A conversation with Prof. Juan Carlos De Martin
We are living in a complex historical period where social media era and the “Internet Age” are speeding up our actions and opinions; we have to face a lot of different challenges every moment and for this reason, we need the best preparation ever for these kinds of situations.
First and foremost, the guest of the conversation has planned an inspired presentation about his job and his ideas about the 2.0 era.
On October 9th, we had the pleasure to host Juan Carlos De Martin, computer engineer and Professor at the Polytechnic of Turin, for the Global Conversation “Reinventing higher education for the 21st century”.
At the very beginning of the meeting, Professor De Martin offered us some links about the theme of technology and the interactions with society through universities all over the world, particularly the Italian one, and the main global challenges.
He did an excellent explanation of the contemporary world from an economic and political point of view thanks to his life experiences, such as, at the NEXA Center for Internet & Society at the Politecnico of Torino and at the Keio University (Keio Research Institute at SFC).
His devotion to society and then on education for new generations have been fundamental for the publication of his masterpiece “Università Futura – Tra Democrazia e Bit” (in Italian, Codice Edizioni, 2017).
Then, he explained that technology for him was not a focus and a central point of his studies, instead it could be used as an instrument to improve human situation.
After this introduction, he has underlined five main challenges of our century: Democracy, Environment (global warming, pollution), Technology (biotech, digital nanotech, neurocognitive), Economy ( glorious ’30 and pitiful ’40), Geopolitics concerning the preservation of peace and the question about the beginning of a new century.
In this “peculiar environment “, he linked all of the previous challenges with the role of the university and the development of a critical thinking.
Coming to the hearth of the meeting, Professor De Martin addressed the Italian situation and the migration of 50,000 Italian researchers to the USA, Switzerland and North Europe. In addition to this, we are the 3rdmost expensive country in a global background but we are also on the top 1000 of global UNIs.
Which kind of university do we need? This has been the question that better introduces the second part of the meeting. Juan Carlos has made a list of qualities that an ideal university must have:
a. focused on educating students;
b. free to focus on major social problems;
c. free to cultivate all kinds of knowledge;
d. free to be an interdisciplinary institution;
e. interested in social affairs;
f. tell the truth;
g. it has to offer a contribution to democracy and suitable dimensions.
In conclusion, we do not have to reinvent the university institutions, but we do have the right and the duty to rediscover their roots and preserve them. It is a system that understands the reason why the world rounds in this way, the importance of silence and the relationships between students.
It has to be perceived as a Bridge between generations.