Tbilisi, 1 December 2018
Tommaso, a board member of the Institute of Italian culture (NGO), has invited Gabriele and Mattia (Italian volunteers of the Erasmus+ programme) to join him to spend a few hours of leisure time in the area of Liberty square, in Tbilisi. The purpose of the meeting was to confirm the lease at their current location at Ketevan Kuchuloria’s place (a professional working at Tbilisi’s city hall) and to facilitate their acquaintance with Niko Availishvili and Fore Availishvili (nicknames for Nikoloz and Cristophore) sons of Irakli Availishvili, remarkable Georgian theoretical physicist and painter (his paintings have a dreamlike and visionary character, and Irakli is distinguished for a remarkable talent for colors).
Because Tommaso did not eat, since all the day, until 30 minutes before the meeting with Gabriele and Mattia, he headed to a Machakela restaurant in the middle of Leselidze street, to wait there Mattia and Gabriele while at the same time satiating hunger.
He ordered as usual (as a quite habitual orderly of that place) a “big” or “didi” “lobiani” (a flat bread with beans cream) and then he switched-on his laptop to find some documentation about the integration of “Quasar” (a Vuesj framework) and Laravel (a PHP framework).
He was scared from a documentation promising to “get started in under a minute” and then he searched on the Internet something more plausible. He found the right documentation soon and he understood the way to do such integration (in about 2 minutes, while much more time would have been required to actually implement it).
Then, after a wait of about 20 minutes (which he spent mainly to explore further the astonishing Quasar’s components) his meal arrived. At the same time arrived Mattia and Gabriele as well.
They informed Tommaso that they had been there (at the same restaurant) during the lunch as well, and that they were not hungry, due to the plentiful lunch according to their standards.
Tommaso then started eating his “lobiani” alone and then he was hearing the conversation between Mattia and Gabriele (because at a first time he was so focused on eating that he was not able to speak almost at all).
Such conversation was focusing on the lunch they recently had in the afternoon, and in the dish they took (a big pastry “boat” with eggs and cheese in the middle) and then on the recent cleaning of their flat, carried out aided by the flat’s owner.
Tommaso noted that flat was already perfectly clean (and he thought to the advisability of deploying energies for the benefit of more disadvantaged situations) and Mattia and Gabriele in turn replied that their effort was indeed aimed to keep the place inhabited by them in such “perfect” or “almost-perfect” conditions.
Then the conversation switched on something more significant. The conversation switched to “synthetic biology”, a field that Tommaso had explored during the summer 2017 (approximately), and the conversation switched in this direction after a mention to vegetarianism (which is among the principles of the organization, the Institute of Italian culture).
He before had said that, most of the time, he does not deliberately choose meals containing animal products (like eggs and cheese) while he eats them when they are offered to him.
By contrast, he does not eat meat at all and refuses it even when it is offered to him.
He said that any living being, and he mentioned his conception of his cat, is a kind of presence (presence, for instance, towards which one can address himself, and to relate with in a non-self referential way) which radically distinguishes them from dead things (like objects, machines).
Then he said that in his opinion, computer science is the art of making appear alive, dead things, and he added that (in the realm of software) it is all a matter of creating the illusion that something has intelligence, so that you can interact up to a certain degree with it, while the intelligence eventually expressed by the software lacks absolutely of consciousness.
Then the conversation indeed switched to artificial intelligence and all participants of the conversation, Mattia, Gabriele and Tommaso, all together said that indeed AI researches arrived at a dead point, and that the expectations that people had at the early days of computers and computer science, have been disappointed, and that in some way it is necessary to rethink the problem from its foundation.
Gabriele here (after having expressed in a more detailed way the limits of “big data” and “deep learning”) made a brilliant observation, he said that we could, eventually, have “flying machines” (which the participants of the conversation mentioned as an example of something foreseen by the early expectations, and then disappointed) and we could as well observe the effects of a different scientific and technological progress, but such effects are refrained by the current economic system and by the structure of the market.
This passage should be integrated by statements made directly by Gabriele, and could have the form a of a little interview, and in turn Tommaso headed his mind to an article about the promises in turn disappointed by capitalistic systems and by contrast the inequality created by them.
