This is NOT Florence: Editor’s letter

This is NOT Florence: Editor’s letter

We explore the potential and discover the shortcomings of AI in our January issue.

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Wed 10 Jan 2024 2:01 PM

What are you thinking? Why would you start the year with an AI cover? Why mess with Florence’s natural beauty? Starting 2024 with an AI-generated cover might feel like we’re poking you in the eye with our January issue, but it seems necessary. It’s a new year and The Florentine is playing with fire before going on to douse the flames. Like any other company, we are doing our best to understand the opportunities provided by the newfangled technology (on page 4 we speak to Florence’s hoteliers about the benefits offered by AI for the hospitality industry) as well as discovering its many shortcomings. (See the AI-generated image of the absurdly fake Duomo with Uber cars parked out front on page 7.) 

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Issue 307 – This is not Florence

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Starting 2024 with an AI-generated cover might feel like we’re poking you in the eye, but it seems necessary. It’s a new year and The Florentine is playing with fire before going on to douse the flames.

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Artificial intelligence is a blessing and a curse, or croce e delizia, as the saying goes in Italian. While we are in many ways obliged to explore how AI can benefit our lives, in doing so we feed its future stranglehold over us. With innovation in mind and putting our fears aside, an AI-generated image (or, very rarely, a ChatGPT-originated text: see page 10) might occasionally appear on our pages and socials. When this happens, we promise that it will always be coupled with a clear explanation of provenance. Plus, another reassurance: The Florentine is such a quirky publication that no AI can currently imitate our eclectic chorus of human voices and creative verve. Please remember that our Instagram profile is powered by people and our content is compiled by a small staff of ever-faithful Florence lovers. 

The real reason why we have decided to begin the year with an AI-generated cover is to pose questions about the current state of Florence and its future. Dystopia or utopia? 2024 or 1296? Is crowding the natural evolution of a successful city? Where have the Florentines gone and how can we draw them back to the historic centre? As a responsible media outlet, to what extent could a magazine in English contribute to the over-internationalization of the city’s identity? These questions are all on my mind as real estate website Immobiliare.it Insights predicts that Florence will become the most expensive place to rent property in Italy this year and local headlines zoom in on vigilante gangs “policing” the Cascine as well as an attack in broad daylight on an elderly Florentine. Like many of you, I am concerned about the fragility of Florence’s urban fabric and the safety of residents and visitors. Based on our recent IG poll, our audience flagged perplexities about affordable housing, safety, the quality of tourism, green spaces and cleanliness. In 2024, considering the forthcoming change in administration this summer, we intend to delve deeper into these issues, which are of paramount importance for the future of Florence. Turn to page 8 for an analysis of the student housing dilemma. 

An old look at La Specola’s Skeleton Room

New year, same tradition. Our preview of the year ahead can be found on pages 5 to 7 as the much-missed La Specola natural science museum reopens in February, the University of Florence celebrates a centenary of education and Tuscany gears up for the Grand Départ of the Tour de France in June. With the exception of Pitti Uomo, the men’s fashion fair, January is thankfully a quieter month. It’s an ideal time to reflect on life choices, such as Veganuary, the UK-based movement encouraging a vegan lifestyle that has been embraced by a few of Florence’s restaurants and food businesses (see page 26), and personal enrichment through attending one of a trio of cultural salons (page 18). On the creative side, we chat with a violin-making duo (page 20), a couple of textile artists (page 22-23) and a debonair textile wholesaler who ended up on the Jimmy Fallon show

To paraphrase Max Ehrmann’s 1927 mantra in ‘Desiderata’, with all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams (and AI, we could add), it is still a beautiful world and Florence is still the most beautiful of cities. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

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