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Liv Sala

Life Based Value – caregiving as a master’s degree

By technology

Starting from her life experience when she became a mother, Riccarda Zezza created Life Based Value, a platform that transfers the soft skills developed while taking care of others, to the professional field.

Cristina: We all take care of young and/or old people and we know how many skills are needed to do it well. Today we’re meeting a woman who, thanks to her life experience, created a method to transfer soft skills to her profession. Riccarda how was your idea born and how does it work?

Riccarda Zezza: When I became a mother, I was a manager in a large company and I discovered that this was a problem in the professional world, yet the same company had enrolled me in training programs to develop a series of soft skills that maternity was already training. For example, think about time management, crisis management and empathy. I’ve seen a great paradox, even wasteful, because companies spend a lot of money to train their employees for a series of skills that life trains us for, naturally. This happened 7-8 years ago. From there I began to do research with Andrea Vitullo who is an executive coach and we discovered that when we become parents we develop skills that are needed in the professional world. Today, seven years later, we sell this learning method to companies through a digital platform, so our client companies make this method available to new parents, mothers and fathers, but also to caregivers of their parents. Taking care of someone improves these skills and people can scale those talents and adapt them to their jobs.

Cristina: This initiative fulfills 8 SDGs: 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 16 and 17. What is your dream now?

Riccarda Zezza: Today we’re in 23 countries and our users tell us that they have acquired the energy and skills – what they need is the space to bring them into the world, in society. My dream is to demonstrate as quickly as possible that economically and socially caregiving has value, it is a need that the human species has and it ecompasses all those energies and resources that today we’re looking for in the wrong places.

Cristina: Thanks Riccarda. Knowing how to observe and reflect, evaluate objectives and make decisions, improve, adapt and play, makes everything easier. Occhio al futuro!

On air March 21, 2020

Alisea – circular design

By ecology, sdg 10, sdg 12, sdg 15, sdg 17, sdg 8, sdg 9, technology

Susanna Martucci Fortuna, founder of Alisea, turned a crisis into an opportunity. She created an all-Italian supply chain of advanced engineers, designers and craftsmen to give new life to industrial waste.

Cristina: Today we’re meeting a woman who turned a crisis into an opportunity. She was losing her company, and grappling with what to do, she remembered a conversation about recycling and questioned how she could give new life to industrial waste, which abounds in her district of Vicenza. She took her idea to the experts and created an all-Italian supply chain of advanced engineers, designers and craftsmen. Let’s go meet her and see what she does. Good morning Susanna, what are we looking at here?

Susanna Martucci: This is all about graphite: these are graphite electrodes and this powder is the unavoidable waste of the production process, recovered from the factories’ ventilation systems. We reclaim this dust and make it into a new material. This is a granule made with 80% of this waste. This new material, which comes from circular economy, has led us to design an innovative process to make pencils, without wood or glue to attach the eraser. Each pencil removes 15 grams of graphite powder from landfills and in a year we save 60,000 trees – we don’t think about all the wood that goes into your normal pencil.

Cristina: Did you do anything else with graphite?

Susanna Martucci: Yes, we clearly fell in love with this material. In this other case we always start from graphite powder, but add water, a process we use to dye fabrics. The young designers we work with dye all sorts of materials – wool, denim, silk, organic cotton – in a totally non-toxic way. This here, is instead recycled plastic, which we turn into rulers, record sleeves, and more, all from recycled post-consumer bottles.

Cristina: All this thanks to Susanna’s creativity and determination. These children’s puzzles are made from recycled fair stands and so are these bags. We’re running out of time, but this is also graphite with recycled cork. These are made from coffee bags and leather scraps. Susanna’s work addresses 6 of the 17 SDGs: 8, 9, 10, 12, 15, and 17. Occhio al futuro!

On air February 29, 2020

About Empathy – A conversation with neuroscientist Professor Giacomo Rizzolatti

By features, recent

For years I had dreamt of meeting Professor Rizzolatti.

His discovery of mirror neurons is an important step for humanity, confirming that we are naturally interconnected, capable of feeling with others. For the first time, he proved the science behind the dynamics of empathy.

Illustration by Ramuntcho Matta

The following conversation was published in Italian in my fourth book A passo leggero which explores empathy as a driver of positive change. Professor Rizzolatti and his team at the University of Parma discovered the mirror mechanism in 1995. 


Mirror neurons are brain cells that are activated both when an action is performed (I eat a piece of chocolate) and when such action is observed by another person (I look at you while you eat a piece of chocolate). Not only: they respond to the purpose of an action and the intention, which is reflected at the level of motion (as I watch you grab the piece of chocolate the muscles in my mouth activate before you open yours). Mirror neurons allow us to feel what the other person is feeling.

The experiments that led to the discovery of the mirror mechanism were possible thanks to the onset of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), as it allows scientists to measure blood flow to the different areas of the brain in real time. Rizzolatti’s research began with apes and proves that, in humans, even the quality of the observed action is mirrored. This offers new insight into the principle of emulation that underlies learning. 

Unsurprisingly, my conversation with the Professor took place through an empathic chain. I created a contact for a friend which led to funding for a world peace concert. 

She reciprocated by connecting me with Professor Rizzolatti, who agreed to discuss the possible applications of his research with me.

He received me in his studio in Parma. He was just as I imagined: spirited white hair, a frank disposition and an intense gaze. 

He reminds me of Einstein. He speaks with both hands and body. He listens, attentive and curious, he speaks openly and generously. 


Professor, your discovery seems to have revolutionized the field of neuroscience, and not only 

Perhaps it happened at a time when there was a need for change, and people were seeking a scientific foundation for something they felt.

How did you come up with the name “mirror neurons”?

Actually – – –  I don’t know! It’s one of those mysteries … I think we used it at some point in the lab. Honestly I don’t know how it came about. It was born by itself. We didn’t think, as a journalist might, of good branding. Anyway, it was a stroke of luck, because the name was very well received. Like calling a car “Panda” … It just works.

I thought you were referring to the Mirror Stage theorized by Lacan, the phase in which the child observing himself in the mirror understands that he is “I”… 

No, we hadn’t thought about that.

Economist Jeremy Rifkin built the Empathic Civilization theory on your discovery, and neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran wrote that mirror neurons are for psychology what DNA is for biology.

Rifkin loves our data, but I’ve never met him. Ramachandran is a unique character, a creative scientist, a communicator like no other! To hear him talk… is magical. At conferences we sometimes have ten-minute sessions, and many attendees refuse to talk, saying that it’s not enough time, while he manages to put on a show in those ten minutes and dissect his topic bringing together methods, results and ideas. It’s beyond belief.

Is he empathic?

Terribly empathic! And to think that when he started writing about our group we hadn’t even met yet … it’s incredibly generous for a scientist to speak highly of another scientist’s work.

According to Ramachandran, it was mirror neurons that favored the so-called cultural “Big Bang” that occurred about 50-100,000 years ago, when homo sapiens, in a relatively short time, invented fire and language and began to use tools.

