a half second before our conscious decision to act. At most, reason has the power of veto, since it can block an action.

So, who operates the software inducing to action? Nobody? God? The Techno-Moloch that Jacques Ellul talks about in “Technological Society”? A society invented by engineers who have lost all control and in which the Machine dictates rules and regulations as if it already had a mysterious identity?

Sex with robots

But if it were so, if we were only dangerous beasts who are using science to create the next generation of “Masters of the Earth,” in what way will this happen?

David Levy’s “Love + Sex with Robots” predicts the imminent development of a generation of robots who’ll become our life companions – after so many fights, finally the ideal husband and wife!

In our collective imagination, the first robots are born in the Czech Republic with the 1920’s theater work “Rossums Universal Robots” of Karel Capek – it’s the story of the automatons robota  (“forced labor” in Czech) who rebel against and decide to kill all human beings. A century before, in Japan, the karakuri dolls had already been invented. They were automated tea-carrying dolls. Since then we have cohabitated with robotics, knowing we are destined to cross our destiny with that of android objects that are more and more useful and more and more similar to us.

In “Robotherapy,” for example, psychological software is being developed to use automatons as therapists and “friends” for people with psychological problems aside from being helpful to those who have physical, emotional or cognitive handicaps. It’s about providing these “techno-nurses of the future” with the capacity to observe our daily life, studying what makes us happier and grateful, “feeling” our desires and satisfying them. It is not impossible. Because, as marvelous as it can seem, the human brain is a biological machine that can be analyzed and imitated.

Robot psychology is a highly complex minefield, but it cannot be stopped.


What about love?

The robot-nurse may be acceptable by now, with some big reservations, but the robot-husband or the android-wife. How can one fall in love with an object? But this happens everyday, in the wildest technological consumerist era in human history.  And it is true that falling in love with the latest car model or computer is different from falling in love with a bed partner or a companion (not always, truth be told), but for how long still, in human evolution, will it be so?

Romantic attractions activate those “pockets” of our brain where you find a high concentration of dopamine receptors, that chemical substance associated with euphoria, cravings and addiction. A robot – writes Levy – could carry out a subtle fMRI scan on us while, for example, it compliments us on our haircut. According to our reaction, the robot will know if it is up the right alley in the direction of seduction and from there he will proceed until we fall in love with it. Don’t think of the robots you see in movies, with all that sharp and shining metal, we are talking about machines that not only have believable skin, but in whom an essence has been injected with normal pheromones, which our organoleptic receptors can find exciting without understanding why.

Their hands can massage us skillfully with a program designed for our specific preferences.

After all, aren’t we already – in the millions – falling in love with people we meet through a screen? That person on the other side of the chat is already so unreal and robotic since it “is” only words on a screen, or at most a low definition image seen through a webcam.

According to a statistic quoted by Levy, 45 per cent of English adolescents interviewed in a survey said they consider their computer a friend, while 60 percent love their computers, and16 per cent of adults and 13 per cent of children often speak to their computer. Thirty-four per cent of adults and 37 per cent of children say that by 2020 computers will be just as important to them as their family or friends.

A mechanical partner can be programmed to be what we need, with the skills to perform half that healthy little fight once in a while that can stimulate the game of making-up afterwards.

Are we facing a future where men will marry exclusively with a brand-name robot wife, furnished with a special receptacle to freeze the husband’s seed and send it to a sperm bank, where the same sperm can also be used by robot husbands to impregnate their human wives? Confusing, yet plausible.

WellAdjustedSwallowed by a the phantomat

The biological man can find himself naturally pushed out of existence since, according to the logics of evolution, a species rarely survives in a hostile space where there is a superior stage of evolution. How long, then, till the first generation of intelligent machines learns to self-reproduce in more and more advanced models?

Paul Virilio in “Ce qui arrive” theorizes that from Utopia we will transition into Ucronia, the end of human time. Maybe we have already exited time and meaning, our attention distracted and lost in that cobweb called “the media” thanks to whom – as Karl Kraus reminds us – a short circuit is generated, “leading the masses into believing that facts are told even before they happen –thus making them possible.”

“The immediacy, ubiquity and omniscience of video monitors and domestic computer terminals,” says Virilio, “take on the job of reinstating the equivocal methods that everyone employs in order to affirm his or her own dependency from what can make him or her escape him or herself – thing that, for a few brief instants, makes bodies inconsistent: dream, trance, hypnosis, orgasm, alcohol, drugs…” It is, he says, “the world marked of disappearance, in which the telepresence is substituted by not only the real presence of the artistic object, but also that of it’s buyer and seller.”

In “The perfect crime: has television killed reality?,” Jean-Baudrillard takes on the theme of the role that technology has in transforming our sense of the real: “…technique becomes a marvelous adventure […] it becomes the art of disappearance. Its finality would consist, more than in the transformation of the world, in an autonomous world, fully realized, from which we will finally be able to retire.”

The cyberspace offers a promise of eternity. Having overcome time and transcended the body, all that is left is our conscience, free to roam from server to server.

After all, Nietzshce also declared that “man is something which should be exceeded.” But not by the über-mensch, but rather by the über-computer.

Already in 1964, in its “Summa Technologiae,” Stanislaw Lem (also author of “Solaris”) imagined the advent of a “Phantomat,” a “fantasmatic generator” that allows humans to penetrate into simulated worlds. Lem imagined in advance the virtual reality now taking shape in avatar, social networks and videogames: “The fantasmatic offers a kind of experience that, because of its intimate character, is comparable only to dreams.”

