The work (more)

La Barbariga Study Centre

Filled with enthusiasm from the scientific developments of the time and wishing to do his bit, in the fifties, the Italian industrialist Angelo Dalle Molle, together with several collaborators, launched a vast program of economic studies. Won over by the radically innovative nature of the initiative, leading figures from science and the economy offered to lend a hand. The work escalated very quickly and the La Barbariga Study Centre (Centro studi della Barbariga) was born near Venice.

In the beginning the Centre devoted itself to researching how to move beyond production methods which removed responsibility from workers and rendered their minds uncreative. In this criticism of the overgrowth of institutions and companies, Dalle Molle pointed the finger at the dissipation of information along the production line, the multiplication of primary roles and ultimately, at the inability of the system to harness individual potential.

In its research, the Centre always endeavours to incorporate the theoretician's approach with that of the engineer and to translate its projects into scaled working models of reality. He therefore constructed a neotraditional electric car factory in which the principle of stimulating human qualities was implemented. The basic idea of the social market economy will work in all of the Centre's subsequent research.

The thinking quickly widened and the movement became more philosophical to ultimately, in the seventies, result in no individual potential should be left unexploited! For at this time the negative impact of the mass men phenomenon, due to gigantism, did not stop on exiting the factory but exploded throughout consumption, in the anonymity of the urban habitat, in the paralysis of urban circulation and within universities etc.

Ferruccio Bolla and Switzerland

From the standpoint of a new humanism to be invented and within the framework of the scientific and technological revolution, the La Barbariga group intensified its in information technology and artificial intelligence (AI) around the seventies. It seemed clear then that AI was going to be able to provide powerful and flexible tools for reorganising life in a more humane sense. The basic idea of the social market economy will continue to underlie all of the Centre's subsequent research. Man becomes the alpha and omega of research, which as a result acquired renewed interdisciplinary impetus.

Thus, aware of the problems posed on an international level by communication difficulties, Angelo Dalle Molle wished to create an institute, as early as 1972, in which high level researchers would explore the possibilities of computer semantics. His plan: to improve communication through the creation of a common language for all and through the creation of computers capable of translating.

With its four official languages, Switzerland was extremely interested in this work. A Swiss member of the group, the Ticino politician Ferruccio Bolla, Council of States member, then invited the La Barbariga study centre to establish a specific institution to study this in-depth. The Dalle Molle Foundation was founded in 1971 in Lugano (Switzerland), tasked with conducting research into advanced information technology and artificial intelligence.

Creation of research institutes

It accomplished this mission by founding several institutes: ISSCO, Istituto Dalle Molle di Studi Semantici et Cognitivi, in 1972 (dealing with language), IDSIA, Istituto Dalle Molle di Studi sull’Intelligenza Artificiale, in 1987 (dealing with knowledge) and Idiap, Institut Dalle Molle d’intelligence artificielle perceptive, in 1991 (perceptual artificial intelligence).

These three institutes formed a consistent triad within the field of artificial intelligence and their works combined in the attempt to seek the most powerful processes to ensure the machine "understood". For the first institute, this involved understanding of natural language; for the second, understanding knowledge connections and finally, for the third, the understanding of perceptions. This concentration on the phenomenon of understanding brought the institutes closer together and united them into one organic whole thereby enabling synergy between them.

One final institute, MEDIPLANT, was founded in 1988 in Conthey in Valais (Switzerland). The latter devotes itself in particular to proposing cultures that comply with economic laws and ecological demands.

Other working fields

Other working fields for the Dalle Molle endeavour include research into solutions to solve certain major problems. Particular focus is given to relations between citizens and the institutions with research into various federal systems, including that of the Swiss Confederation, with the aim of veering towards an improvement to the life of every citizen as well as the way of life and consumption.

As regards this second issue, Dalle Molle tacked pollution within city centres. In La Barbariga, a non-polluting traffic model was built, based on electric cars and designed wholly as a group transportation system with individual driving. The subscribers, provided with a magnetic card, could so rent a car in various districts. By indicating at the time of the rent the place where the vehicle would be returned, a place of park was automatically reserved for it.

The two major plans for construction of the cars and their use for the non-polluting urban traffic system represent the most complete work done at La Barbariga, from theoretical studies through to the construction of life-sized working models.




The aim of the Dalle Molle Foundation for Quality of Life Contest is to promote innovative projects of general interest and of high scientific quality.

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