This is his great idea, yes. And I think there’s a lot of truth – oh God, in something like this you cannot talk about true or false – however, I agree that human beings became cultural animals when they learned to imitate their fellow humans. When we know how to imitate others, first we want to be sure that, if we’ve invented something, our children can own it, then our neighbors can adopt it and finally, that the invention consolidates. Furthermore, as some psychologists have pointed out, imitation is a mechanism of identification, thus reinforcing the social bond in a tribe, which becomes more cohesive. Therefore, a technological, a social and a psychological advantage. In short, imitation is … how to put it … a brilliant “trick” that nature devised to make us as we are, different from all other animals.

And to also accelerate evolution…

Without a doubt. Think of the slowness of the Egyptian civilization: for two thousand years they more or less did the same things; then with the Greeks and the Romans there was an acceleration, up to the current, frightening one. You see, when imitation means that in some way you and I feel equal and we understand each other – this has been well studied in child development – your death is my death too. I build a grave because I cannot bear your disappearance. Then came religion, the need to make you stay … while if you’re an animal, it matters less. It’s one of the great mysteries: why did everything suddenly happen together? We began to draw, to celebrate rituals, religions were born … If it is true that, at a certain point, community acquires a new meaning and, as Martin Buber said “you and I become the same thing”, then it’s understandable why we need religion to ensure survival – –  I will see you again in the next world.

So, the core is empathy, the empathic relationship, which creates affection, then belonging and sharing …

More than anything, belonging: I believe that animals also have a certain degree of empathy. But the key is belonging, the you and me. Clearly, if one member of the tribe suffers, they all suffer.

But if you are empathic, you feel terrible nausea…

You feel terrible nausea, surely. But what matters is mirroring the other. We are the same thing.

 Boundaries are broken.

Yes, boundaries are broken. That is, they were already broken before, with mirror neurons, but in a very limited way. In fact, if I understand your action, your intention, maybe I’ll try to cheat you… this is why the ethologists of Saint Andrews, with Byrne and Whiten, speak of “Machiavellian intelligence”. It was already present in chimpanzees, in gorillas, but later it became something more, because there is participation with imitation: what I do, you do too. There’s something that unites us. Why was religion born? Some evolutionists say: it’s a language. Okay, but even if you communicate better, what’s your need for religion? Instead, if you and I are the same thing, therefore bound, your loss becomes a terrible blow … And then the tribe, the group, wants a temple, a place where the dead return. I think this is beautiful. “For whom does the bell toll? It tolls for thee”.

In how many areas of the brain are mirror neurons present?

Well, instead of mirror neurons, we should talk about mirror mechanism, thanks to which certain neurons transform what I see into my movements, so the perception of the external world becomes my own personal knowledge. Here lies the difference between the ability to understand using mirror neurons and the ability to understand through logic, which is an abstract procedure. As for the mirror mechanism, we know that it is present in emotional areas, the insula and the loop of the cingulum, and then in the parieto-frontal circuits that are linked to the understanding of other people’s actions. The first experiments we did concerned  grasping. A Belgian researcher, Guy Orban, has recently found a cortical area that responds when I see someone climbing, and a more dorsal mirror region where the legs and body are represented …

Is this mirror mechanism present in everyone? Since birth?

I would say yes, we all have mirror neurons, unless there is a serious pathology.

And what can inhibit their development, their manifestation?

Society. In reality, we are all determined by our biological nature and by culture. So, all of our behavior has two roots, which come together and form personality. If society is well organized, the positive things related to our biological nature develop, if they are poorly organized they do not develop, they are severed.

Is it better to have physical contact between people to awaken the mirror neurons?

Absolutely. Even videos work, but they are much less effective: the neurons are activated much more if you do an action physically in front of a monkey or a person – on the other hand, for our purposes, filmed materials are much easier to use: we can accelerate sequences or slow them down, manipulate them, show things that do not exist in nature…

Is there a particular type of gesture that tends to activate them more?

Unfortunately, mostly violent ones. Examining the film, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, a group of Israeli researchers found that the brain is more active when it sees a gun firing, and things like that. We also did a study starting with two commercials: in the first, a man eats a cracker, a voluptuous girl arrives (adding another element of interest), makes him smile, then all of a sudden, she steals the cracker and runs away. In the second video the characters are the same, but this time the girl asks kindly for the cracker. Well, cortical activation is much stronger when that kind of micro-violence occurs. Even though it’s clearly a joke … the brain responds a lot more. 

Which part of the brain is activated?

Emotional areas, of course. If you show the cracker after the sequence, the impact is much stronger because the whole brain has awakened as a result of this micro-violence… When advertisers plan their commercials, they sense which the most effective mechanism is. I don’t know how, but they know, otherwise why would the girl steal the cracker instead of asking for it politely, with a smile?

How do mirror neurons behave with this little invasive gesture?

They see it, they reflect it, then they activate the emotional areas, it’s a process of amplification.

And what follows is remembered more easily.


And what about a humorous twist instead of the invasive stimulus? I heard that if you make someone laugh, the information that follows sticks better.

It’s the surprise element that works. Kindness is not as effective, maybe because there’s no surprise, I do not know…

Though in today’s world, kindness can be a surprise…

True! Especially among teenagers, perhaps kindness could work!

Is it that we know less about positive feelings?

Well, yes. Currently we know a lot about pain or disgust and very little about positive feelings… It’s much easier to work on negatives.


Well, evolutionary psychologists say that “negative” is much more important. If I see someone with a disgusted face, it means that the food the person is eating could hurt me, if I see an expression of pain it means that there is something potentially harmful and I have to be careful. While, if I see two lovers…  well, good for them, but I remain indifferent. If I’m good, I’ll be happy for them, if I’m jealous I’ll think: lucky guy… In general, from an evolutionary point of view, happy people leave us indifferent, but people who have problems could create problems for us too.

So you can use empathy in an instrumental way…

Well, propaganda often does, right? Think of seals. Baby seals are cute, therefore lend themselves to propaganda in favor of animals… The poor rat is continually daubed, millions are killed, but we never see mice that are killed because they wouldn’t cause empathy, while twenty seals have an amazing effect because they look like children, therefore killing a young seal becomes a crime. Americans discourage reporters from going to war zones because they fear that when the photographs circulate – – the cruelty of war is emphasized when you see it. Words are less effective than images – it’s one thing to say that three people were killed, it’s another to see them… 

We all know about negative propaganda…

Think of Hitler! He brought a population of “good” people, educated, with a great artistic and scientific tradition, to become monsters, or in any case, to not see what was happening. Through propaganda he managed to deactivate the empathic drive of an entire nation…

When one thinks of the pogroms or Nazi concentration camps, it is hard to believe that empathy is a biological factor inherent in human beings…

Well, it was through propaganda that Hitler managed to convince an entire nation that Jews were not human beings. He insisted on the differences, indoctrinating people with the idea that those differences showed that Jews were inferior beings, and here propaganda was able to reset the biological factor… According to some, Hitler’s great fortune was also that he had a newly invented means of communication: radio. It allowed him to reach millions of people and was even more authoritative precisely because of its novelty: “They said it on the Radio!”.

