Benedetto would arrive at our editorial office early in the morning, when the rooms are quiet and one can write in peace. He would talk quietly to the staff about how to organize the cultural pages, which are the first ones to close. Sometimes he’d stay here until late in the evening, writing a new article because one of the big bosses in Silicon Valley had just added another piece to the growing mosaic of artificial intelligence. Or simply because he’d had two or three meetings that day, which often happened when the deadline for the il manifesto cooperative’s budget was approaching.
Benedetto Vecchi was the president of our Board of Directors, both in name and in fact, through the difficult years of receivership, from 2013 until a few months ago.
Our organization owes a great deal to him. He was the mind and driving force behind the entire complex bureaucratic-administrative machine, which he led as if he had been born for the job (one which he learned to do better than anyone else, with undefeated patience).
Benedetto was a man of fine character and great culture, a companion and a friend, like a brother who is always there when something big is going on in the family—and in a collective like ours, that’s just the normal everyday course of events.
He came to il manifesto in the early 1980s, after the political season of 1977, as an expert in computer science. Reluctantly at first, he tried his hand at writing short articles on the complex topic of digital technology. Once he got started, he never stopped, constantly expanding his interests, becoming a well-educated person of inexhaustible intellectual curiosity, writing about Marxism, sociology, social movements, communication, the digital economy and platform capitalism. He became an analyst and critic of artificial intelligence, which is leading to the automation of cognitive tasks while creating structural unemployment for many thousands of workers.
He constantly talked about this topic, debated it and wrote about it, focusing on the encounter of these frontiers of technology with politics as the only antidote against limiting ourselves to being observers of the technological utopia brought on by machine learning.
A voracious reader and authoritative writer of articles and essays, Benedetto never stopped working—quite the contrary. Ever since he began suffering from ill health, he only took on more and more commitments. It’s enough to glance at his desk, full of books, to grasp the inexhaustible appetite for thought that distinguished him.
An unrivalled expert in his fields of interest, never patronizing even when he was discussing the most complex systems, he always had his feet firmly planted on the ground, in the concreteness of social problems, such as those facing our joint cooperative: practical issues which were crucial for the good functioning of the il manifesto organization.
Just a couple of weeks ago, before the Christmas holidays, Benedetto came over to Via Bargoni, where we have our offices. He was writing a couple of reviews, and he had just finished an essay for our Derive&Approdi section on the relationship between revolt and revolution.
As always when he came to the newsroom, before we said our goodbyes, we talked about the future of the newspaper, about the 50th anniversary of il manifesto to be organized next year—always looking toward the near future, despite every difficulty.
Everyone is saying nowadays that the greats are leaving us, but in Benedetto’s case this is perfectly accurate, because his reflections and his theoretical contributions can never be replaced. Nor will it be easy to come to terms with our daily problems without his wisdom and balance, coming from a kind man who never raised his voice—a quality that is never praised enough.
Dear Benedetto, we will miss you very much, but you know this already. You will be missed by your friends, your family, your sisters, and, above all, by the women in your life: Laura, your lifelong partner, and Marianna, your young daughter who has your eyes.
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