And while shamans get lost in their trance or in their dances of a “separate reality,” which transcends spirituality, technology pushes our imagination in a generator of perfect illusions, a world made for us, mirror of a solitary hell which becomes more and more boring in the unpredictable reality with which we have to confront our selves today.

The spiritual machine

We are already a bit cyborg. We will mate with robots perfectly like us and, in certain aspects, better than us, and then we will lose our conscience in the Phantomat, in the virtual world where all that matters is conscience not the body.

But it is not necessarily true that androids should be seen as a species who overpower and crush us. There are those who, with a more trans-humanistic vision that borders on biopolitics – in tune with the tradition of Enlightenment – foresee instead that androids will only be our children, the evolutionary step borne from our ribs, literally. Or rather: we are the androids.

In “The Age of Spiritual Machines – When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence,” Ray Kurzweil for the first time maps – data in hand – the timing for what he calls “singularity,” when computers will reach the calculation capacity equal to that of a human. Calculating the exponential speed of technological progress, and the speed of growth of microprocessors, Kurzweil predicts the precise date of when that overtaking will happen. Measuring the growth of the capacity of calculation of a microchip from 1972 until today, Kurzweil says that every three years this capacity doubles and the rate of speed could accelerate – by 2045 computers will have a brain with the calculation capacity of humans. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll have a conscience, which is impossible according to the Catholic religion.

The copyright of conscience

It is difficult to understand what conscience is, first of all because the word “conscience” has many meanings, all of which are unclear. It is not demonstrated that machines will have one. But the contrary isn’t proven either. Actually, after years of studies no one has been able to prove whether there is a barrier which makes the “invention” of a programmable conscience for machines impossible. There are those who believe that conscience cannot be measured, but this is also a theory.

What science is trying to do is to study different phenomena where the word “conscience” is used. And from there we will also obtain something useful for humans. By programming an “embryo of conscience” in robots and observing how it evolves when it comes into contact with external agents, many more things could be learned about the development of our own conscience.

Domenico Parisi, robotics researcher for CNR, theorizes that since robots’ behavior is guided by a neuronal system very similar to ours, to plan an “insert of conscience” can be plausible. Robots can be programmed to surprise themselves to learn and register the difference between the tactile reaction of their “hand” when they touch an external object compared to when they caress a part of the robot itself – technically then, we can already talk of a primordial “sense of self” in the android.

The materialist’s approach believing that “mind is what mind does” brings us to an obvious conclusion – if we are capable of reproducing in minute detail the human brain into a “head” of a robot, this robot will have a conscience. It is a matter of time: who will copyright the first artificial conscience?

But if robots achieve a conscience, this does not necessarily mean they will want to immediately wipe us away from the face of the earth. Things could go differently, in a much more organic manner. Here’s how.

A possible solution to my back ache

Is a person wearing a pace-maker, a robot heart, still the same person? Of course, even more, he or she is actually stronger and will live longer, right?

Let’s imagine a man with hearing problems just like me, the way Kurzweil does in his book. A diagnostic test says I should have a transplant in my cochlea. With this chip inserted in my auditory channel I would be able to hear a whole range of sounds I had lost, from low to high frequencies. Am I still the same person? Of course.

Now let’s suppose that with a simple wire transfer I can ask the activation of an upgrade already inserted in the chip and thanks to which I can use the circuits of phonic recognitions that will allow me to hear two people whisper half a mile away from me, or more.

Meanwhile, I’m also offered something similar for my retina. Thanks to neural transplant technology I get installed in my corneas some retinal visualization screens to see virtual reality via wi-fi and I decide to try new transplants to make perception much sharper than normal. Am I still Carlo to my friends? Well, yeah.


But now I realize I’m loosing my memory a bit, I don’t really remember all the names and details of things I’ve done. I’m offered a transplant of memory systems. Recollections that had become out of focus with time, are now clear again. Unfortunately, the scary and embarrassing moments I was trying to forget are clear too. But am I still Carlo? Obviously.

Well, I’ve gone through a few changes, but nothing shocking to my friends who may actually be impressed. So why stop here? I’m offered the possibility to scan my entire brain and neural system and to substitute it with electronic circuits that are much more capable, rapid and reliable. Furthermore, I can make a back up copy of everything, in case something happens to my body.

Now, Kurzweil says, let’s suppose that instead of gradually substituting every part of the body we do everything in one single operation. Does it change anything? The new Carlo is still the old Carlo, right?

Maybe, but now there are two Carlos, one is a back-up, the other the original body. But if my original organic body were eliminated with its backache and only the copy remained, my back-up, with all human functions substituted by an artificial body, then my conscience, the essence of Carlo, would still be the same, right? It behaves the same way, it thinks the same way, it acts the same way, it smells the same way and has the same consistency (duly recreated with nanotechnologies). And so, what would be wrong with it?

Let’s imagine that the operation would mandatorily eliminate and destroy my body in order to have a durable and we could say eternal copy. How many would dare turn it down? With an android body my damn back would not hurt any more, nor all the nuisances I’ve narrated in these pages.

The spark born millions of years ago, that Bergsonian “vital force,” which has been passed on through cells, plants, fish, amphibious beings, mammals until humans, thrown in chase of rational development, would suddenly transform itself in the last electric shock that turns on the Carlo android for whom, after all human bodies have disappeared, the antropic shape of the body would not have any meaning, him (me?) having become only conscience and thus able to join all the other consciences under a grand advaitic Self, a network of spiritual servers maybe comparable only to a technological Nirvana.

