Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

Human-Technology relations

The nineteenth century represented, in the history of mankind, a turning point for both science and technology advancements. The Industrial Revolution had a strong influence not only on living conditions, but also on cultural production, placing man in front of new ethical and moral problems, the most important of which was the new coexistence between man and machine. The initial positivist enthusiasm for progress was quickly threatened by gloomy future scenarios revolving around the de-personalization of the individual (due to the alienating rhythms of the production line) and its marginalization in society, themes that clearly emerged in the finale of La coscienza di Zeno (Zeno's conscience, 1923) by Italo Svevo, where technology is inevitably intertwined with the future destruction of mankind. These distressing doubts were echoed in the first modern works of science fiction which, while celebrating a future robotic world, warned humanity against possible apocalyptic consequences. The forerunner of the literary genre is Isaac Asimov, author of I Robot (1950), a collection of short science fiction stories in which he shaped the figure of the positronic humanoid robot that has influenced both literary and audiovisual production since then. Asimov’s novels and short stories still remain milestones for science fiction and have inspired countless titles that analyze the catastrophic consequences of progress as an end in itself (such as the drifts of genetic engineering, brilliantly investigated by Never Let Me Go) and the creation of an artificial intelligence that replaces human will and conscience. These are all founding themes of novels such as Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep? (1968), the book upon which Blade Runner (1982) is based on, or Supertoys last all summer long (1969) by Brian Aldiss, up to the endless production of films inspired by the aforementioned authors, along with other notable videogames (Detroit: Become Human) and TV series (Black Mirror, Westworld, Altered Carbon, Foundation).