What is the relationship between power and empathy?

I think a powerful person exploits a kind of generalized empathy. Someone said that great revolutionaries love humanity,  not human beings. It’s true, because if you love humanity and you do not love those around you, when someone hinders your great dream of humanity you mistreat or eliminate them. It’s also in Dostoevskij’s Demons. There is this degeneration of idealism, this contradiction between ‘I love humanity’ and ‘I am a superman so I kill these people for the good of humanity’. Empathy is somehow eliminated for a “higher” end and turns into its’ opposite.

Do you think the dream of an empathic society is possible?

More than possible: necessary. Our society needs empathy like never before. First of all, because with technology the possibility to harm others has increased – one person can destroy an entire airport, an airplane can crash into a skyscraper. If you think about it, it’s almost a miracle that terrorism is under control and there are not more crazy people doing terrible things. As society becomes increasingly complex, there is greater need for empathy, otherwise the possibility of destruction is infinite.

Nowadays even the happiness index seems to be at historical lows…

Very true. Psychoanalyst friends tell me they have patients who are successful industrialists and who seek therapy because they feel deeply unhappy. They say: “I’m not appreciated as much as I deserve to be, I’m much better than that, I feel extremely dissatisfied”… these people are successful, they have money, yet they go to a psychoanalyst to be consoled.

Then it should be even more important to investigate the dynamics of happiness.

It would be very interesting, but wouldn’t it be a task for sociologists more than scientists? We can give a scientific basis, but we can’t replace them.

Why not?

Because widespread unhappiness is a social problem, and traditionally social problems are treated by sociologists, or possibly by psychologists or psychoanalysts… until very recently neurophysiologists were not interested in the relationship between two people, they were only interested in the individual. 

However, professor, your discovery broke barriers, you’ve had the most incredible reactions from totally different fields…

Yes, it’s true.

Isn’t that a sign that it’s time to break them, these barriers between fields?

Yes, that’s right, the answer is yes. And it’s happening, also on an experimental level: for example, now CT scans are being performed on two people at the same time. It’s a funny thing, the two enter together as if they were in bed, and you can simultaneously read the two brains while they interact. The tendency is to no longer study the individual alone, as an information processor, but rather as a social being, to see what happens in the relationships between two people – more than two is currently impossible, technology does not allow it.

Are there any experiments that suggest correlations of a different type from those ascertained so far between the observer and the observed?

Well, you must know that we have neurons that respond both when we are touched directly and when the space around us is touched. For example, the same neuron activates whether you touch my nose or simply bring your finger close to my nose. Around us, there is like an air bubble, and in fact we get annoyed if someone gets too close, we feel an intrusion in our space. There is a Japanese researcher, now with us in Parma –  Hiroaki Ishida – who discovered that if someone invades my personal space, while the monkey is watching me, the same neuron activates in him as if his space were being invaded. It is a very interesting mirror mechanism because it is related to corporeity: not only do I “take ownership” of your action, your body becomes mine. Not only does your action become my action, your body and my body are similar. Everything seems to converge towards the evidence that we are much more bonded with one another than we believe… it’s society that then tends, in every way, to destroy this biological tie – – our society.

In terms of society, in your opinion, what are the factors that have historically deactivated the empathic mechanism in individuals?

I think that a deep transformation occurred with the Berkeley revolution … clearly this is my personal opinion, I’m not saying this as a scientist, but the student movement started a radical change – of course, the primary motivation was right, there was a reaction to a traditional model, women wanted to be free, but freedom must be linked to a social relationship. It’s a problem if by freedom we mean “there is only me”. Or rather, it’s okay when you’re a teenager and you’re freeing yourself from your parents, but when you’re over thirty, if you do not have a partner, if you do not have a family, if you do not pursue social milestones, something to believe in, the ability to recognize oneself in another lessens. Men followed, but I think it was essentially a feminist revolution. In some ways, a carefree attitude during college has become a life model… I did not go to college in the US, but just watching movies about that time, you get the sense of freedom, full of intellectual stimuli but without responsibilities except preparing for exams… but then you grow up, you marry, you have children, and that life is hard to live…

So, was there an absence of values?

More than an absence, I would say an overvaluation of the ego. My generation, when marrying, had the idea of ​​creating something stable and definitive. In a certain way, wives became part of the family, even if families were already not as numerous as before… Now getting married has become a kind of temporary contract.

Perhaps it’s also an effect of the religious crisis…

Well… when I was young, the religious aspect already counted less. Mostly, in intellectual environments. The idea was to start a small society, something that lasted, with the hope of having children. It’s not as if we went out together just because we liked sleeping together. It was a mini project that fed into collective ones  we believed in at the time. This revolution, which started in the ‘60s with protesting individualism, in the ’80s turned into right-wing individualism: who cares, the only thing that matters is to become rich… but now it seems to me that there is a return to the idea that, after all, we do need each other. When I speak in public, I feel the enthusiasm of people who say: so we aren’t so bad, so selfish… There is this need to believe in mutual assistance, and it’s not something I find only in scientists, but in everyday people… not only in the elderly who might feel abandoned and happy to talk about these things, but in many young people.

You spoke earlier about large families: perhaps today’s need for social empathy is also linked to the progressive shrinking of families, to the affirmation of so-called “atomic” families, made of one or two people…

Indeed, the concept of family also created a kind of umbrella for the protection of elders. There was the aunt, the grandmother, but it was also a social parachute – the unemployed uncle lived with them… During my childhood, every Sunday at five, my parents and I went to visit my grandparents and we had tea together. I remember coming home from a soccer game and having to go visit them. This was already long after the war… Now, I don’t know, when my grandchildren come to see me it’s just because they need something, or maybe to play, but they don’t come every Sunday at five… that link is now missing…

Those were important rituals…

Rituals have disappeared completely, right? Yet, they were necessary to stay together. If you know that every Sunday at 5 you visit your grandparents it becomes a habit, like Christmas or other rituals that have been preserved. When instead you leave everything loose, in the end you don’t go because one time you have something else to do, another time you have a headache…

How many children do you have?

Two. A son and a daughter. Both have their own children.

Social bonds change… Today we have social networks.

Is this good or bad?

What do you think?

Well… I’m afraid it’s more bad than good. It seems to me that a person to person relationship, vis-à-vis, physical contact, creates a stronger bond than what you can achieve with someone online. I mean, I would not want this to end up isolating us…

You don’t have to tell me. When you have teenage children, it’s hard not to notice…

For example, my oldest grandson is fourteen years old now and at times I think I’ve almost lost him, because when he was five or six he liked spending time with me, we would play with soldiers, he would come looking for me… Now that he goes to high school, he comes for lunch because my daughter lives out of town, but as soon as he’s finished eating he gets up, goes to his room and sits at the computer, with Skype and so on… He certainly has friends, sometimes they go out in the evenings, but he passes most of his time with… his computer.

Collectively, do you think empathy has increased or decreased?