Demonstrating, thus, that Technology and Spirituality integrate all too well and can easily do without our carnal Humanity.

(This is a chapter from “Technoshamans: Between spirituality and technology – A journey to the end of the world to cure a chronic back ache” which can be purchased clicking here).

‘I hate the internet’ by Carlo Pizzati (from “The Hindu”‘s Literary Review)

Ephemeral, jagged, tailored to the mind of a 15-year-old, is the digital network pushing humanity into cretinism?

Writing a good novel about the Internet is almost as difficult as shooting a good film about the effects of drugs. You may try all the available fireworks, and you’ll still fail. Blurred images, out-of-focus edges, tweaked sitar sounds, ridiculous echoes, and still you’ll get nothing close to representing the experience.

So far, defining the Internet with the language of literature has been as hard as explaining consciousness. Attempts to subsume the Internet into contemporary literature have been embarrassing. How can the instrument of knowledge understand itself? How can our own mind, slowly melting into a server where we store our photographs, memories, comments, emotions, chats, bank details, dreams and aspirations, understand its own technological nature? More importantly, how can a powerful instrument of meaning like literature be used to understand what seems to be its nemesis, the constantly distracting need for useless and disconnected novelties—the Internet of social networks?

One writer has succeeded in this mission, and in such a creative manner that, although everything indicated he would miss the mark, he triumphed. First of all, he wrote it on a computer. And he sees the contradiction: “Now writers used computers, which were the by-products of global capitalism’s uncanny ability to run the surplus population into perpetual servants. All of the world’s computers were built by slaves in China.”

Jarett Kobek, the author of I Hate the internet knows what he’s doing. And he tells you. In detail. It’s beyond meta-literature. It’s pure brilliance.

vinera wallWriting “a bad novel”

It’s hard to write about the Internet because it is so ephemeral. Harder still is it to have the guts to self-publish a novel built with the hyperbolic language of online interaction. And then to market it as “a bad novel” that promises to mimic the Internet “in its irrelevant and jagged presentation of content.”

Kobek delivers on the promise, because his style is a mix between a troll’s rant against Silicon Valley’s tech barons and the language of Wikipedia entries, which is actually inspired by Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5.

I Hate the internet—A Useful Novel Against Men, Money, and the Filth of instagram, as the full title explains, has become an immediate sensation after an enthusiastic review in The New York Times. But it is a text that most publishing companies couldn’t print because of its candid attack on so much that Western society stands for. Including publishing companies. Funnily enough, success arrived thanks to the Internet. Kobek used his enemy’s weakness for the first successful pushback against the culture of Silicon Valley’s smiling billionaires—the perfect Judo move.

“Actually,” he admitted, “I could have called it I Hate Four Companies and Social Media. But that is such a bad title.” Indeed, the attack is not on the entire Internet, but mostly on its social media phase.

We knew about this

The damage to our privacy caused by the explosions of anonymous rage online has been diagnosed long ago. So don’t be surprised if the backbone of the plot of this book is simply the story, set in San Francisco in 2013, of 45-year-old Alina, a comic book artist, semi-famous in the 90s, who is ravaged by a Twitter storm.

It all happens because someone posts a YouTube video where Alina dares to publicly say that singer Beyonce has done nothing for social progress. The fans’ attack is vicious and life-changing for Alina and her friends.

The plot’s kernel is something you can find in TV series like ‘Black Mirror’ and ‘Mr. Robot’, or in the sit-com ‘Silicon Valley’, which mocks Internet moguls who constantly promise “to make the world a better place.” But in this book, as the narrator warns us, “the plot, like life, resolves into nothing and features emotional suffering without meaning.”


Carlo Pizzati torna a Criminàl, sulle tracce delle Anguane


In occasione dell’uscita della nuova edizione digitale del romanzo “Criminàl”, Carlo Pizzati, che attualmente vive in India, è tornato alle origini.

E’ tornato nei luoghi che la mappa “Transpadana Venetorum Ditio” conservata nei Musei Vaticani definisce con il nome Criminàl. 

Ma questa volta Pizzati non è tornato con l’intento di continuare la ricerca su quella parola della mappa dei Musei Vaticani.

E’ tornato a riscoprire dei luoghi mitologici, è tornato sulle tracce delle anguane. Infatti “c’è chi sostiene che vivano ancora, in quel che resta dei boschi della Valle dell’Agno e in molte altre foreste delle Alpi e Prealpi. Le anguane non erano, ma sono, dicono alcuni”.

E in quei boschi forse Pizzati stavolta le ha trovate davvero come potete vedere nel video qui sotto, trailer di due cortometraggi di 10 minuti ciascuno tratti dal capitolo “La notte dell’anguana”:

Le anguane, insieme al paesaggio delle Piccole Dolomiti e della piovosa Valdagno sono l’ambientazione immanente in cui nasce Criminàl. Rispetto alla prima edizione, in questa Extended Edition trovano spazio alcune fotografie inedite, degli “appunti” speciali di Emanuele Zinato, docente di teoria della letteratura e letterature comparate all’Università di Padova in dialogo con l’autore e le reazioni dei lettori di questo libro che tanto successo ha avuto a livello nazionale quanto scalpore ha suscitato a Valdagno: un paese ai piedi delle montagne che si è scoperto diverso, non solo per l’antico e segreto nome delle carte Vaticane, ma nella sua stessa essenza. 