After that, Tommaso noted that since few years now, we are finding out that the nature underlying living beings is much more complex than we thought and probably it works according to quantum dynamics, like photosynthesis of plants, bird orientation during migration, and even human consciousness.
He said that indeed, as postulated by somebody else, consciousness might be a quantum entanglement phenomenon among brain cells creating like “a kind of ubiquity of the system”, a kind of coexistence in some other entity (actually the “mind”) of the material substrate which constitute it, indeed of such non-deterministic nature.
Along the conversation – of which, because a transcript does not exist, is difficult to reproduce the plot — Mattia did in turn a brilliant observation, telling that indeed Soviet regimes were mainly exporting systems of thought, even propaganda, and ideologies, while capitalistic systems just exported products (that is the effects of their achievements) in such a way that that did not appear something worthy of being achieved by the citizens of the former Soviet Union – I would say, distinguished by a strong humanistic connotation: so that their preference went to even corrupted and questionable governments and powers which nonetheless distanced themselves from such systems.
Still in a way which is hard to subsume in a plot, Tommaso brought the conversation in direction of the problem of technology, central to his thinking (as well as to Istituto cultura italiana, NGO, as it was conceived from the beginning).
He said that somebody proposed to classify our species as “homo technicus” in addition than “homo sapiens”, due to the deep relationship which ties us to the realm of technology, which indeed distinguishes us from the animals.
Tommaso, in some preceding phase of the conversation, also mentioned James M. Tour (he did not remembered the first name of the scientist at that time) as someone who revolutionized biology not only because his work on synthetic chemistry (see for instance his “nanocars”, which Tommaso mentioned during the conversation, in order to explain that organic mechanisms are enormously more sophisticated than artificial mechanisms in the software or hardware realm) but also because his conferences and his work aimed to refute the evolutionary theories (actually Darwinism is nowadays one of the pillars of our thinking) as something without foundation: actually abiogenesis has not arguments to scientifically demonstrate the formation of proteins and even simple living forms.
Tommaso said that Tour is, also, a Jewish believing in creationism, but this does not interfere with his scientific value and with the scientific value of his work: of course there is a relationship between such believing and his achievements as a scientist, but one ambit is not determined by the other one.
There were also other observations and statements made by Tommaso. He said that his maximum aspiration is for knowledge, and nonetheless he continuously experiences the limits of his knowledge and intelligence.
He said that such limits will be with all probability overcame in the future, and while today, through the Internet, we are exchanging information each other and we are virtually connected each other, in the future such kind of connection will be real (not symbolic or virtual) and that we will be able, probably, to share our own intelligence, and to solve problems and to think relying on the intelligence of somebody else, and, probably on a “multitude” of intelligences, hundreds or thousands or dozens of thousands of them in such a way that our perception will change drastically.
Then Tommaso said that, being our nature such (as “homo technicus”) we cannot escape such a path, and nonetheless along such path (probably) will will dissolve ourselves, together, probably, with all that we currently do know.
Indeed, if we will exhaust the nature’s secrets, what will remain then ?
Mattia also made a quantity of observations and argumentation which I do not remember completely as for now, or I remember them hardly, and by my personal point of view I cannot “subsume” easily in the conversation, but this will be eventually the task of which Mattia will appoint himself.
Then, Tommaso woke up to pay for the bill (less than 6 GEL, because Mattia and Gabriele did not eat at all, and Tommaso did not took nothing else except the meal above mentioned) and after a bit the group of the three went outside of the local.
Outside the restaurant the intellectual atmosphere was not much different, Tommaso was saying that actually all sociological and even economical problems can be reduced and traced back to the “problem of technology” and specifically to the relationship which each human being has towards technology.
If we do change such relationship, then the world can be changed. If we do not change or interfere with it (mainly because it falls down outside our mentality’s apparatus) then nothing will change except as the effect of a long and unpredictable historical progress.
Then Tommaso said that the current technological progress (by which a lot of “real” things will be transformed in “virtual” things and we will get accustomed with them) will facilitate the achievement of societies entirely based on knowledge (rather than upon objects) while money represent the violence, inflicted or suffered, of traditional societies, and specifically the mad desire of people of acquiring goods (like cars, phones, and so on) of which they have not knowledge and comprehensions.