It’s a very complex conversation. I recently attended a symposium on empathy in Heidelberg, and a Czech friend pointed out how the concept of empathy has changed. Currently, it’s much more social. If one of our soldiers dies in Afghanistan, it’s a national drama, while during the First World War generals had no empathy for soldiers, and sent them to die because they did not consider them equals. I think there was the aristocratic idea that the noble class – the officer – was a different kind of man. The current concept that everyone should have the right to health, was an inconceivable form of empathy one hundred years ago. Once there was charity: good people gave money. Now, social empathy has become almost mandatory. You know what? Perhaps it has also become more institutionalized. Somehow, we care less about others because we think: there is the National Health Service, there are firemen… the direct help that was necessary in the past doesn’t exist anymore and this has made us less empathic.

Ah, this is an interesting point…

We have delegated empathy to public services: the State must take care of health, education, safety and the well-being of citizens: it results in a lack of responsibility …I look after myself and delegate everything else to the institutions, but I get angry if the service does not meet my expectations. Another factor, perhaps more in Italy than elsewhere, could be the collapse of the communist party. For many young people it was a moment of aggregation, a way to come together with an idea of ​​a better society. They went to sell l’Unità in the morning, took part in action groups… Now it’s like an American political party, the aggregation is over….

And what about the workforce?

Well, there are jobs where empathy must necessarily be reduced: special forces undergo training to be un-empathic, otherwise how could they intervene? Not that they become monsters, but the moment they’re holding the baton and receive an order, they cannot be swayed by blood or a girl crying. Sometimes we are socially bound to diminish empathy, but it should be limited to these special work forces, not normal citizens. Whenever I’m in an airport, I’m amazed at the thought of all those people who line up and follow orders… When that volcano with the unpronounceable name erupted in Iceland, I was returning from Poland and was stuck in Vienna. One might think that in such a dramatic situation people would try to get one up on each other, instead, a really interesting empathy emerged… We helped each other, we looked for information and passed it on: “There’s a train to Innsbruck! Let’s take it, from there we can reach Verona…” the point is that today’s society is so complex that it can no longer afford individualism.

Unfortunately, we not only feel separated from each other, but from nature…

Do you find that we are separated from nature? I don’t think so…

Well, we are overturning our Planet’s balance with a certain degree of indifference… 

Maybe, but the upper class continues to go to the mountains and enjoy nature. In novels from the 1800s the poor lived in dirty and polluted cities, while now, they can afford a trip out of town…

So, you do not believe that loving nature is a natural instinct?

Honestly, it’s a pretty big leap from love for others to love for nature…

Shouldn’t we feel a kinship with nature?

Well, speaking in terms of evolution, do you think that this problem has ever been posed? No, nature was a given, it was just there. It’s only our generation that has begun to pose the question… I believe that concern for nature is more of an intellectual construct…

But without plants we can’t breathe… 

OK, but we don’t think that way. It’s not as if we think about the function of chlorophyll. 

Shouldn’t we also acknowledge the role of plants? Feel empathy for them as living beings?

But here mirror neurons have nothing to do with it!

It would be interesting to check if mirror neurons are activated when I see an oak tree being cut down.

 (Long silence) You have a point. Actually yes, since the oak is a living being, when one gets cut down we would be sad, without a doubt. Even seeing a child trampling flowers without any reason strikes us – then, yes, we empathize, but because at that moment we almost consider the oak like a living being… that is, it is a living being… but we almost see it as an animalesque figure.

Only this?

 I would say yes, it’s almost a physical phenomenon, because the oak is there, it’s a living being and seeing it die… takes something away from us … yes, in that sense, we are one with nature. But if trees have to be removed to build a highway, it is no longer empathy… one must evaluate the pros and cons, weigh the economic benefits.. It becomes less immediate, a logical process that has to be solved by a sociologist or a politician. I, Giacomo Rizzolatti, cannot decide if it’s right to build the Turin-Lyon highway. But with the example of the tree, I admit, you caught me off guard…

Let’s go back to the possible applications of mirror neurons – maybe a little far fetched. Don’t you think that your discovery has somehow validated the power of visualizations?

What do you mean?

In meditation techniques, we are taught to visualize what we want to happen, create mental sequences that activate an inner resonance to forge a path towards completion…

Well… the French neuroscientist Marc Jeannerod introduced a distinction between motor imagery and visual imagery. Motor imagery is when I think of myself doing something: here I get very similar results to those of mirror neurons, I activate the same areas, while if I simply see or imagine a static thing, the effectiveness is much lower.

This would coincide with techniques of personal growth through visualization, which require imagining oneself performing an action.

In fact, motor imagery – imagining doing something – is extremely powerful, almost as powerful as seeing it happen. Although, there isn’t much scientific basis for what you’re talking about. A German researcher, Tania Singer, director of the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, has been doing experiments on meditation… but I don’t think she has gone far with it…

Is studying what happens when someone performs a motor visualization part of your field?

Yes, it was done in France. Jeannerod had actually thought of a rehabilitation technique for those affected by paralysis: they had to imagine moving. The results were there, but for the patients it was tiring. We do something similar, but our method involves three moments: seeing, imagining, doing. That is, I see someone perform an action that I can not do because I am paralyzed, I imagine I do it,  then I perform it to the best of my capabilities.  And it works pretty well.

Do you know the story of the D’Angelos? They live in Milan. A few days after the birth of their son, they discovered that the baby had had a prenatal stroke in the right hemisphere of his brain.

Oh wow, how sad…

They too have somehow applied your discovery…

Yes, but… it’s not magic, unfortunately…

Yes, but do you know what they did? They used themselves as a model for the child and the results were stunning.

What amazing people! What wonderful insight – to use themselves – because they have the same way of moving, the same genes –  it would have been much less effective if they had used a stranger as a model. We would like to do something similar using technology, involving parents and relatives… The D’Angelos really deserve a prize.

Speaking of which, congratulations for the Brain Prize that you just received in Copenhagen! A yearly recognition for neuroscientists that have distinguished themselves in their field. What does it mean to you?

I was happy both for myself and for science in Italy which, despite difficulties, remains of high value. And, the prize figure is huge.

One million euros: higher than the Nobel prize, which has recently been reduced. How will you spend it?

Technically it would all be mine, but it doesn’t seem right to simply pocket it. I thought I would assign a part of it to a research fund in the neuroscience department. The bureaucracy has become unbearable and the only solution to work efficiently is to have resources outside of the university’s administration. We actually have a Canadian who wanted to buy a piece of plastic, he needed it for an experiment. Cost: thirty euros. They told us that we had to follow the procedure established by the “spending review”. Wait time: a couple of weeks. In short, either we pay out of our own pockets or we stop working. I can’t tell you the process if we need professional services! We have to ask permission from the rector, who must make an announcement to the whole university to see if someone volunteers for free, then, because obviously no one volunteers, a call for bids is made, we then wait twenty days for it to become public, and then finally it goes to the Court of Auditors for approval. Basically, if I want a statistical analysis I have to wait three months. In Germany, you get it in one day. They treat us like the land registry or the Ministry of Transport, where perhaps it’s logical to put a cap on spending, but for a piece of plastic…

For ordinary expenses there should be a department manager who verifies that it’s not wasted.