Scarica il libro da Amazon Kindle Store

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Il cortometraggio in due parti, con la lettura di Paolo Rozzi, girato da Riccardo Vencato. Con Alessandro Nardelloto e Emma Della Benetta.


Carlo Pizzati è un autore di libri di narrativa e di non-fiction e sceneggiature per il cinema. Vive poco lontano da un villaggio di pescatori in Tamil Nadu (India), scrivendo libri.

Collabora con riviste letterarie, magazine e quotidiani e ha un blog su il Post, su il Fatto Quotidiano, su “Doppiozero” con la rubrica “Indian Polaroids” e in spagnolo su “LMNO” con “El quinto pino”. Scrive in inglese su e collabora a Vanity Fair, GQ e con varie testate.

Nel 2014 è uscito il suo secondo romanzo con l’editore Feltrinelli, “Nimodo“. Nel 2012 è uscita la seconda edizione di “Tecnosciamani” (Il Punto d’Incontro) e la traduzione in inglese con il titolo “Technoshamans” oltre alla raccolta di resoconti letterari e fotografie “Il passo che cerchi” (Edelweiss 2012). Nel 2011 è uscito il primo romanzo “Criminàl” (Fbe Edizioni), ora disponibile in una versione digitale aggiornata su iTunes ed Amazon. 

Per maggiori informazioni, per aggiornamenti e per contattare l’autore visitate la sua pagina Facebook o il suo sito web oppure scrivete a Wannaboo all’indirizzo qui sotto. 


“Un libro deve frugare nelle ferite, anzi, deve provocarne di nuove,

un libro deve essere pericoloso.”

E.M. Cioran

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Criminàl – Extended Edition è un ebook edito da Wannaboo, casa editrice digitale e indipendente che offre la possibilità ai lettori di scaricare da iTunes, Amazon e dagli altri principali store ebook di autori emergenti o affermati che condividano con noi il coraggio di osare, di sperimentare e di innovare. Collaborano con Wannaboo: scrittori, fumettisti, musicisti, videomaker, storytellers, giornalisti e poeti. Per saperne di più:

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Da Parise a Pizzati: scrittori vicentini esplorano il Giappone

La coincidenza e’ curiosa: gli scrittori-giornalisti vicentini specializzati in letteratura di viaggio hanno il cognome che inizia sempre per P : da Piovene a Parise, con antesignano il Pigafetta cronista del viaggio di Magellano. Carlo Pizzati e’ appena andato alla scoperta del Giappone sulle orme del viaggio compiuto 35 anni fa dal conterraneo Goffredo Parise, da cui scaturi’ il libro-cult “L’Eleganza e’ Frigida”. Pizzati ha dormito nella stessa stanza di Parise nella residenza dell’Ambasciatore e ne ha seguito le tracce dai bassifondi della metropoli ai giardini zen, dai monasteri buddisti del Koya-san agli incontri con letterati giapponesi della (rispettiva) contemporaneita’. E ha percepito che oggi l’eleganza e’ un po’ meno frigida in un Paese meno esotico e piu’ internazionalizzato, ma non omologato alla globalizzazione; un Giappone non piu’ lanciato verso il miraggio di un primato globale e anzi ossessionato dalla perdita del primato in Asia. Gia’ cronista e narratore delle Americhe (da ultimo con il “rosaggio” – incrocio tra romanzo e saggio – “Nimodo”), Pizzati oggi esplora nuovi orizzonti in Asia dal suo “buen retiro” in India, dove vive da anni di fronte all’Oceano.


BORGES – ecco perché lo porto sempre con me. di Carlo Pizzati

borges anniversario garantista Sul comodino accanto al letto tengo due volumi da decenni. Il primo volume mi fu regalato da una fidanzata quando avevamo compiuto da poco i 18 anni. Federica era abitata da un animo poetico e sognante. Nella letteratura avevamo trovato un terreno comune. Dal cofanetto di quel volume, un ragazzo mi fissava con grandi occhi profondi e puliti. Sul bordo del volume, alla base dell’oggetto, si rivelava che il giovane nella foto aveva vent’anni. Colletto inamidato simile a quello di Rimbaud, cravattino, capelli imbrillantinati e infilati dietro le grandi orecchie.

Questo viso già allora era diventato un idolo personale, una divinità le cui magiche preghiere, svelate tra le pagine di carta leggera di quel Meridiano, mi hanno accompagnato per tutta la vita, ricordandomi la forza, la potenza, la gioia della letteratura quando è in grado di trascinare completamente attraverso spazio, tempo e dimensioni la fantasia e l’intelletto del lettore.

Jorge Luis Borges. Tutte le opere. Mai il logo Mondadori con quella rosa piena di spine ha meritato quel motto più di questo cofanetto. “In su la cima.” È lassù che Borges vi porta sempre. E poi dentro un Aleph che contiene l’universo; anche quello della memoria illimitata e insopportabile di Ireneo Funes; anche quello di strani gauchos troppo umani (cui attinge senz’altro Corman McCarthy). Milletrecento e una pagina di sogni, di amore, tristezze e gioia universale, tra le righe di questa opera.

Nelle sue poesie ho scoperto i primi rudimenti di uno spagnolo che ho poi nutrito andando a vivere in Messico e poi proprio nella Palermo Viejo di Buenos Aires doveva abitò quello strano argentino dall’anima anglosassone.

