When, a few years ago, Gianni De Gennaro - President of Finmeccanica, now known as Leonardo - told me about his desire to revive “Civiltà delle macchine” and that I would have to be the editor in chief, I thought it was cool and insane. “Cool” because it was, and still is, a wonderful idea. “Insane” because the magazine, created by Giuseppe Luraghi and Leonardo Sinisgalli, who curated it from 1953 to 1958, was one of the most important cultural initiatives of the post-war economic recovery.
If you read through Sinisgalli’s writings, they will make your head spin at some point. There is design, there is great, modern mass advertising, there is a search for names of famous brands, there is the whole Italian industry, there are all Italian scientists, including Silvio Ceccato who invented what we might call the first "semi-robot" and the first form of artificial intelligence with his cybernetic homunculus “Adam II” (and the Church, as Ceccato revealed, accepted that name because this Adam was “second” and because believers knew that Adam had been a sinner). But “Civiltà delle macchine” also brought together the best of humanistic culture, sent writers to factories, encouraged children to draw on metal plates, and discovered new ways of making poetry, linked to the age in which cybernetics began to catch on. To repeat such an extraordinary publishing venture is therefore “cool and insane”. Luckily, I am not one of the many self-centred narcissists in Italy’s public life and I know that this challenge I am taking is beyond my reach, but above all I know that if you lose your sense of boundaries you will ruin a great project (and yourself). I am fortunate enough to have a person like Luciano Violante as President of Fondazione Leonardo, and Pietrangelo Buttafuoco, an incredibly smart human, as deputy editor of this magazine.
This great project today is driven by the same motivations that drove Luraghi and Sinisgalli, and all the great innovators from Olivetti to Pirelli, who created company magazines with a strong cultural focus. And this is what drove Gianni De Gennaro and Alessandro Profumo down this road. There are two main reasons for it. The first one is to re-establish a dialogue between businesses and society, between businesses and institutions, between businesses and producers of culture. This approach is facilitated by the fact that a big company - and Leonardo is one of the biggest - produces culture by leveraging the wealth of scientific research, imagination and work organisation that underlies its own industrial activity.
Copertina di Civiltà delle Macchine, 2/1967, Agon di Corrado Cagli. Credits Fintecna
The old “Civiltà delle macchine” was published by Finmeccanica; this “Civiltà delle Macchine” is published by a Foundation led by Luciano Violante that will explore the difficult areas of research and intercultural dialogue, supported not by a patron but by a company rooted in this country.
The second reason is inherent in the magazine’s name. The word “machines” may seem too little in the age of artificial intelligence, in which machines are often not seen, yet we can feel the increasing importance of dialogue between cultures coming together to question ethics and humanity.
We are not going to make a slick magazine; there will be no frills and fancy pages, but articles, including long ones (Sinisgalli was a big supporter of them), and beautiful images, often courtesy of Telespazio. Ours is a small editorial office, but if we think of all the people involved outside our rooms, we are actually a very big editorial office that aims to engage big Italian minds and talents and to tell young people that they will not find many answers here, but they find all the questions, including their own.
I would like this magazine to grow through dialogue with university and high school students, creating together with them what we journalists call a “flatplan”. I would like to go and talk about it in factories. I would like to say to those who do neither one thing nor the other that we dream of bringing Italy back to the time when the old “Civiltà delle macchine” was launched, with its contradictions, its problems, but also with an ardent desire for progress.
I don't have the talent that Sinisgalli had. I have made other cultural choices in life and, allow me a brief digression, I feel a sense of reverence for those southern intellectuals who knew how to read progress and placed themselves at its highest point. I wish that his example pushed me (and all of us) up there.