Ivan Petrella

I’m a visiting fellow at the Edmund J. Safra Center for Ethics and an affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, both at Harvard University. I also chair the City of Buenos Aires’ Committee for Ethics and AI. Previously, I was a joint residential fellow at the Center for Ethics and Berkman Klein, where I worked on of the most pressing issues of our time: the impact of technological disruption on our lives. Artificial intelligence, genetic editing, and biotechnology are going to change our way of living and thinking, our understanding of society and our relationship with nature, even our ethics, and humanity itself. We need to understand the directions technology is taking us to prepare for the challenges ahead.

I’ve always tried to take a broad view of the topics that I’m interested in—I prefer to look at the forest rather than the trees. Perhaps that’s why I decided to get a Ph.D. in Religion and Law from Harvard University despite being agnostic. There is no wider vision of humanity than that proposed, each in its own way, by the different religions of the world. I also have a BSFS in International Relations from Georgetown University.

I was a tenured professor at the University of Miami in Florida until I resigned to return to Argentina and get involved in politics. Since tenure is what academics work for, my professional colleagues and friends thought I had gone crazy. I knew, however, that I wanted to work for my country.

Politics is absolutely wonderful and infinitely frustrating at the same time. It’s wonderful because you are part of a collective project of transformation and because every change you bring forth, every person you help, comes with a feeling of satisfaction that’s hard to describe. It’s frustrating because making change is slow and difficult, often because of one’s own mistakes and faults, and other times because you come across people and groups who put up obstacles because they’re beneficiaries of the status quo.

My last political appointment was as Director of Argentina 2030, the President’s table for long-term strategic thinking at the Pink House (the equivalent of the U.S. White House). A dream job. I led government-wide discussions at the level of the President and cabinet on the future of food production, the future of employment, the rise of populism, the future of education, the impact of artificial intelligence, among other topics.

Before that, I was Secretary of Federal Integration and International Cooperation at the Ministry of Culture. There I focused on another issue I’m passionate about—democracy. I’m convinced that in an increasingly polarized world we need to put the idea of “democratic culture” at the center of our thinking and acting in politics. Democracy is not only a political system, it’s also a set of values and attitudes without which institutions just don’t work.

I love to teach, give talks, write. I give conferences on most of what has to with technology and our future (for example, the future of education, of work, of ethics, of politics), religions and their impact on our world and our lives, and how to strengthen democracy, improve politics and actually make change happen for the better. I’m the author of several books on philosophy, religion, and politics in both English and Spanish and I publish opinion pieces in the main Argentine newspapers.

You can contact me at ipetrella@yahoo.com or drop me a DM via Twitter at @ipetrella.