Giravo, in quei miei anni argentini, tra le librerie di Palermo (prima che la commercializzazione edilizia ne deturpasse il nome in Palermo Hollywood e Palermo Soho!) alla ricerca di antiche edizioni dei libri recensiti da quel giovane che mi guarda, anche adesso mentre scrivo, dalla copertina in bianco e nero. Ne ho trovati molti, di questi talismani cartacei.

A un certo punto della vita ho anche memorizzato una poesia in spagnolo di Borges e la ricordo ancora. Parla di pioggia. La ripetevo sempre nella mente, nuotando in una piscina ai piedi dell’Aventino. Una nuotata borgesiana. Acqua scrosciante e ritmata.

“Fervore di Buenos Aires.” “Luna di Fronte.” “Quaderno di San Martin.” E lo storico “Evaristo Carriego” che inizia proprio con “Palermo di Buenos Aires”. “Discussione.” “Storia Universale dell’Infamia.” “Storia dell’Eternità.” “Finzioni,” che lo rese popolare in Italia dagli anni ’80 in poi. Mi limito ad elencare i titoli delle raccolte dentro il cofanetto, per far capire il sapore di una scrittura enciclopedica. Ricordi di Borges.

“Lo ricordo (io non ho diritto di pronunciare questo verbo sacro, un uomo solo, sulla terra, ebbe questo diritto, e quest’uomo è morto), e ricordo la passiflora oscura che teneva in mano, vedendola come nessuno vide mai questo fiore, né mai lo vedrà, anche se l’avrà guardato dal crepuscolo del giorno  a quello della notte, per una vita intera.” Questo è l’ipnotico inizio di “Funes, o della Memoria.” E poi l’altra grande collezione di racconti: “l’Aleph.” “Altre inquisizioni,” “l’Artefice.”

Vi parlo qui liberamente del mio rapporto con questo inarrivabile autore argentino, senza citare cosa ne hanno scritto Domenico Porzio o Pietro Citati. Liberamente è l’aggettivo adatto. Perché è la libertà uno dei più bei regali che Borges ha fatto all’umanità alfabetizzata.

Quei suoi grandi occhi di ventenne si sono rapidamente logorati e Borges come Omero ha continuato a scrivere o produrre i suoi testi anche nella cecità. In quell’universo si va a occhi chiusi ad attingere leggendo le sue opere. Non potendo più vedere il mondo, forse la sua facoltà d’immaginarlo e ricrearlo si amplificò a dismisura, assistita da un talento che va oltre una mente umana, ricreando un universo multi-dimensionale con viaggi temporali e una sensibilità infinita e trascinante.

Leggere Borges è un’esperienza così coinvolgente che per quanto felice e intensa possa essere la vita reale, si vuol sempre tornare nel suo mondo così ricco e profondo. E per quanto triste e confinante possa essere diventata, le sue parole possono liberarci verso un altrove più magico.

borges vecchio e giovane

Non vi ho però detto la verità fino in fondo. Accanto a quel cofanetto del Borges ventenne, ne tengo un altro. L’ho acquistato qualche anno dopo aver ricevuto il primo in regalo. Dalla copertina di quel libro mi guarda un Borges anziano. Il viso è allungato, le guance sgonfie, mentre i capelli bianchi, diradati sulla fronte, svolazzano lungo le tempie. Gli occhi non fissano più me, hanno da tempo perso quella pacata fissità del ventenne che gli sta accanto. L’orbita sinistra, che gli esoterici associano alla contemplazione di ciò che è irrazionale, è più grande e sembra fissare un punto oltre chi lo osserva, come se lo trapassasse. L’occhio destro è più socchiuso, e le sopracciglia sono bloccate in una posa quasi meravigliata, come se quest’uomo, nel suo buio, avesse visto davvero così tanta luce da restarne abbacinato.

Le pagine sono 1471. Si passa da “l’Altro, lo Stesso” (molto appropriato per i miei due cofanetti) a “Per le Sei Corde;” “l’Elogio all’Ombra;” “il Manoscritto di Brodie;” “l’Oro della Tigre;” “il Libro di Sabbia;” “la Rosa Profonda,” “la Moneta di Ferro;” “Storia della Notte;” “Tre racconti e la Cifra;” “i saggi Danteschi” e “Atlante.”

Poesie, poesie, poesie e immagini, gocce infinite. Racconti brevi e eterni.

C’è spazio, qui, solo per comunicarvi questi titoli già di per sé evocativi del contenuto. E per dirvi come uno scrittore può liberare un ragazzo di 18 anni, invitarlo alla letteratura, accompagnarlo come un fratello, prima, e poi come un anziano fantasma.

Quei due volti mi hanno fatto pensare, per tutta la vita, al scivolar via del tempo lineare, al giovane che sono stato e al vecchio che spero di arrivare ad essere, se così sarà.

E anche in questo sollievo, Borges è stato, già solo con la sua inconsapevole effigie, un liberatore.

Grazie, Federica. Ti voglio sempre bene e ti perdono, anche se mi hai lasciato per un ingegnere belga, hai fatto tre figli e, come mi hai detto l’ultima volta che ci siamo parlati al telefono vent’anni fa, ti sei un po’ sformata.

