“Politica e tecnica”: the course “Global Challenges” on digital challenges

Technology always plays an important role in the great challenges facing humanity. Whether we are talking about digital, energy, mobility, climate, health or technologies and humanity in general, technology is almost always at the center. However, the great challenges are practically never reducible to technical elements alone, neither when they are analyzed, nor when possible solutions are designed. To understand great human challenges and to deal with them successfully, the contribution of all forms of knowledge are necessary, from the technical-scientific to the humanities, from the social sciences to art. The “Great Challenges” courses are an opportunity to deepen in a highly interdisciplinary way a specific topic of importance for the life of humanity, placing technology at the center but at the same time showing how technology is an integral part of our humanity and our living together on the planet. In this context, all “Great Challenges” courses will refer to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, a global initiative that is shaping many policies from the local to the international levels.

Social and political change and technical and technological development are normally studied separately, as autonomous and poorly correlated phenomena. Yet, a simple mobile phone “hides” a multiplicity of possible analysis levels, which are difficult to keep separate: from the strictly engineering dimension of design and construction to the geopolitical dimension linked to raw materials and the technical skills necessary for production, up to disposal policies (which are technical and political at the same time); from the transformations of technological capitalism, to the “values” conveyed by the design of the various applications, to the problem of the technologies of control; and much more. In this course we aim to provide analytic tools useful for studying – also from a historical perspective -, on the one hand how technical and technological development cannot be isolated from the concrete power relations – economic, political and ideological – in which it is immersed; and on the other hand, how this development profoundly affects the widespread social imaginaries, transforming our way of thinking about the world in which we live. A dialogue between computer engineering and political philosophy that will touch on major theoretical issues – from the Promethean myth of technology to the conflicting relationship between democracy and knowledge – with a constant eye on concrete examples linked to the history of technology and the most recent developments.