Of course, but the university administration lacks trust. In Anglo-Saxon countries it’s all about trust – it’s clear that if you do something wrong, then you’re done. With us, between spending reviews and the Gelmini law, it’s practically impossible to work. The fund I want to create will also provide for these little things.

Regarding the Gelmini reform, in 2008 she put forward an important proposal on the university system and research.

Yes, I suggested abolishing tenure and establishing a system where every five years you’re reviewed by a commission. If you’re competent, you can stay until you’re ninety years old, otherwise you could even be sent home at fifty. I want to re-launch this proposal. Six years ago I received many letters from young people who said: you’re quite selfish, you’ve reached tenure and now you want to control us. I thought I had favored them, because if you send away a series of 50-60 year-olds who don’t do anything, then you have more room for young people. Merit is a key concept for academia – perhaps for other public offices there might not be a big difference between one employee and another, but between two university professors, yes. It’s the system in force at Riken, a Japanese research center of the highest level, equal to a university. There are no qualms, they summon you and say: your scientific production is not considered adequate, we’re giving you two years to find another place.

Shouldn’t empathy also be a key ingredient in classrooms, between professors and students?

Fundamental, but all teachers know this.

Yes, but how many are empathic in your experience? Let’s be realistic…

Well… we are still attached to the idea that it’s enough to be proficient in your subject to be a good teacher. But it is equally important to know how to teach. Even a doctor should not just inquire about your medical history but must know how to ask the questions – understand you to understand your illness. The same goes for a judge. We tend to consider this two separate things, and to underestimate the latter. But good teachers are those who can foster enthusiasm in their students. If you give them nothing, they don’t learn. The empathic relationship is fundamental.

How many forms of empathy have you classified so far?

 Well, actually… having to summarize, I would say there are three forms of empathy. First of all emotional empathy, that is empathy that makes us “suffer together” or “feel together”, which is what made the discovery of mirror neurons popular. Then there is the empathy we call “cognitive”, the ability to understand others according to their actions, which involves both identification and objectification: I understand you both because you are human like me and because you are an object that does something; this ability varies according to the relationship between the observer and the observed – for example, if you are my girlfriend, I probably understand you better. Finally, the so-called “vitality forms” are very important for us, a name that is owed to the psychoanalyst Daniel Stern and concerns the “quality” of minimal gestures. If at the dinner table I ask you to pass the salt, how you react informs me if you are in a good mood, distracted or aggressive. We had never studied the quality of a gesture before Stern, and both for us and for child psychologists, how is fundamental, it is the beginning of a social relationship. When the child still has no logical skills, he understands how. Among other things, it is the kind of empathy that seems to be lacking in high functioning autism, those without cognitive deficits but that are missing an important link to reality…

So it’s a mechanism that completely ignores cultural cues… It would be nice to further  investigate the quality of gestures in a social sense as well, in everyday life…

Of course, acts of kindness are important… I am convinced that more kindness with our spouses, children, or when we order our coffee in the morning, would already change the world. Instead of “Coffee!”, “I’d like a coffee, please.” 

Let’s change the idea that a positive attitude is boring. We could develop research based on the question “Does kindness work?”

Why not? It’s a beautiful title.

Federico Faggin – Are conscious computers possible?

By sdg 9, technology

Will computers become smarter than humans? Will they help us solve the grand challenges of our time? We spoke with Italian scientist Federico Faggin, who invented the first microprocessor in 1971, revolutionizing the world. In 1986, starting from the common assumption that consciousness is a property of the brain, he worked to develop computers capable of becoming conscious and self-learning. What will become of the human being? What will you do? What will be the next necessary change? Listen to what one of the most brilliant men of our time has to say about the future we’re building.

Cristina: Can computers become smarter than humans? Can they help us solve the great challenges of our time? We talked about it with the Italian scientist Federico Faggin, who revolutionized the world in 1971 by inventing the first microprocessor. In 1986, starting from the assumption that consciousness is a property of the brain, he made efforts to develop computers capable of becoming conscious and self-learning. Federico where are we with the development of conscious computers?

Federico Faggin: We haven’t even started. In my opinion, conscious computers won’t be possible. The computer is simply a manipulator of symbols, although at first I thought the computer could be aware, this was in ‘86/’87. I also thought that the complexity of the brain could be expressed through consciousness, then thinking about it, trying to understand and create a computer that could be aware, I realized that this was impossible because there is no physical law that allows you to transform electrical signals – those of a computer or the biochemical signals of the brain – into consciousness, sensations or feelings. We perceive the world through sensations and feelings.

Cristina: What are the risks of assuming that computers will become conscious?

Federico Faggin: Many people are sidetracked in the way they think they are, believing that life can be simulated on a computer and so on, that awareness is downloadable to a computer. These are things that actually have no scientific foundation, in fact scientific foundation denies them, so why worry? Machines have no understanding, awareness is what gives us an understanding of reality. We are much more than we think we are and this can only be understood through a lived experience, it cannot be mentally understood. As long as a person believes that the only understanding is mental, rather than experiential, he’ll be wrong. Unfortunately, science today thinks everything is mental, forgetting about heart, gut instinct and courage. As long as science, considered the authority, recognizes nothing but matter – physicality and disowns any aspect which suggests something that isn’t matter, we have a huge problem. It’s when someone begins to recognize something that cannot be reduced to matter, that a whole possibility of new knowledge opens up, a new experience which is denied today. A physicist will typically dismiss this conversation by saying “ah but this is philosophy”, putting it aside and going on as usual.

Cristina: The understanding of reality convinced 193 countries to draft and adopt the 2030 Agenda and the 17 SDGs. Federico Faggin was a fundamental driver of many innovations – therefore SDG 9 fully belongs to him. And his study of consciousness affects all the others.

Part II

Cristina: In an increasingly automated world, where many repetitive jobs will be replaced by robots, what will the human being do or have to deal with?

Federico Faggin: His emotional, spiritual and mental development. The hope is that artificial intelligence, used wisely, could lead us to this. The problem is when it is instead used against or to reduce mankind, which is manipulable, to consume goods that are proposed through the manipulation of information. That is the problem. Ethics are fundamental, certainly when artificial intelligence is used in medicine, or in automatic driving, establishing ethical rules of behavior becomes essential. Not to mention the use of artificial intelligence in warfare. There have already been ethical problems with chemical weapons for example, so there are treaties to regulate that. The problem will become more and more serious, as technology becomes more powerful, but ethics can always be violated, that’s the problem. What do we do when ethics are violated? The fundamental problem is to change the image that people have of themselves so they can self regulate. This means educating the awareness of who we are. People think that change occurs outside of us but we must change inside. Today most people believe that changing outside one will change inside, but it doesn’t work that way. One can only change something outside if one changes inside, and it is precisely the problem of consciousness. This is the fundamental step that people must take today to understand that they are not like a machine. Man is not a machine, he is a spiritual being.

Cristina: Do you trust that humanity will collectively awaken? Especially in relation to climate issues?

