Bossa Nova as AI, the result of an ancient and widespread ingenuity

Bossa Nova as AI, the result of an ancient and widespread ingenuity

Just like tropical music, Artificial Intelligence is not found in packaging or in purity, nor can anyone claim to be its author

Various performers of the Samba da Roda in a busy city in Brazil
Various performers of the Samba da Roda in a busy city in Brazil

On an unspecified date in the early 60s, Carlos Coqueijo Costa gave the great poet and intellectual a gift Vinicius de Moraes “Sambas de Roda e Candomblés da Bahia”, a newly released album, ancient and innovative at the same time.
Coqueijo is from Salvador de Bahia, while de Moraes was born in Rio de Janeiro eleven years before him. The two cities are 1.200 kilometers apart and represent two different cultures that Carlos Heitor Cony, a Carioca novelist, seems to have summarized by saying that "Bahia is poetry, Rio is beauty".
The two come from excellent families and, contrary to all predictions, their lives took place in opposing ways: Carlos was born to a musician mother and a doctor father, but he will be remembered above all as a jurist, even becoming a minister; Vinícius is a viveur like few others, touched by the genius of the word, a formidable poet and creator of music, capable of anything, even of becoming an ambassador of Brazil, government and fugitive at the same time.
When he listens to that Bahian music, "VdM" is already a man of great success both at home and abroad: in 1958 "Canção do amor demais" was released, a disc in which Elizete Cardoso interprets songs of which he is the author of the lyrics and Antonio Carlos Jobim of music, baptism rather than birth of the "Bossa Nova", a musical genre that will mark the second half of the century, perennially influencing the development of jazz and art.
“Sambas de Roda e Candomblés da Bahia” is anything but, as distant from the “Bossa” as Salvador da Rio: a collection of religious passages, of a very particular religiosity linked to the African origin of many inhabitants of Bahia.

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Antônio Carlos Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes at the piano in Brazil in the 70s
Antônio Carlos Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes at the piano in Brazil in the 70s

Between Portuguese Christianity and the animism of African slaves

They are songs that celebrate the animistic divinities of a particular creed suspended between the Christianity of Portuguese culture and the faith of the black slaves. "VdM" instantly perceives the depth and charm of that record and makes it listen to Baden Powell de Aquino, a brilliant guitarist who immediately, together with de Moraes himself, conceives "Os Afro-sambas" a work that will change once again and forever Brazilian music.
Perhaps one day we will be able to write the history of Artificial Intelligence in the same way and so, as for "Sambas de Roda and Candomblés da Bahia" we will even forget who the interpreters of those songs were (a great capoeira wrestler and a slave born in Benin) , confused in the popular origin of that music. Although the AI ​​does not lack specific references and authors, it is precisely one of its characteristics not to have heroes, not to have created them, not to need them.
To date, Artificial Intelligence is not recognizable in specific products that can be bought via e-commerce and downloaded in seconds. Just like "Bossa Nova" or tropical music, it is not found in packaging or in purity, nor can anyone claim to be its inventor or even its first author.
This lack of fathers and precise personal data does not even depend on being a methodology rather than a technology since there are some whose founders are precisely known and these have precisely defined it in books and articles, just think of the many management models of research and development projects that have taken place over the last sixty years.

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A billboard commemorating the century since the birth of Alan Turing in Berlin in 2012
A billboard commemorating the century since the birth of Alan Turing in Berlin in 2012

From Alan Turing to us, a karst, iridescent and tortuous path

AI does not have a popular origin, at least not in the most common sense of this adjective, but it is a long intellectual journey that emerges from its karst state with the works of Alan Turing and then, with changes of direction, loops and rapids, arrives nowadays, so different from how it started dozens of years before. Like that of underground water, the origin of AI is very ancient and has to do with the concept of machine much more than with that of intelligence, since the idea of ​​automating comes from a time when intelligence was conceived as an exclusively human characteristic and, therefore, it was not even thought of making it specific to any object.
The reproduction of the intelligence of the human species by other means corresponds today to a part of the studies that can be described as "artificial intelligence", while the part that is more easily applicable in the economic field is that linked to the ability of machines to perform mathematical analyzes that are not reach of our mind. So what happened in the past happens: once we have found a technology, we use it for its non-human characteristics. If you think about it, this is what happened with every primordial tool: with the stone one could hit what was too far away for the arm, with the lever lift what was too heavy for human strength, with a mill grind grain far beyond the threshold of the toil of a mule and the patience of our species.

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An illustration representing the concept of Artificial Intelligence
An illustration representing the concept of Artificial Intelligence

A relationship between data that is simply out of reach for the brain

Today AI is, in its most common and widespread uses, exactly the possibility of building relationships between data simply beyond the reach of our brain.
Is there “intelligence” in this? No, exactly as the stone, the lever, the mill did not have. However, what appears to us is different from the past: those first tools performed better actions that we ourselves could perform, AI instead amazes us because it gives us answers that our mind is unable to formulate, above all in terms of precision and calculation execution time.
We see inanimate objects performing actions that we have for centuries associated with intelligence. How to doubt that a chess champion is such by virtue of his particular intelligence? Now, however, our smartphone is enough to effortlessly checkmate the vast majority of players on the planet and it is this that confuses us, makes us call what is not intelligence "intelligence" and, consequently, makes us fear it.
And if we fear that appearance, how can we not fear even more that inanimate and numerical power that seems to extend more and more, long digital fingers that show us every day what to do, how to do it, when to do it? Take a simple GPS and its fantastic precision of getting right down to the minute the time it will take for our journey, perhaps many hours long.

