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Andrea Nanetti: The responsibility of human civilization

Updated: Jan 6, 2023

Andrea Nanetti, Editor-in-Chief, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Dr Andrea Nanetti is Singapore's nanyang technological university college of art design and media professional engineering historical memory editor in chief, has been accepted the humanities, mathematics, physics and computer science, and other comprehensive multidisciplinary comprehensive training of language, the main research field is the history, metadata, ontology (artificial intelligence), relational database, etc. His professional learning path has enabled him to acquire comprehensive skills in the wider field of heritage science. He developed an interdisciplinary approach called Engineering Historical Memory (ENGINEERING Historical Memory), which is now used and disseminated internationally.

The responsibility of human civilization

1. The solo exhibition "Michelangelo Pistoletto - Between Obverse and Reverse" was showed at the Mucciaccia Gallery in Singapore from 19 January to 27 July 2019. What is the deeper meaning of the title?

As explained by Michelangelo Pistoletto’s epigraph to the title, “the work stems from the encounter of two extremes such as front-back, top-bottom, real-virtual, substance-image”. This is epitomised by the symbol of The Third Paradise, which has been amplified in the art installation designed by Pistoletto for the School of Art, Design and Media at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Singapore. At NTU Singapore, on 21 January 2019, on the occasion of the unveiling of Pistoletto’s art installation, Helga Nowotny, former President of the European Research Council, was proposing as a discussion point whether our time could reserve us a Fourth Industrial Revolution with increased inequality and poverty or a Third Paradise with a balanced reconciliation between Humanity and Nature. It is all up to us and The Third Paradise is more than a reminder.

2. On 21 January 2019, on the grass rooftop of the School of Art, Design and Media at Nanyang Technological University Singapore, the universal symbol of the Third Paradise become a living art installation. This conceptual-art installation is realised with local tropical plants. What was the impetus for bringing the model to life and what inspired its creation?

A demiurgic reconciliation between Nature and human action is the responsibility of our civilisation, and requires the commitment of all of us, in the present, for a possible future. A moral duty of universities, especially those living on public funds, is to cultivate places that nurture the meeting of faculty and students with the protagonists and masters of their time to facilitate the transmission of knowledge and create an ecosystem able of responding to the ambitions of the humanity. Michelangelo Pistoletto is certainly one of the protagonist of our time. "In 2003 Pistoletto wrote the manifesto of the Third Paradise and drew its symbol, consisting of a reconfiguration of the mathematical sign of infinity. Between the two contiguous circles, which represent the two opposite poles of the natural and artificial, a third central circle is inserted, to represent the generative womb of a new humanity, an ideal overcoming of the destructive conflict, in which Nature and the artificial (i.e., human made) are found in the current society". The plant used in the installation, Alternanthera sessilis ‘Red’, is not present in nature, but now grows only in greenhouses. We are the ones who keep the ‘artifice’ alive, which is a way to experience the beauty of being free to choose the ethics of responsibility and commitment in life

On 21 January 2019, when I welcomed Maestro Michelangelo Pistoletto for the opening of his art installation The Third Paradise on the grass rooftop of the NTU School of Art, Design and Media, I recalled that we were in 2016, when Valter Spano shared with me for the first time the intention of Partners & Mucciaccia to invite Maestro Pistoletto to Singapore for a solo exhibition. I was very excited and asked him whether he would have been supportive in facilitating an acquaintance of Maestro Pistoletto with the School of Art, Design and Media at NTU Singapore, for the benefit of both teaching and research. I shared with Mr Spano that the benefit for student and faculty would have been tremendous. The symbol of the Third Paradise is all about creativity and creative processes in all fields of societal advancement. The Ambassador of Italy to Singapore, H.E. Raffaele Langella, was immediately supportive and granted the patronage of the Embassy of Italy to all events related to the visit of Maestro Michelangelo Pistoletto to Singapore. Thanks to the contribution of the Embassy of Italy to Singapore, the Mucciaccia Gallery, and the Pistoletto Foundation this project became a living testimony of human commitment and endeavour.

3. After reading your profile, I learn that your research interests include many fields such as ICT, interactive digital media, Asian studies, history, art, design, and media, and you have also studied cultural heritage in-depth. In your opinion, how to use digital technology effectively to preserve cultural heritage?

Today, both my research and teaching are materially run under Michelangelo Pistoletto’s Third Paradise. Indeed, the NTU School of ADM has recently established a new laboratory called LIBER (Laboratory of Interdisciplinary Bookish and Experiential Research) in the ADM Library, on whose roof is now the installation of The Third Paradise. In Latin liber means both ‘book’ and ‘free’. Liber/Book epitomises the treasure of human experiences as approached by multidisciplinary domain of heritage (i.e., the inheritability of artefacts, oral traditions, scientific knowledge, social rituals, and other cultural practices that embody human experiences of the world and the human condition itself). Liber/Free, as Maestro Pistoletto would say, epitomises the ‘Freedom to be Responsible’ and use all arts and sciences to reconcile Humanity with Nature. All the still-available experiences made by human societies over time and across space are in principle of the essence in coping with the twenty-first-century grand challenges of humanity. The vision is that with a clearer understanding of where we come from, we can better understand who we are, and understanding where we are now, we may influence what we want to become.