Federico Faggin: There is no choice, humanity must change. To solve the problems of climate change that will occur in 30-40-50 potentially catastrophic years will require that humanity agree to solve this problem as a species, no longer as individual countries.

Cristina: Will there be a technology that will speed up this process?

Federico Faggin: Technology is easily accessible if the world agrees to employ it for the cause, in fact there is a fundamental technology that in my opinion, by chance, appeared at the same time as global problems, which is the Internet. It allows people to come to agreements in one day, if there is the will. The whole world can know what’s happening on our planet.

Cristina: In this context, SDG 9 – technological innovation could be able to help humanity honor all 17 Goals of the 2030 Agenda. It’s up to us. Federico Faggin concludes his autobiography Silicio with a very fitting quote by Albert Einstein: “Computers are incredibly fast, accurate and stupid, human beings are incredibly slow, inaccurate and intelligent.” The combination of the two constitutes an incalculable force. Occhio al futuro!

On air February 8 & 15 2020

Econyl – regenerated nylon yarn

By ecology, sdg 12, sdg 13, sdg 15, sdg 16, sdg 4, sdg 6, sdg 7, sdg 8, technology

We know that the textile industry, as a whole, is among the biggest polluters. However, there are those who are turning the tide: Aquafil, with its regenerated nylon yarn Econyl, produces textile fibers from scraps, waste and new materials. Producing positive actions and changes for the economy, society and the environment, along their entire production chain.

Cristina: We know that the textile industry, as a whole, is among the biggest polluters. However, there are those who are turning the tide by producing textile fibers from scraps, waste and new materials.
In this company, the factories are powered 100% by renewable energies and closed cycle water is used in every phase of production. They’ve implemented environmental protocols throughout the supply chain and educational projects for employees and in schools.
Research is carried out on new biomass materials, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced every year, programs to protect the seas are promoted and life cycle analysis are carried out for all products. Together, these actions fulfill 8 of the 17 SDGs – the UN Sustainable Development Goals. For every 10,000 tons of raw material from the recycling process, 70,000 barrels of oil are avoided and the equivalent of 57,100 tons of CO2 are saved.
This is how fishing nets are transformed, along with other nylon waste. In 2018, 78 tons were recovered from NGOs operating throughout Europe. Once cleaned, the nets are chemically transformed, the liquid becomes polymer and the polymer becomes yarn. The result is that more and more yarn comes from a regeneration process. To become carpets, glasses, bags, clothes, swimwear.
Dr. Bonazzi, can you imagine fulfilling the nylon market demand with only recycled and reclaimed materials?

Giulio Bonazzi: No, unfortunately not, even if all nylon could be recovered, it would never be enough to guarantee future needs. In addition, recycling has its own environmental impact, we try to constantly improve it, but it’s important to understand how we recycle and how to minimize impacts during the process.

Cristina: What does it mean for you to innovate? Both as a citizen and as an entrepreneur?

Giulio Bonazzi: For me, innovating means quitting something that’s outdated to do something new. Before recycling you have to reduce raw materials, reuse and then, recycle.

Cristina: Do you already have a new family of materials ready?

Giulio Bonazzi: Yes, we want to produce nylon from renewable sources or from biomass, actually we’ve already produced the first kilos.

Cristina: Could we notice the difference between yarn derived from oil, recycling or biomass?

Giulio Bonazzi: No, the finished products are perfectly identical but the difference in environmental impact is huge.

Cristina: What a fine example of circular economy. Thanks Dr. Bonazzi. Occhio al futuro!

On air January 18, 2020

Sunscreens: how to choose the best ones for you and the planet

By ecology, sdg 14

The sunscreen we use is accumulating in the oceans with dire consequences. It is estimated that an average of 10.000 tons of sunscreen washes off swimmers, scuba divers, and snorkelers, and even more sunscreen pollution damages coastal areas due to waste water that eventually flows into the seas.

Not only juvenile fish and invertebrates, but up to 10% of the world’s coral reefs could be threatened by chemicals, specifically 4, found in common sunscreens, and even low concentrations are hazardous: one drop in 6.5 Olympic sized swimming pools!


These are the ones to look out for:
Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3, BP-3) is found in more than 3500 sunscreen brands worldwide. It’s a chemical filter that disrupts coral reproduction, causes bleaching, and damages its DNA.
Butylparaben, the most common preservative, also causes bleaching.
Octinoxate (Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate) is another filtering agent proven to cause coral bleaching.
4-methylbenzylidene camphor (4MBC) is another chemical to avoid. It is allowed in Europe and Canada, not in USA or Japan.

The Haereticus Environmental Laboratory researches the effects of sunscreens and other personal care ingredients on coral reefs, other ecosystems and wildlife. The list of ingredients that they consider to be environmental pollutants includes:

Any form of microplastic sphere or beads.
Any nanoparticles like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. (These are friendly ingredients when non-nano.)
4-methylbenzylidene camphor
Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA)

This is a certification to look for if you want to protect your skin and the marine ecosystems: Protect Land + Sea 

Coherent beauty

By ecology, sdg 14, sdg 3

How to take care of our body and skin without damaging the planet? It's not easy.

Recently I trusted the reputation of a brand that I used a long time ago and bought some face creams. Then I looked at the list of ingredients…

  • Titanium dioxide is used as a protective filter for UVB rays. There are studies showing that very small nanoparticles >35nm of uncoated titanium dioxide can be harmful to the environment by being toxic to marine life. The extremely small size of these particles generates oxidative stress under UV light potentially causing cellular damage to sensitive organisms such as coral or juvenile fish and invertebrates.
  • Liquid paraffin is a colorless and odorless oil, which has mineral origins and is composed of a mix of C15-C40 hydrocarbons obtained from the distillation of petroleum oil. When used on the skin it forms a lipid film. Due to their oily nature, however, products containing paraffin prevent adequate transpiration.
  • Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate (also known as octinoxate) is considered an environmental hazard in many locations and is one of 10 chemicals listed on the European watch list of substances that may pose a significant risk to the aquatic environment. Depending on the topical vehicle used, relatively little chemical is absorbed into the skin, leaving 94% – 99% on the skin that can be washed off into various water sources.

In 2010 I interviewed the eco-dermatologist Riccarda Serri who founded the non profit organization SkinEco, with the desire to shed light on the environmental impact and the interaction with our skin of commonly used cosmetic products. The current European legislation does not yet consider the biodegradability of substances used in cosmetics, and only in Europe, every day, 5,100 tons of cosmetic products are consumed. Unfortunately Riccarda is no longer with us but her precious teaching remain, which I reviewed, discovering that when I finish the products I purchased, I will search again for creams without the chemicals indicated by Riccarda.

Here is an excerpt from my book Occhio allo Spreco

Dr. Serri, what are the most common ingredients that deserve our attention?