(Il Garantista, 14 giugno 2015 – Cultura)

“Inventati la scrittura. Scrivi la verità, e camuffala da invenzione.” Intervista per Classe Turistica a Carlo Pizzati


Dimmi qualcosa di te. Come ti guadagni da vivere?

Pensando e scrivendo.

Come è scandita la tua giornata?

Sveglia presto, meditazione, yoga, colazione, scrittura fino a pranzo, riposare e pensare, lettura, thè, passeggiata di un’ora, editing e/o scrittura, meditazione, cena, vedere una film o episodio di serie tv, leggere, dormire. Questo quando non sto insegnando all’università. Il tutto intervallato da qualche post su FB, Twitter, LinkdIn o Google+ quando capita.

Quali sono le tue passioni o interessi?

Leggere, scrivere, viaggiare cercando di capire la natura e la trasformazione della presunta realtà. Una bella passeggiata chiacchierando con una persona amica o con mio figlio.

Cosa ti da serenità?

Il silenzio.

Il tuo ultimo libro?

Il mio libro pubblicato più di recente è “Nimodo” (Feltrinelli) la storia di un giovane giornalista triestino che insegue per tutta l’America Latina una guerrigliera cilena di cui si è innamorato e così facendo scopre e trasforma se stesso.

Perché un ragazzo dovrebbe comprarlo?

Per capire che è utile seguire la propria curiosità con coraggio. Per viaggiare in un intero continente provando un po’ di emozioni, senza uscire di casa.

Qualcosa della tua visione del mondo:

Avessi una bacchetta magica cosa faresti?

Eliminerei la violenza e porterei più uguaglianza, fratellanza e libertà nel mondo, magari con un po’ più di saggezza e tolleranza, già che ci siamo.

Potessi cambiare qualcosa cosa faresti?

Trasformerei radicalmente l’Italia, dove penso si soffra più del necessario con un pessimo “rapporto qualità/prezzo,” come si dice nell’orrida parlata corrente rovinata dalla mercificazione di tutto.

Qualcosa sull’insegnamento:

Se fossi un insegnante come imposteresti una lezione tipo?

Sono anche un insegnante, in quanto docente di teoria della comunicazione per un corso post-graduate in un’università indiana. Le mie lezioni sono impostate prima sull’esposizione da parte mia della materia tramite diapositive e discussioni, segue poi dialogo e stimolo a discutere e pensare in maniera critica da parte degli studenti. Il dialogo continua in un blog online dove si fanno i compiti elaborando analisi su testi rilevanti che vengono discussi sia nei commenti online che poi in classe. Penso che le lezioni migliori siano composte di una fase che è il trasferimento della conoscenza e l’altra, più importante, che è la  costruzione della comprensione tramite la partecipazione degli studenti.

Su quali materie punteresti?

Se fossi un insegnante di altre materie oltre a quella di cui sopra, mi dedicherei a corsi di scrittura creativa, fotografia, giornalismo, letteratura, italiano, inglese. Se fossi uno studente (anche se lo sono sempre in rapporto alla conoscenza, e ne sono felice) cercherei d’interrogarmi il prima possibile, già dalle scuole medie e certamente alle superiori, su che cosa mi piace e perché. Non penso che genitori e scuola facciano abbastanza per aiutare i ragazzi a concentrarsi molto presto su questa importante domanda, risolta la quale tutto è più facile poi nella carriera scolastica e accademica, e anche nella vita. Ho avuto la fortuna di capire presto la mia vocazione e i miei gusti, nel mio caso senza molti aiuti esterni. Ma credo che parlarne con gli adulti e con gli amici e spingere a uno sforzo di esame su se stessi, e su ciò che piace, aiuti davvero a scegliere su cosa puntare. Aiuta quindi a scegliere i libri da leggere, le persone da frequentare, i film e i programmi tv da vedere. Il “conosci te stesso” inizia anche in maniera semplice, non implica sempre e solo un’ardua e complessa analisi filosofica, spirituale o psicologica. Può iniziare, ad esempio, chiedendosi quale musica ti piace ascoltare riuscendo ad articolare una spiegazione dettagliata e veridica sul perché ti piace proprio quella musica. Da lì si passa a ciò che piace leggere. E da lì si va in crescendo capendo anche il proprio ruolo nel mondo del lavoro, nella società, e infine nell’esistenza.

Cosa manca e cosa possiede secondo te la scuola italiana?

Premessa la mia limitata esperienza diretta con la scuola italiana, essendomi laureato all’estero, mi sento di dire che ciò che manca alla scuola italiana è il sostegno di un sistema meritocratico ed efficiente che mi par di capire nessuno finora sia riuscito ad instaurare, adducendo come motivazione a volte anche il dubbio sul concetto stesso di meritocrazia, visto come modo per discriminare contro i meno forti.

La meritocrazia non è discriminazione verso i più deboli, ma è quel sistema che premia i più meritori, continuando a dare sostegno a chi ha più difficoltà per consentir loro che sviluppino la propria intelligenza e qualsivoglia talento possano avere.

Purtroppo, chi dovrebbe costruire un sistema migliore è spesso il prodotto della sua antitesi, essendosi formato in una struttura piuttosto difettosa, quella attuale, quindi non mi è chiaro come si possa uscire da questo circolo vizioso. Ci vorrebbe uno sforzo evolutivo, ma non mi pare vi siano le premesse. Potrei fare lo spacciatore di speranze, ma non mi è congeniale.