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A NASA satellite for Earth's Global Positioning System
A NASA satellite for Earth's Global Positioning System

In a trivial GPS the bad feeling of a knowledge of the future

Not only does it show us the road to take, but in that accuracy there is something even more shocking, which annoyingly creeps into our minds: the sensation that that instrument knows the future, knows in advance what will happen to us on that journey, the queue that we will meet on the ring road, the accident that will slow us down on the Apennines or on the Gotthard. It seems to tell us that the future is already planned and the entire AI communicates it to us with ever greater precision: with each new data that is fed to those tools, the prediction grows in credibility.
Is this feeling more realistic than that of our mobile phone that beats us at chess with ridiculous ease making us think that "he" (now we call him with this pronoun once reserved for humans only) is "intelligent"? When that contraption seems like a prodigious fortune teller, aware of future events, how close are we to reality?
Here, when this thought comes, this burning ember perhaps between wakefulness and sleep, perhaps stoked by a science fiction film of those in which automatons take over, let's distance ourselves from it thinking that everything AI does today is produced by " our” capacity and rationality; that it, like the lever, needs our inventive genius to exist, our effort to move, our delegation to act.
When we say "digital" and mean computing and silicon, let's remember its origin: the "social brain", the ability of our community to gradually advance over the centuries by increasing its knowledge and then making ever more sophisticated use of it. The AI ​​doesn't have heroes because there aren't any and there isn't even a need for them. It is the fruit of the common work of many normal people, of their knowledge, their conscience, their creativity.

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The picturesque city of Salvador de Bahia, capital of the homonymous northeastern state of Brazil
The picturesque city of Salvador de Bahia, capital of the homonymous northeastern state of Brazil

If the "power of algorithms" is the fig leaf of other people's decisions

Let us not be convinced by a communication that speaks to us of the "power of algorithms" because behind that attribution of some intent to the automaton there is much worse, the worst that is in us: shielding ourselves from the decisions of an inanimate being and electric to allow to commit what our conscience repudiates.
Every act that the machine performs is always human delegation, there is always someone who orders it, commissions it, wants it, allows it: here yes one must be careful and this is why in every part of the world organizations, states, governments, associations are committed to defining common rules, so as to avoid that AI is a tool of some against others or, more simply, that prudence is reduced and those mechanisms that make it docile are removed, as happens in certain factories where the safety measures to increase production at the expense of the lives of those who work.
In this sense, we need to apply ourselves more and more to make AI transparent, i.e. so that the results of the analyzes it produces are always clear in their formation and there are no "black boxes", obscure areas of formation of a result that prevent us from understanding it the origin.

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According to the definition of the expert engineer Marco Somalvico, artificial intelligence is a discipline belonging to computer science that studies the theoretical foundations, methodologies and techniques that allow the design of hardware systems and systems of software programs capable of providing the computer electronic performance which, to a common observer, would appear to be the exclusive domain of human intelligence

Clear break between transparency of the calculation and accountability of the facts

We must separate the transparency of the calculation from the responsibility of the results: the former must be guaranteed "in the machine", operating in such a way that it gives an account of how it operates; the second one is always human and must have a first and last name, because saying "it was the computer" is not only technically a lie but, above all, it is our failure, the betrayal of millennia of culture, of the work done by thousands of generations to define concepts such as ethics or justice.
Just as the words of a great poet leaned on those sounds that mixed street fighting and African gods to make wonderful and profound music, so we have the opportunity once again to recreate the beautiful and the right, distrusting wisely of the fragile human spirit rather than the capabilities of automatons.
A reasonable vision of Artificial Intelligence, of this pervasive phenomenon of our times, does not lead us towards fear, rather it makes us understand how we should think about its best use, about the ethics we need to inspire in its use so that it helps us to improve this world, so that it is half way along that long road which, never before, more than 190 countries have chosen to travel together and which we summarize in the expression "Sustainable Development", the most important goal of our species for these and the next generations...

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According to the definition of the expert engineer Marco Somalvico, artificial intelligence is a discipline belonging to computer science that studies the theoretical foundations, methodologies and techniques that allow the design of hardware systems and systems of software programs capable of providing the computer electronic performance which, to a common observer, would appear to be the exclusive domain of human intelligence
According to the definition of the expert engineer Marco Somalvico, artificial intelligence is a discipline belonging to computer science that studies the theoretical foundations, methodologies and techniques that allow the design of hardware systems and systems of software programs capable of providing the computer electronic performance which, to a common observer, would appear to be the exclusive domain of human intelligence