Since 1834, when Michael Faraday first talked about “heritage science” in his Royal Institution Christmas Lecture, this science of heritage has evolved from a disciplinary field focused on conservation sciences to its more recent opening as a domain to a broader range of research disciplines able to reflect better the breadth and depth required by our complex societies in dealing with its heritage (i.e., what may and should be sustainably inherited). The Singapore Heritage Science Conference series (2014-2016) and the three-day event, Dancing over Ideas of Research (2018) provided a discussion forum on the role of heritage science in today’s society. These conferences confirmed that the multidisciplinary domain of heritage science focuses on recording, accessing, interpreting, conserving and managing cultural heritage seen as the treasure of human experiences.

Today, heritage science considers the knowledge and values acquired in all relevant disciplines, from arts and humanities (e.g., philosophy, ethics, art and art history, economics, sociology, and anthropology) to fundamental sciences (e.g., chemistry, physics, mathematics, and biology), as well as to computer science, engineering, communication and media studies. In particular, the 2nd Singapore Heritage Conference, “Heritage and the Creative Industries,” held on 15-16 January 2015, wrestled with the tensions between age-old practices and our modern digital lifestyles. New media and non-conventional communications have risen as a challenge, creating new possibilities for cultural expressions and the advancement of learning. However, during the conference, there was a sense that we might be losing our humanity as lives become more and more digital, and the criteria of digital-data preservation are left to the neoliberal rules of the free market. In hearing experts—like Harold Thwaites in his keynote address—talk about past experiences, and draw from them creative inspirations for the future, one could realise that human qualities like ethics, empathy, identity, and spirituality are bonding resources that serve to bind people together. In short, to be human is to be connected to other humans, to our environments and, for some, to a cosmic significance.

Information-communication technology (ICT) has truly opened a new frontier for the advancement of data sharing, and we can agree with Sandra Rendgen (2013) that “professional data and information management will be a central cultural tool in the decades to come”. However, ICT alone is not able to support substantial advancement of learning because the exponentially growing volume of digital data is a solution and a problem at the same time. Technology indeed allows us to access more and more information faster and faster from almost everywhere. However, current ICT is unable to retain, structure, and process the amount of digital data produced by society. Moreover, unstructured data per se are of little or negligible value. To become an asset, data needs to be filtered, organised and be machine-readable. This data processing requires considerable natural and human resources that our society may be unable or unwilling to allocate. Thus, due to the risk that many traditional modes of knowledge and value transmission might become obsolete or are at the risk of vanishing soon; our society needs to take the responsibility of deciding the selection criteria of what human knowledge and values to preserve and keep available for the next generation in a digital form.

4. From the perspective of cultural security, can you discuss what kind of cultural security issues the world is facing now and what measures can be taken to effectively address these issues?

In terms of cultural security or cultural safety, human experiences embodied in living cultures are the treasure of humanity. People and their cultures are the wealth of humanity. As biological evolution teaches us, diversity is the key to successful adaptation to change. The human condition can learn from nature and value difference to build resilient and sustainable futures. We cannot predict the future, but the a new science of heritage can reinforce cultural security. Societies have always used their heritage to remain resilient and to express their cultural identities. Today, all the still-available experiences accrued by human societies over time and across space are, in principle, essential in coping with the twenty-first-century grand challenges of humanity (refer to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals). Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning algorithms can assist the next generation of historians, heritage stakeholders and decision-makers in 1) decoding unstructured knowledge and wisdom embedded in selected cultural artefacts and social rituals; 2) encoding data in machine-readable systems; 3) aggregating information according to the user’s needs in real-time; and, 4) simulating the consequences of either erasing, neglecting, putting in latency or preserving and sharing specific human experiences. What our global society needs is a multilingual and transcultural approach to decode-encode the treasure of human experience and transmit it to the next generation of world citizens. This approach can be the pathway to work on a new science of heritage, its ethics and empathy.


Nanetti, A. (Oct 2019). The Third Paradise at NTU Singapore, in Michelangelo Pistoletto, Between Obverse and Reverse, [Catalogue of the Exhibition, Partners and Mucciaccia, Singapore, 19 Jan – 27 July 2019]. Rome: Carlo Cambi Editore, pp. 70-74.

Nanetti, A. (Feb 2021). Defining Heritage Science. A Consilience Pathway to Treasuring the Complexity of Inheritable Human Experience through Historical Method, AI and ML, in «Complexity», vol. 2021, special issue on Tales of Two Societies: On the Complexity of the Coevolution between the Physical Space and the Cyber Space, edited by Chen S.-H. (Lead Editor), S. Alfarano and D. Shen (Guest Editors), Article ID 4703820.

Editor Assistant Research Fellow: Xianglin Gu

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