Prophetic Japanese cartoons?

(To Gianluca Celentano)

What connection can there be between the plot of two successful Japanese cartoon series from the 70s and current times?

If you too were a child in the mid-seventies you will remember the captivating episodes of Capitan harlock need Kyashan, the boy who became android.

Perhaps, even if they will never admit it, the parents themselves were captured by the novelty, but what has remained most in mind is undoubtedly the gigantic Arcadia of Harlock and his eye patch, as well as the boy's Bruce Lee-like agility Kyashan.

In reality there is much more to rediscover in those characters...

Before continuing, a historical passage is essential: Isaac Asimov, American biochemist and writer (1920-1992), was the first scientific communicator to reflect on artificial intelligence by citing the term robotics already in 1942, the year in which he set out the "Three laws of robotics".

1. A robot cannot cause harm to human beings, nor can it allow human beings to suffer harm due to its failure to intervene.

2. A robot must obey orders given by humans unless such orders conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must safeguard its own existence, as long as this does not conflict with the First and Second Laws.

Anyone who has served in the military knows something similar contained in the military regulations regarding obedience for which an incorrect order may, in certain cases and conditions, not be executed (for example: illegitimate, against the rules of the State or which could cause harm to a civilian population - depending on the various systems) but, in the case of AI, i.e. artificial intelligence, you have to wonder who the controller is.

It is unclear what emerged from Prime Minister Meloni's trip to London for the artificial intelligence summit (photo), the world conference chaired by industry tycoons, including Elon Musk and Sam Altman, father of ChatGpt. The little news that emerged at the same time as the Russian comedians disclosed the (embarrassing) joke to President Meloni comes from the Undersecretary of Innovation Alessio Butti: "we support the European Union for the approval of the Artificial Intelligence Act, from which the EU has taken on the task of guaranteeing careful use of the public good while avoiding distorted, commercial or, worse, security uses".

A message still relevant in old cartoons

Captain Harlock is a soldier who has become a pirate, marginalized by the government and a rebel in the imaginative (but perhaps not too much) world that the Japanese author Matsumoto places in the year 2977. The Earth now has only one government characterized by disinterest towards a society abandoned on the dying planet, where only a privileged few can live in absolute well-being.

THEArcadia it is the gigantic spaceship with which the pirate Harlock travels across the seas and in the earthly skies, but also in space and other worlds to fight against injustice. In short, Harlock is a sort of "Garibaldino", a non-violent adventurer, characterized by great seafaring loyalty. The message is clear and worrying: What could the future of the Earth be if increasingly inept and selfish governments prevailed?

The plot of Kyashan is partly connected to that of Harlock even if it has much more technological implications. In a now polluted futuristic Earth, Dr. Azuma, a scientist working on artificial intelligence, creates four human-like robots to solve pollution problems, but something goes wrong. In fact, robots, stronger than human beings, escape the scientist's control and set themselves - by self-replicating - opposite objectives, that is, destruction of the human race.

To fight them, Azuma sacrifices his only young son, Tetsuya, making him an android called Kyashan. This one, powered by sunlight but with the peculiarity of possessing a human heart, proves to be much stronger than the army of disobedient robots.

There is no more time

The plots that I have summarized here can open a long and lively debate, for my part I prefer to quote the words of a great magistrate, Nicola Grattieri when he says: It is convenient for those who exercise power to have an ignorant population.

On the topic of knowledge and culture, Professor Umberto Galimberti also explains his point of view on current society: if I know a few words I think little. In the Italy of social media, illiteracy is growing and 50 most commonly used words are known. "Means - continues Galimberti - that if I know a few words it doesn't mean that I have many thoughts in my head, in fact the thoughts are proportional to the knowledge of the words".

Individualism is not a defense

These are just some of the concepts that make us reflect on the global panorama where, in the last twenty years, economic pressure groups have had a clear path and politics follows specific slogans to obtain consensus or silence dissent.

The development of connectivity has achieved the purpose of disseminating information - and fake news - in real time, rubbish TV so as not to "burden the minds too much" by unconsciously submerging everyone.

Will "the machines" save us?

Little concreteness and increasingly individualistic societies where solidarity is appreciated by few. We have to ask ourselves if this was the future we wanted? Everyone can actually play their part possibly without an easy click on the smartphone, but perhaps there is no more time.

On the threat of resorting to atomic weapons, now back in the news, Albert Einstein said: Man invented the atomic bomb, but no mouse in the world would build a mousetrap.

Perhaps to the dilemma of whether one day man will become extinct by himself or due to other events, the answer may not be too complicated and perhaps not even too distant in time. Who can perhaps go to other worlds?

In the movie Commanding by Edoardo De Angelis, I was struck by one of the last sentences uttered by a Royal Navy officer killed during a shelling; in admitting the absurdity of the destruction caused by the war that men wage among themselves, he hopes that tomorrow perhaps machines will be better than man.

We sincerely hope so.

Images: web / Presidency of the Council of Ministers