Quel che possiede la scuola italiana, per quanto ne so,  è una buona percentuale di insegnanti, maestre e maestri, docenti, professoresse e professori che, a fronte di uno stipendio inadeguato ai loro sforzi e nell’ambito del suddetto sistema vessatorio, si dedica con vero amore all’insegnamento, facendo spesso miracoli e aiutando le vite dei loro fortunati studenti.

Poi ci sono gli approfittatori che spingono i loro studenti ad odiare la scuola, le materie che insegnano e la conoscenza. L’esistenza di questo genere di persone è sintomatico di ogni categoria professionale, ma trova terreno fertile e duraturo in un sistema fragile come quello della scuola italiana.

Ti senti di dire qualcosa ai ragazzi di oggi?

Prima di tutto vorrei dire che sono straordinari. Per quel poco che ho potuto osservare sia attraverso l’esperienza come giurato per il Touring che in altri contesti come le presentazioni dei libri, i commenti sui social, la frequentazione di nipoti e amici, considerato il contesto critico nel quale sono costretti a crescere, ho spesso trovato in loro una capacità di reagire con ottimismo e con forza e pragmatismo che i loro fratelli più anziani, cioè la generazione precedente, non avevano. Quindi quello che vorrei dire loro è: complimenti, continuate così!


Non si può dire che tu sia un tipo sedentario: a 16 anni hai lasciato il Veneto per Pensacola, in Florida, poi Washington D.C. e New York. Poi hai vissuto per alcuni anni in Messico, poi in Argentina e in Spagna, e dopo varie altre tappe tra cui Madrid, Milano e Roma…ecc,  ti sei fermato, non solo per amore, in India. Le dolomiti, però, le hai sempre nel cuore.

Con un tale bagaglio di esperienze di viaggi quale è stato il più bello (interessante, felice, ecc) che hai fatto?

Ho riflettuto molto in questi giorni, per coincidenza, sul tema del viaggio e del turismo, essendomi trovato, in quanto viaggiatore, in un contesto turistico in Vietnam e Tailandia. E questo mi ha spinto ad elaborare una precisa distinzione tra il concetto di viaggiatore e di turista. Per questo potrei dire che il viaggio più bello è stato lungo un fiume dell’Amazzonia dormendo in un’amaca in un battello per andare a visitare una riserva naturale. Oppure una passeggiata sulle Ande assieme a Don Gabicho, uno degli ultimi parroci sopravvissuti all’inquisizione contro la Teologia della Liberazione. Oppure, oppure, oppure. Sono troppi. Dico invece che il viaggio più bello che chiunque può fare, adesso, in questo momento, è di mollare tutto, lasciare a casa o in ufficio il cellulare e camminare in una linea il più possibile diritta per 10 chilometri fermandosi a parlare con chi è ancora in grado di farlo tra sconosciuti. Il viaggio più bello è molto vicino a noi. È rischioso. Per questo può essere molto bello. O disastroso.

Da ultimo un consiglio a chi volesse fare il giornalista / scrittore?

Liberati subito dalla definizione che hai in mente di giornalista e scrittore. Sarà già un buon inizio. Inventati la scrittura. Scrivi la verità, e camuffala da invenzione.

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@speciale letto&detto: cosa pensa Carlo Pizzati della lettura e delle biblioteche?

detectivestory_001_2Carlo Pizzati, scrittore

Perché hai scelto il lavoro/mestiere che fai?

Ho iniziato ad amare la lettura quando ero in prima elementare. Dev’essere nata allora l’idea che la cosa più bella che avrei potuto fare nella vita sarebbe stata di scrivere anch’io storie simili a quelle che leggevo per creare un mondo attraverso un racconto e spiegare quel che sentivo e pensavo.

Qual è l’aggettivo che meglio definisce la tua attività?

Delirante. Si basa sull’opinione che gli altri hanno di ciò che fai e, ancora più difficile, su quella che tu hai del tuo lavoro.

Quale è stato il primo libro che hai letto?

Non lo so. Ricordo un’enciclopedia ricevuta in eredità da mio nonno, “Il Tesoro,” che custodisco ancora. Conteneva leggende e mitologia di tutte le culture, romanzi e racconti da tutto il mondo. Sicuramente questi testi mi hanno portato verso la letteratura. Non ricordo il primo libro letto, ma ricordo bene il primo libro che ho riletto. S’intitola “Emil,” di Astrid Lindgren. Il protagonista è un bambino svedese molto vivace, come lo ero anch’io, che viene chiuso in castigo, come succedeva anche a me, e lì passa il tempo intagliando statuine di legno, mentre io iniziavo a immaginare e a scrivere le mie storie. La storia finisce bene. Quella che sembra la peggior marachella di Emil si scopre invece essere un atto eroico, che lo riabilita. Mi riconosco anche in questo.

Quale libro ti ha lasciato un ricordo speciale?

Durante l’adolescenza credo sia stato il classico “Cent’anni di Solitudine” di Gabriel Garcia Marquez, altro testo che ho riletto più volte e che, nel suo racconto a ritroso nel tempo, incentrato su un unico villaggio piovoso, mi ricordava il luogo dove abitavo e le storie di famiglia che ascoltavo, là dove sono cresciuto. Un luogo però molto ben più freddo della Macondo colombiana.

Quale libro consiglieresti a un giovane lettore?