Incidentally — Gabriele, Mattia and Tommaso were are that time walking down Leselidze st. — Tommaso said that when this happens, that is when somebody obtains a good which is outside his comprehensions and understanding, then he invariably makes a bad use of it (like a bad use of cars, and so on), while switching to the other kind of logic (one can only use the products and the results of his own work and understanding) we even stop to talk about “tools”, products and perhaps even about “goods”, and everything changes in a radical way.
Insurmountable sociological and economic problems can eventually be solved because the entities [like finance, economy, market and so on] dominating the world (produced by the collective ignorance of people) eventually will lack of their necessary conditions of existence, and they will not find a complementary mentality or collective behavior on which to lay hold.
Thereby the conversation incidentally went to the enormous body of laws of the American law system, of which nobody can have a comprehensive understanding and for this reason cannot be governed, as well as to the computer’s operating systems, which are another example of systems equally large escaping the understanding of whatever individual human being.
Another example is of course the financial system, but then the conversation was interrupted as they arrived to the place that Tommaso had planned to show to Gabriele and Mattia, a little pub, in European style, between the square at the bottom of Leselidze st. (right before Metekhi bridge) and the Sulfur baths. (It should also be said that the conversation was hinc et hilluc problematic, that is non-resolutive and not exempt from aporia, as understandable.)
Actually, they did not linger at the place, inside there was not place for sitting (while the atmosphere was relatively healthy and pleasant) and at the same time they were in connection with Tinatin Bachtadze-Ramishvili, with whom Tommaso had some short calls when they were at the restaurant and Tina was at the theatre.
Mattia, Gabriele and Tommaso met then Tina near the Sioni church right below Leselidze st. (also called Kote Afkhazi st.) and she immediately reproached Tommaso the following 2 things. First, the poor communication with her while she was at the theatre and was (supposedly) waiting for the three: but on this point Tommaso deliberately did not give a feedback to the “contextual” invitation of Tina, because he warned her to inform them in advance in written form “few days” before the occurrence of any spectacle or “event”, rather than against an information “last minute” or indeed almost contextual to the event.
Regarding the 2nd point she reproached Tommaso to not having followed up the language lessons that he had committed to do with Alla Kukhiandze, an old milady Tina’s friend and in turn English teacher, during her school age.
Tommaso, on the matter, just said to the 2 Italian EVS volunteers, that, also because they were not doing lessons with Alla (while this was the initial planning) he decided to take lessons of Russian for himself, while he had not the time to respect such a program during the week now ending.
Then, they decided where to go (because they did not have a fixed plan for the evening outside that stated at the beginning of this short tale) or rather Tommaso asked Tina where she was directed.
Tina proposed to visit the “Movement theatre”, so Mattia, Gabriele and Tommaso followed her along the road heading to Europe square, where it was supposed that they would have found a bus directed at that place.
Now, I have also to add that the intention specifically of Tommaso was not to hang out from one place to another of the city (in a time when one is supposed or even encouraged to do so) but just to facilitate the acquaintance of Mattia and Gabriele with Irakli’s sons, and at this purpose, while they were sitting at the restaurant, Tommaso asked Mattia to directly call Niko (one of the Irakli’s son who is not able to speak English, in such a way that an exchange among them would be, possibly, profitable for all) but Mattia declined to obey to the request.
Then, for a while, they experienced a void, indeed, of their schedule which was brilliantly filled by Tina (invariably).
They were therefore heading to Europe square, above which stands, if I’m not mistaken, the residence of Darejan, painted by Irakli in a remarkable and astonishing way, immersed in a surreal atmosphere full of dream and vision.
As mentioned, they were directed to “Movement theatre”, of which Tommaso (as well as Mattia and Gabriele) did not have experience, except, about one year since then, the aerobatics performed by a young and extremely agile woman, in the occurrence to jump (in the wake of a unitary movement, a kind of somersault) over the barrier along the closed entrance.
When they had arrived to Europe square, a 2 minutes walking from Sioni’s church, passing by the non-edifying spectacle of the multitude of cafes and disco-bar at Shardeni’s, Tommaso proposed Tina to rather stop a taxi and asked to her whether she would have been able to negotiate a good price.