“Petrolatum and paraffin are derived from oil, nature is unable to digest them and for the skin there is better. Vaseline, used a lot in childhood products, is occlusive and disturbs the skin microbiology; silicone, and all the ingredients that end in –one and –ani, do not nourish the skin but give texture to the product. ”
A drop of foundation thickened with silicone on the sink is very difficult to clean. This is the case with our face too, and due to the increasing use of substances that mimic in the product the characteristics that one would like to transfer to the skin – a smooth, velvety effect, the use of exfoliating masks and scrubs also increases.
“The last layer of our skin is composed of corneolites, or cells without a nucleus. They are called dead cells, but they are not dead, as they play an important metabolic function and, concludes Serri, “they advise us to clean our skin as if it were Capodimonte ceramic, then we need the scrub for thorough cleaning. At that point the skin becomes irritated and a restoring cream is needed. This triggers a vicious cycle “.

What should we prefer?

“A delicate, natural detergent, to be removed with a pure cotton cloth soaked in warm water. There are also microfiber face cloths that clean without detergents. “

And what to avoid?

“Disinfectants such as Triclosan, very harmful for the environment, which penetrate into the deeper layers of the epidermis and have even been found in breast milk. The motto of cosmetics that are healthy for our skin and the environment is: QB, which in Italian means quanto basta – the right amount of a quality product. “

In researching products that use less plastic (or don’t use it at all) I found greater consistency with the content. For example, I’m trying toothpaste in tablets, packaged in glass and the experience is very interesting. And another in a paste made from coconut oil. Instead, another brand to which I am faithful, which produces a toothpaste without threatening ingredients such as dyes, preservatives, disinfectants and SLS fluoride, is distributed in a plastic tube but I would like to know what polymer it is to understand if it is recyclable.

If we look for natural products we can’t trust the slogans on the packaging – but are there any alternatives to a fantastic cream in a plastic container?

For more information on the chemicals to be avoided, it is useful to consult the website of the REACH directive. It is not necessary to become environmentally paranoid but it is important to be informed. In June 2007, the European Parliament approved the REACH directive (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) with the aim of studying highly suspicious materials and regulating their use. It is estimated that there are around 900 of these which are highly concerning and REACH is identifying other 600 dangerous ones. On the basis of studies and samples, it is estimated that, on average, we all have several hundred harmful chemicals in our bodies.
Currently it is very expensive to introduce new substances on the market, for this reason industries prefer to use existing ones which have never been adequately tested. We are the guinea pigs.

In 1981 there were 100,106 chemicals in use and since then only 4,300 have been introduced, of which 70% are suspected to contain at least one unhealthy ingredient.

Listed in categories 1 and 2 of the REACH index are substances abbreviated as CMR: carcinogenic, mutagenic (they damage genes) and toxic to the reproductive system.
“Highly dangerous” are also “persistent”, “bio-accumulative” (PBT) “very persistent” and “very bio-accumulative” (vPvBs) substances.
Hormonal inhibitors (endocrine disruptors) are also concerning, considered responsible for various hormonal alterations such as hormone-dependent tumors (breast, prostate, uterus), infertility, precocious puberty or menopause, fetal malformations and hermaphroditism (both in men and in animals ).
To learn more about the effects of products on our body: e
There is a new app called Thinkdirty that I will try.

Federico Faggin, the science of consciousness

By features, technology

He made an important contribution to humanity by developing the first microprocessors and simplifying computer architecture. He invented the touchscreen and now, through the Federico and Elvia Faggin Foundation, he studies the nature of consciousness.

Federico Faggin, Italian physicist, inventor and entrepreneur, was born in Vicenza on December 1, 1941. He graduated in physics summa cum laude in 1965 at the University of Padova. Since 1968 Faggin resides in the United States.
At Intel he was responsible for developing various microprocessors, some still in use today. He develops MOS technology with silicon gate, which allows the first microprocessors and EPROM and RAM memories to be manufactured. They are essential for the digitization of information.
In 1986 Faggin co-founded and directed Synaptics, which developed the first touchpads and touchscreens.
On October 19, 2010 Faggin receives from President Barack Obama the National Medal for Technology and Innovation for the invention of the microprocessor.
In 2011 he founded the Federico and Elvia Faggin Foundation, dedicated to the scientific study of consciousness through the sponsorship of theoretical and experimental research programs at US universities and research institutes.


We meet Federico and Elvia Faggin in Piazza dei Signori in Vicenza. The background of the Palladian Basilica could not be more fitting. The harmony of shapes, the regular intervals of arches and openings, the span of variable widths, create a whole that is more powerful than a sum of parts. Faggin’s career is also a sum of parts, the result of teamwork that the Vicenza physicist directed with the natural virtue of a leader. Thus  Intel 4004 was born, the first microprocessor in the history of computer science, which has a harmony of its own. Integrated circuits create a pattern, a play of light and shadow, and the placement of each piece manifests in the whole function. The parts, by working together, create something powerful.

In 1986 he founded Synaptics, with the aim of developing computers capable of self-learning through structures of neural networks. An intuition that anticipated today’s research by 30 years. As a physicist, he had learned that there is only an objective world made of matter, energy, space and time. “If consciousness is a property of the brain, I said to myself, I should be able to make a computer that is aware,” he says with the intense gaze of a man who will never cease to investigate. “I had a very valid scientific committee of neuroscientists and I asked them: “What is the difference between awareness and the brain?” And they answered “clearly awareness is a phenomenon of the brain”.

Faggin is determined to understand and undertakes a long, passionate journey. He compares and harmonizes his educated scientific mind with intuition and his inner dialogue with the phenomenology of the external world. An indivisible whole like the union with Elvia, his wife and life partner.

In 1992 comes another invention that will change the way we interface with technologies. The touchpad. “It came from something inconsequential,” he says. “A small inconvenience. I was on the board of directors of Logitech – they made trackballs, and I had one of the first laptops with a trackball and I constantly had to open it and clean it because the oil from my hands lubricated the ball and it no longer worked. At that time I had a small research group and launched a proposal to look for an alternative to trackballs with solid-state electronics. In a couple of months, we invented the touchpad which replaced the trackball and the touchscreen, for which there was no platform yet.”

Will Faggin revolutionize the world of science the way he did with computing? “My goal is to understand, not revolutionize”, he replies with humble firmness. “After years of investigation, I experienced an episode that turned my prospects upside down. It was 1990. I was almost 50 years old and I had a spontaneous experience, not induced and very short, in which I felt I was both the world and the observer of the world. An event which was alien to the ordinary ones where we feel separated from others. Something profound changed in me. I realized that the only way was to explore my awareness firsthand. I don’t know if you’re aware, nor do you know if I am. We cannot prove it scientifically and this is part of the problem.” Faggin relies on a transpersonal psychologist, not to remove traumas but to understand the process and expose himself to new ideas. He studies, deepens, lives other experiences. “After that first time, I had so many, in response to what I was looking for. And it continues to be so. I have a dream and I wake up with an idea. I know I’m guided. How could it be otherwise? There is no way you can get there alone. We are guided. “

His candor is illuminating. A summa cum laude student, a scientist who made history, decides to apply the principle of repetition and verification to his new research. He finds the right school for him in the Diamond Approach. It investigates the multiple dimensions of human potential through an integrated path of psychology and spirituality. Faggin participates in retreats for lessons and meditations, study and practice for 10 years. Until, in 2008, he understands how to bring into the world what, up to that point, had been a personal process.

