State of Privacy ’23: Envisioning Ethics in the Tech Era | DIVE

Apr 9, 2024 | Works

Can an Etruscan statue from the 6th century B.C. speak to us about the challenges that the world of artificial intelligence is throwing at us today? It happened during the “State of Privacy ’23” event that was held in Rome on September 18, 2023, at the National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia. The initiative is part of an open dialogue on the future of data protection and the challenges posed by new technologies, a topic put forth by the Privacy Guarantor in concert with major public and private stakeholders.

We were also there, among the industry representatives called to talk about cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and digital privacy and we did so – true to our style – by launching a provocation: we gave life and voice to two of the most famous spouses in the world, those depicted on the wonderful Sarcophagus of the Spouses preserved right in the Museum of Villa Giulia. It was not a simple dubbing, thanks to artificial intelligence we cloned the voices of two actors and generated ex novo a dialogue, making the two statues talk through a realistic animation.

Between one complaint about the tourists’ selfies and another, husband and wife pose two substantial issues to us. The first is, “Is it worth giving up a little privacy for beauty and knowledge?”, and in this case, the answer is easy: yes. Without sharing, there is no knowledge, and in today’s world, where information can travel at unthinkable speeds, it is perhaps worth sharing something of ourselves to be part of the enormous wealth of information we have at our disposal, especially if we consider the many efforts made to make our online experiences increasingly safe.

The second issue, posed indirectly, is much more complicated to unravel: how far can we push ourselves using the power of A.I.? Every inflection, every emotion that resonates in the words of the dialogue between the two Etruscan spouses, was artificially obtained by manipulating a sample of a human voice in a way. It’s all too easy to imagine catastrophic scenarios where the manipulation of images and voices is used to distort the very concept of reality, plunging society into a chaos comparable only to that of the biblical Tower of Babel. But wouldn’t it be better to work to realize the positive scenarios?

The use of these A.I. tools will have to be regulated, as what is happening today in the tech world will forever change the way we engage with reality and the media. But we think of a future in which these means are used virtuously. Imagine, for example, how education could change: a teacher could hold courses in all the languages of the world and his students would always hear his voice and see his face. For this reason, the creation of a regulatory framework that prevents abuse but does not hinder the advance towards a horizon where infinite possibilities for the entire humanity open up is desirable.

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