The taxi-driver agreed for a ridiculous amount of money (now, Tommaso did not have this thought at the time, however it is within his precise mindset, and ideas system, to not endow such a work which he judges harmful to the city, and as such to be repressed as much as possible) and they arrived in few minutes in the area near the Movement theatre, passing by a sumptuous and brilliant construction, perhaps a restaurant, a casino, or some other place for tendentially luxury gatherings.
Tommaso paid the taxi driver 50 tetri (about 1/6 of 1 euro) more than the amount agreed by Tina and then Tina, Mattia, Grabiale and Tommaso headed to the entrance of the Movement theatre, while the taxi driver inverted the direction of his car after having quickly counted the money received.
After a few dozens metro walk, they arrived to the property of the Movement theatre, this time the little metallic door of the barrier was opened and they entered therein.
It appeared to be a structure intended for summer spectacles; there is a large garden, an external stage and a set of benches arranged, still in the garden, in front of the stage in a single large row. Besides the entrance there was anther construction, closed at that time, perhaps intended as a cafè. On the other side, behind the stage, along the direction towards which Mattia, Gabriele, followed by Tommaso (little skeptical about the whole raid), were walking headed by Tina, there was another construction besides which Tina affirmed the possibility to build something.
Then, after that they took another look at the construction intended as cafè, closed at the moment, near the entrance, they exited the place and Tommaso suggested to visit the cafè besides Tumanishvili theatre (a place that he had in mind from the beginning) but Tina on the contrary headed the group in direction of the sumptuous and brilliant building, well lit (by contrast to the Movement theatre) right behind it, that they had flanked shortly before from the taxi.
I think the entire group (of Mattia, Gabriele and Tommaso, and partially Tina herself) hesitated to enter the place, because the visit was unplanned, and because specifically Mattia, Gabriele and Tommaso did not have the desire to visit again a restaurant, but Tina insisted, and invited all of them to sit around a table in the main hall of the building (for a while they beat around the bush and they explored the external space of it) to take eventually a coffee or a glass of wine.
Here started another “session” of the evening regarding which I have not much memory.
The place was actually sumptuous and Tommaso, after having took an eye to the menu, said “Look, we are in a place with meals priced 400 GEL, just be careful”. The wine was not a lot, probably 1/2 liter for 4 people, perhaps 3/4 of a liter, but not more. There was a singer, right behind their table (which as mentioned was at the center of the hall) and other long tables richly laundered, surrounded by men tendentially well dressed and wealthy. Also the waiters were like so, nay, they were like a pool of attendant of the place, like a complementary audience of the large restaurant, to that represented by the customers. Indeed, I was not able to refrain my observation to such pool of waivers, both men and women, with different roles, and I did not follow a lot the conversation.
As in the Georgian style, the toasts were preceded by a little speech, or wish.
Tina toasted for “absent people”, and when it was asked to Tommaso to tell a speech or a wish for something, he then toasted for “equality among living beings”, in a kind of sequel to the previous conversation had with Mattia and Gabriele, and before to having met Tina. He had to repeat “among living beings” several times to his audience and specifically to Tina to be sure that this part of the message was understood.
Tina generously paid the bill and lingered in one toast after another, in the Georgian style, but with a reasonable amount of wine (as said, no more than 3/4 of a liter for 4 people, of which Tommaso took no more than the half of a glass).
The conversation went from one topic to another and as said I did not followed it precisely.
In a moment the group was talking about a possible visit to Batumi (Kutaisi was also mentioned). In another moment the group was talking about poems. Tina recited a poem in French and then in English. Tommaso said (I don’t remember following what premises) that right that morning he was thinking that the best Italian poem even written was probably “Alla sera” by Ugo Foscolo, and he was thinking to the precise concatenation of words (for instance “le secrete / vie del mio cor soavemente tieni”) which makes it wonderful.
Then he mentioned Palazzeschi, and he was thinking, notwithstanding without mentioning it, to the poem “L’incendiario”, and another connection formed in his mind with the song of Georges Brassens, “Le gorille”.
Tommaso, still around the theme of “poetry”, also thought to a page related to the wordpress developing group (“wordpress” is a platform for publishing webpages on the Internet) in which he read “code is poetry”, but hid did not express such thoughts. — This was due, probably, to the fact that the music produced by the singer was of volume so high that it was difficult to understand and to be understood — except that you know in advance the conclusion of the discourse, but in this case it has not much sense talking.