He sells his latest company, Foveon, which produces sensors for image acquisition to the Japanese. He leaves numerous boards of directors and in 2009 understands that, to have an impact, research on awareness must be funded. He knows good people who can’t find funds. The premise is that awareness is only a function of the brain. So, in 2011, the Federico and Elvia Faggin Foundation was born.

“Federico was the one who put my name on the Foundation. I have no role in originating ideas but I am always close to them,” Elvia says enthusiastically. “He works continuously with thought and imagination and when he wakes up at night with ideas, I wake up with him and talk about it. In this sense I am very involved.”

Federico: “My wife is an integral part of my journey and declaring her by my side in this new adventure represents the essence of our union.”

Elvia: “Space and time are two obsessions of Federico and during nocturnal conversations he tries to understand how to fit the pieces of the puzzle into his philosophical-scientific model.”

Federico: “It is beautiful because our Yin Yang dynamic reflects the polarities at the origin of life itself. Who knows why everything that is phenomenological must be an expression of a truth instead of being open. We need to combine the intuitive, feminine, with the rational, masculine. Science and spirituality must find a harmony that does not exist today. They are two separate fields that coexist but do not recognize each other, and it is time to stop, otherwise we reduce our humanity to a machine on the one hand, and on the other, we cultivate a sense of superiority. This dualism causes fundamentalism and dystopia. Let’s go further to understand how the nature of reality works.”

Unity of awareness

His is another way of seeing. He explains: “I cannot directly observe your inner world, I must try to understand it by interpreting symbols: your words, how you behave, your entire physical appearance. Awareness, however, which exists before space – time, perceives the entirety of the other, not only the symbols but all the fields by which it is created. It sees them together, simultaneously. We are the other and we are ourselves. It is that kind of contradiction that exists in quantum physics. The qbit is both zero and one. True and false. This apparent contradiction comes from the fact that reality, even before the universe, is holistic. There is no distinguishable part. In holism of classical physics, parts are separable and identifiable. In quantum mechanics we speak of holism where there are identifiable parts that cannot be called parts. I call them whole parts, units of awareness. Each has its identifiable yet inseparable identity. If the parts were not identifiable there would be no self. In my model, the symbolic aspect is irreducible from the semantic one, and I call it nus which means “mind” in Greek. That becomes nusym, a new name to indicate something from which everything emerges: space, time, matter and energy. Two indivisible aspects, matter and spirit. Like the two sides of a coin, the external one we see and the inner one, which is the inner experience of that coin.”

If you wondered what happened to the conscious computer, after years of studies, Faggin came to the conclusion that it is impossible to design: “how do I translate what I feel into electrical or biochemical signals, and vice versa. We perceive reality within us through sensations and feelings, emotions and thoughts. That has nothing to do with electrical signals,” he concludes.

The computer to be explored is within us.

The water we eat

By ecology, sdg 13, sdg 14, sdg 15, sdg 2, sdg 3

Have you ever thought about the amount of water you consume in a day? Not just the water you drink, or use at home. Even the food we eat has a water footprint, it’s called virtual water and often represents more than half of our daily water consumption.
During Broken Nature at La Triennale di Milano, there will be a Wonderwater Café with a menu translated entirely in terms of water footprint for each dish!

Cristina: Many of us are good at not wasting water at home, but we rarely know how much we consume indirectly. For example, the water needed to produce our food.
Wonderwater Cafè is a traveling project that reaches the Triennale restaurant in Milan for the duration of the Broken Nature exhibition. It stems from a collaboration between scientists and designers and is translated in a menu which illustrates the water footprint of each dish.

Jane Withers: We have no idea about the quantities of water that go into making food. So we wanted to point out the differences between beans grown in Kenya, where they may be draining water resources from local communities, and seasonal, rainfed greens that are locally sourced. We saw the effects, during the drought in California two years ago, when almond prices shot up, it was proof of these invisible water systems.

Cristina: Do you find that scientific facts have to be adapted to reach a large audience?

Jane Withers: I think so, yes. I mean, they’re doing the hard work, the heavy lifting, but we’re trying to put facts in a language that people can understand. I think that a menu that represents the water footprint when you’re choosing what to eat that makes a difference. Maybe looking through it and assessing whether we want a pizza with tomatoes that is equivalent to 290 litres or one with the chili sausage at 960 litres has an impact on our choices. They’re staggering numbers.

Cristina: The first WonderWater café dates back to 2011. In just a few years, awareness of the problem has grown alongside the project.

Jane Withers: At King’s College in London, our academic partners worked to understand where each ingredient comes from, is sourced and so on. So there’s more transparency, but I think the really interesting thing also is that then, it seemed really abstract but now there’s a sense of urgency about it. We’re probably all becoming aware that the single most important thing we can do is to shift from a meat to a vegetarian diet or a flexitarian diet. And the differences are between over 5,000 litres per day for a meat diet to 2,600. They’re palpable. I think there’s a lot more interest and awareness.

Cristina: The information is there, people are more and more willing to be informed about their choices and what impact they have. So if you’re a restaurateur, if you bring food to the world in any way, share this knowledge because it’s very important. Occhio al futuro

On air May 4, 2019

Stefano Mancuso – how intelligent are plants?

By ecology, sdg 15, technology

Prof. Stefano Mancuso, author and Director of the LINV – International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology, talks about intelligence in the plant kingdom – based on a network model. The Internet is an example!

Cristina: We often think that in order to succeed we have to climb a peak or become a leader of something to have influence, but the plant world teaches us much more. Does it teach us that intelligence can spread like wildfire and why? How?

Stefano Mancuso: Everything you said is true, because we are inspired by the animal model, which runs on a central brain that governs organs, and it’s the model we replicate in our organizations. There is a leader and a hierarchy underneath, a bureaucracy that serves the purpose of transmitting orders. The plant model, paradoxically, is much more modern than the animal model because it is a widespread network. In other words, the plant distributes functions throughout the body that animals concentrate in their organs. Imagine an organization of this kind, these very modern organizations, the internet itself is made this way, it does not have a central command, or the cryptocurrencies that are such a topic today. Bitcoin and all the cryptocurrencies run on decentralized systems and, as such, they work very well.

Cristina: What strategic developments would benefit from this model?

Stefano Mancuso: We could build any type of organization inspired by the plant world. There is an American multinational company called Morningstar that works this way, it has no manager. It is fully distributed and works great. The way we have approached society in our history is not the only one. 99% of the life of this planet uses a different system.

Cristina: Why does it make sense to imitate living creatures that apparently don’t move?

Stefano Mancuso: Plants see, plants hear, plants sleep, plants are able to communicate, and have social relationships.

Cristina: How can we imitate their behavior?

Stefano Mancuso: Plants produce resources, animals consume them, therefore we imitate plants when we produce and consume the least amount of resources possible. We can transform our organizations, it’s not written anywhere that they must necessarily be pyramidal. Let’s make them distributed – we would reap the benefits in no time.

Cristina: It’s up to us to decide whether we want to behave like animals or plants. Occhio al futuro

On air April 27, 2019