Ho appena finito di leggere due libri adolescenziali su richiesta di mio figlio: “Divergent” e “Insurgent” di Veronica Roth. Lui sta leggendo l’intera trilogia e voleva parlarmi di questa storia che riguarda anche la capacità di trovare il coraggio di essere ciò che sei davvero. Anche se sono libri un po’ leggeri per i miei gusti, ho trovato qualcosa di utile in essi, soprattutto per i ragazzi di adesso. Mi rendo conto che i libri che leggevo a 11 anni sono per mio figlio un po’ “pesanti”. Ma quello che consiglio a lui, o a un giovane lettore che ami la lettura di fantascienza o di fantasy, categorie molto seguite in questi anni, è di leggersi “1984” di George Orwell che, pur conservando elementi fantastici, disegna un paragone con una realtà politica ben definita e sempre attuale. Anzi è ancora più attuale adesso. Poi, in un mondo immaginario, sogno che un ragazzo voglia leggere “Guerra e Pace” di Tolstoj che mi sto rileggendo adesso, per riprendermi dalle letture adolescenziali. C’è tutto, amore, tensione, battaglie, coraggio, saggezza, follia.

Leggere fa bene? E perché?

Leggere non fa bene a tutti. Gli studenti che a scuola sono costretti a leggere, pur non avendo alcuna propensione alla lettura, non dovrebbero sforzarsi troppo. A loro non fa per niente bene. Sono solo futuri non-lettori che odieranno la lettura. Il problema è riuscire a far capire i meriti e le gioie della lettura. Senza forzare mai la mano. Ma perché leggere? Perché aiuta a capire la realtà meglio ancora dell’esperienza, dalla quale però non dev’essere disgiunta, come troppo spesso accade a chi si fa sedurre dalla morbidezza di un mondo fatto di parole, soprattutto quando sono scritte bene. L’esperienza di vita fa godere ancor di più il piacere della lettura, e la lettura fa capire e affrontare molto meglio l’esperienza di vita. È un’invenzione umana, la lettura, che, se ben utilizzata, migliora immensamente la qualità dell’esistenza.

Qual è il tuo primo ricordo di una biblioteca?

Il primo ricordo di una biblioteca risale a quando studiavo in un liceo americano a Pensacola, in Florida. Ricordo un’organizzazione rigorosa e precisa, grande efficienza e l’orgoglio d’esser custodi della conoscenza. Lì scoprii nuovi autori che non conoscevo. A volte anche per caso. Questi momenti di epifania casuale sono forse tra le meraviglie più note delle biblioteche, ma per me restano uno dei meriti meno raccontati di quel che può succedere tra quegli scaffali.

Come definiresti la biblioteca?

Se penso alla biblioteca non posso non vedere Jorge Luis Borges, che l’ha rappresentata in tutta la sua potenza. Per me Borges è lo scrittore-bibliotecario che custodisce una conoscenza nella quale solo lui riesce a trovare i collegamenti e a mostrarceli. La biblioteca è un luogo di scoperta. È una terra incognita di cui conosci alcune oasi e mentre ti sposti tra una e l’altra, se hai gli occhi aperti, avrai delle sorprese. Gran parte delle volte stupende. Queste scoperte ti porteranno ad altre ancora. E, come nella ricerca della verità, non si arriva da nessuna parte. Ma il viaggio ne vale la pena.

Cosa ti piace di più in una biblioteca?

La sua promessa di conoscenza. Il protagonista del mio primo romanzo, Gino Calcagno, vive dei veri momenti di estasi e vertigine nelle ricerche tra vari archivi e biblioteche: dagli Archivi Segreti del Vaticano, all’Archivio di Stato e alla Biblioteca Marciana di Venezia; dalla Sala Manoscritti Antichi della Biblioteca Civica Bertoliana di Vicenza fino alla Biblioteca di Cornedo Vicentino. Ciò che lo affascina, e che mi ha stregato mentre io stesso conducevo l’indagine storica che riguarda il titolo del romanzo, è il dialogo silenzioso che s’instaura con gli autori dei resoconti, dei documenti, dei testi che vengono consultati. Lì, in quelle tranquille sale, si ha davvero la sensazione che il tempo si restringa, che i decenni o secoli che separano gli avvenimenti si accorcino. Con la giusta dose di fantasia e immaginazione si può iniziare il più intenso ed emozionante viaggio nel tempo che si possa intraprendere.

A quale altra domanda avresti voluto rispondere?

A questa: Ma le biblioteche sono utili agli scrittori? In realtà potrebbe sembrare di no. In una biblioteca un libro viene acquistato solo una volta e viene letto da decine, centinaia, migliaia di persone. Un disastro economico, per un autore che cerca di vivere con quello che scrive. Ma in realtà non è così drammatico. Promuovere la lettura aiuta tutti gli scrittori. Bisogna vedere le cose in grande. Ma è quello che uno scrittore deve fare comunque.

Carlo Pizzati è un autore di libri di narrativa e di non-fiction e sceneggiature per il cinema. Vive poco lontano da un villaggio di pescatori in Tamil Nadu (India), lavorando al suo quarto romanzo. È nato a Ginevra nel 1966 ed è cresciuto fino a 16 anni a Valdagno, in provincia di Vicenza. Dopo due anni al liceo Ginnasio G.G. Trissino, nell’82 si è trasferito a Pensacola (Florida) dove si è diplomato e ha iniziato l’Università. Si è laureato in Scienze Politiche ed Economia all’American University di Washington D.C. Nell’89 ha conseguito un Master in Giornalismo presso la Columbia University di New York.

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