However, as in the Georgian style, the music was interspersed by several minutes of silence, so actually it was possible to talk, and furthermore the music (only “live”) stopped completely after a certain time, probably after 0.30.
Other elements related to the time spent at Georgian House restaurant were the following.
Tommaso lingered a lot both on the menu, which was a consistent book written in 3 languages with an impressive variety of dishes, and on the table’s paper, arranged below the dish of each person, containing other information including information regarding Georgian dances performed in the restaurant itself.
The menu is decorated with colored drawings in a refined way, and the table’s paper makes his debut, in the central column, with an uncertain and incorrect English, on which Tommaso drew the attention of Mattia. — However, not to jeer that fact, but rather to questioning the reason of such carelessness, not very clear in his opinion.
Another element to note is that Tommaso, after a while being in that place, realized that that was the restaurant where Caritas Georgia organized a dinner to celebrate some anniversary a few months ago.
He had this information from Giuseppe Pellizzari, a Salesian priest, but until then Tommaso misunderstood, in his mind, the actual venue of the anniversary, and only then he was able to correct the accuracy of the information in his possession.
Giuseppe, indeed, told him that the anniversary would have taken place (or, “took place”) “in the best restaurant of the city”, along the river Mt’k’vari, but in that occasion Tommaso imagined another venue, with identical or almost identical name, located in another part of the city (in the area of Kolmeurneoba) which actually does not distinguish itself in a particular way and left him doubtful.
But now, they were clearly “in the best restaurant of the city”, and its name and location, and the advice itself, matched much better than the idea which he had in mind until now, with the information originally received from don Giuseppe.
Tommaso tried to express some of this reasoning (which had just the aspect of a punctual evidence in his mind) to Mattia, Mattia roughly understood, but the fact was actually impossible to express in that moment.
The fact was such correction of the knowledge of a person, on the basis of a new evidence: a process, which is as much surprising for the person retaining the error, as the time elapsed in such situation mistake and ignorance.
Such repentance was indeed impossible to transmit to Mattia in that occasion, even if he perhaps understood something in a kind of asymmetry in the conversation, which left the interlocutors with different feelings.
Another element related to the time spent in that place, was the presence of several tv screens hung on various sides of the spaces.
Because a tv is made in such a way that the attention is artificially (and dangerously) caught by it, over the “discrete imagination, retina, of reality”, Tommaso directed his gaze in that direction for a non negligible amount of time.
Then he realized that the subject of those screenings, were spectacles or “events” took place in the restaurant itself, or advertising of it.
This, which is not something rare in Georgia (being a little country, you can easily find self-referential representations of the daily life, which are in some way genuine compared to contents imposed by some external source) made those screenings more acceptable to Tommaso, or at least not totally unacceptable, as it would surely have been, in his opinion, in the other case.
In a sense, put aside for a moment the intrinsic dangerousness of the screen, the fact the once put in a screen, things and persons are transformed in simulacra and fetishes, which upset human perception and experience — in a sense the fact of being surrounded by images and representations of yourself, your space, your neighbors and surroundings, is theoretically healthy (however, not by a practical point of view when you take into account human nature).
I’m not sure if the experience and the feeling of Tommaso in that place, which I have described until now, is also representative of the feelings of Mattia, Gabriele and Tina.
As it should appear obvious, it was an experience and a feeling rather interior than exterior, partly due to the objective characteristics of that place (the music, the tv screens, the environment in general overwhelming), partly due to some subjective parameter (tiredness, dislike and intolerance towards wine, and so on).
It is possible that such subjective conditions were not present in Mattia, Gabriele and Tina as well, and it is also possible that the way of reacting to the external environment was completely different for them.
I think that especially Tina liked the situation, and I think that Tommaso, Mattia and Gabriele would have liked the situation in a similar way if they had recent experiences (specifically the fact to not having visited another similar place a few hours before) of Tina.
But I also think that the experience of Tommaso was, overall, also not comparable to that of Mattia and Gabriele, as well as to that of Tina.
I think that a proof of this observation can be found in the way as they greeted and separated each other, after about 30 minutes exiting that sumptuous venue.