Massimo Negrotti has been Full Professor of Methodology of Human Sciences at the Universities of Parma and Genoa since 1980, and currently also teaches at the University of Urbino 'Carlo Bo', where he chairs the LCA (Lab for the Culture of the Artificial) . His areas of research are methodology of human sciences, technology, cybernetics, and the culture of the artificial.
From the late seventies onwards, he Negrotti has been involved in scientific discussions regarding the current outline and future directions of Artificial intelligence (A.I.), developing his own vision of this branch of computer science while participating in related conferences and studies. He was a member, in the early nineties, of the Consulting Committee for Artificial Intelligence at the Italian Ministry for Scientific Research, and reported on advancements in cybernetics and A.I. at special meetings of the Italian Ministry of Defense. From the 1990s until 2002, he coordinated a series of biannual conferences on the ‘Culture of Artificial’, held alternately in Switzerland and Italy. He was a member, at the time of foundation, of the IRICHS (International Research Institute of Human Centred Systems) .
He is a member of the Programme Board of the Doctorate School of “Virtual Prototypes and Real Products” of the Politecnico di Milano, and of the Scientific Board of the Doctorate in “Methodology and Social Research” at the University of Florence. He is also a member of the scientific committees of “International Sociology” and “Sociology and Social Rresearch” at the Sapienza University of Rome; that of “Sociology of Communication” at the University of Urbino; and that of “Studies of Sociology” at the Catholic University of Milan (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore).
He is associate editor of the international scientific journal Artificial Intelligence and Society (Springer-Verlag, London) , and was editor of the 5-volume series Yearbook of the Artificial (Peter Lang, Bern) from 2002 to 2008 . He wrote the entry ‘Artificiality’ in ESTE (Encyclopedia of Science, Technology and Ethics).
Since 1983, he has carried out several theoretical and empirical surveys on the cultural assumptions and propositions of Artificial intelligence researchers and developers in Europe (Karlsruhe, Pisa, Brighton), and in the USA (Los Angeles) during official IJCAI conferences . A list of 101 different definitions of A.I. that he collected in hundreds of interviews was published in Understanding the artificial: on the future shape of A.I. He observed that a majority of those involved in A.I. were more concerned with the word “intelligence” than they were with the nature of the “artificial”. While criticizing the initial “over-optimistic” ambitions of the founders of A.I. research, he began constructing an original theory with the aim of formalizing a basis for future developments of the concept of “artificial”, not limited only to A.I., but also including the whole range of human activities that have, throughout the history of mankind, been dedicated to the “reproduction”, at different functional levels, of objects and processes already existing in nature. .
In order to help distinguish between that which is merely an artificially realized copy of a natural subject, and that which is, rather, a technological reproduction at a certain level of observation, Negrotti coined, in the late 1990s, the term naturoid, in order to refer to an artificial object or process resulting from mankind's ambition – present throughout recorded history – to represent, imitate or reproduce natural things and events, exploiting available materials and techniques. Negrotti’s theory holds that there are no scientific elements to support the belief that naturoids will one day converge upon natural models to the extent that they will become indistinguishable from them at all observation levels. This conclusion, supported by the English science writer Philip Ball, contrasts with the position of, for example, those promoters of A.I. who believe that robots and computers could one day become more humanoid, not only in form, but also in features, functions and capabilities. In addition, Negrotti’s theory tries to outline the methodological phases, and the general power and limits, that characterize the design of any kind of naturoid, regardless of the specific field from which it comes.
In recent years, he has begun investigating the techno-methodological approach to human-machine interaction design, deepening the analysis of the end-user.
- IRICHS (International Research Institute of Human Centred Systems)
- Artificial Intelligence and Society (Springer-Verlag, London)
- Yearbook of the Artificial (Peter Lang, Bern)
- ESTE (Encyclopedia of Science, Technology and Ethics), C. Mitcham, MacMillan, Farmington
- The Theory of the Artificial, Intellect Books, Exeter
- (1991) (ed.) Understanding the artificial: on the future shape of A.I., Springer-Verlag, London.
- (1993) "Towards a Theory of the Artificial", Cybernetics and Human Knowing, 2, 2, The Royal School of Librarianship, Odense-Kopenhagen.
- (1999) The Theory of the Artificial, Intellect Books, Exeter.
- (2002) Naturoids. On The Nature of the Artificial, World Scientific Publishing Company, New Jersey.
- Ball, P., "Nature versus Naturoids", in Nature Materials, 8, 1, January 2009.
- Ball, P., "Shaking hands with robots", in Nature Materials, 8, 860, January 2009.
- (2010) "Designing the Artificial: An Interdisciplinary Study", in R. Buchanan, D. Doordan, V. Margolin (eds.), The designed world, Oxford, Berg.
- (2006)(ed.) Yearbook of the Artificial: Cultural Dimensions to the User, Peter Lang Academic Publisher, Bern.
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