Tag: Italy

Since its launch in November 2022, numerous authorities have raised concerns about the risks posed by OpenAI’s ChatGPT technology. In March, Italy’s Data Protection Agency took the extraordinary step of banning ChatGPT within the country over concerns about consent and personal data privacy.

Ironically, this one-month ban may have provided the strongest evidence to date of the technology’s transformative impact on business and the economy.

Capitalizing on this rare natural experiment opportunity, researchers at Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis and the National University of Singapore examined changes in the relative stock market valuation of Italian firms across multiple industries during the one-month ban to assess the ban’s consequences and generative AI’s overall value.

Their findings—published in a working paper, “Capital Market Consequences of Generative AI: Early Evidence from the Ban of ChatGPT in Italy”—show the ban’s impact was twofold: Not only did the ban negatively impact firm productivity, it also impacted investor behavior.

“Not since the introduction of the internet has a technology so quickly transformed how businesses operate and compete. What’s remarkable is that it’s easy and cheap to adopt, helping small, underdog businesses compete with much larger firms without making heavy investments in infrastructure or human capital,” said Jeremy Bertomeu, an associate professor of accounting at Olin Business School.

Measuring ban’s impact on businesses

Across the globe, businesses have leveraged AI generative technology to optimize processes that previously required significant labor and infrastructure support. Not surprisingly, the researchers found early adopters — including firms that provide professional, scientific and technological services — were hardest hit by Italy’s temporary ban.

According to the data, Italian firms in these high-exposure industries experienced an average negative return of 8.7% compared with similar European stocks during the monthlong ban.

They also found evidence that the ban had a greater impact on newer and small Italian businesses. Compared with larger, more established Italian businesses, these firms underperformed by 6.8-7.1%, respectively. 

“The negative market reaction indicates that new, small and tech-savvy businesses benefit the most from generative AI because it allows them to reduce the information advantages held by larger incumbent firms and narrow the competitive gap.”

How the ban impacted investors, businesses’ bottom line

Because the goal of the research was to understand the capital market consequences of the ban, it was also important to assess how the ban influenced investor behavior.

“ChatGPT transforms the investment landscape by providing investors, especially small investors, with a conversational and interactive platform to gather insights and navigate the complexities of the financial market,” Bertomeu said.

The research showed that the loss of this investment tool led to an increase in information asymmetry during the ban. The effect was greatest for firms with fewer institutional investors, limited analyst coverage and a lower presence of foreign investors — which would still have access to AI technology during Italy’s ban.

As a result of this information asymmetry, bid-ask spreads — the difference between the highest price a buyer will offer and the lowest price a seller will accept — widened during the ban and firms suffered decreased liquidity.  

“In the EU, it is unlikely that other countries will follow suit with a ban, but regulators in France, Germany, Spain, among others, met to discuss whether AI complies with EU privacy laws, and this could lead to future restrictions on the technology,” Bertomeu said.

A cautionary tale

In the short time since its launch, generative AI technology like ChatGPT has revolutionized businesses worldwide, providing a powerful tool for innovation and creation. Its influence on businesses worldwide will only continue to grow. 

‘Regulatory policy should always be based on careful cost-benefit analyses and public input. Our data demonstrate what can go wrong when regulators skip these fundamental steps.’

Jeremy Bertomeu

Yet, simultaneously, governments worldwide are grappling with potential security threats and ethical concerns related to technology. Bertomeu hopes the early evidence presented in this case study will offer a cautionary example of the potential consequences of regulating AI.

“No one asked the Italian regulatory agency to ban ChatGPT, but they did it anyway without any consultation of affected parties or elected officials,” Bertomeu said. “Regulatory policy should always be based on careful cost-benefit analyses and public input. Our data demonstrate what can go wrong when regulators skip these fundamental steps.”

Bertomeu’s co-authors include Yibin Liu, Yupeng Lin and Zhenghui Ni, all from the National University of Singapore.

During mid-April, I decided to take a trip by myself to Naples and the Amalfi Coast, in Italy. I had been inspired simply by pictures of the region I had seen before, and wanted to see for myself the ruins of Pompeii and the waters of the Amalfi Coast. Not to mention, I had figured that Neapolitan pizza would be incredible, since pizza was invented in Naples.

My first day was spent in the Pompeii and Vesuvius regions. I began by taking the Circumvesuviana train (which, as the name suggests, is a train line that travels around Mount Vesuvius and the local region) to Pompeii, where I joined a group tour of the ruins. Our tour guide led us through the city’s winding cobblestone roads to see miraculously preserved ruins of villas, bathhouses, and even ancient fast food restaurants. The highlighted exhibits of the preserved casts of people who perished from the fallout of the fabled Vesuvius eruption were just as haunting as I imagined they would be.

Zhou Ruins of Pompeii

Ruins of Pompeii

The city was dwarfed by the massive Mount Vesuvius and that’s where I went after the Pompeii tour. Luckily, I was able to ride a bus up to the top of the crater, where I could see into the volcano. Unluckily, the ride was the bumpiest I have ever been on in my life, and multiple bruises were acquired. Despite that, the view at the top was breathtaking. I could see the ruins of Pompeii, just a small patch of brown in the valley below the mountain, surrounded by the modern city of Sorrento. On the other side, the vast expanse of Naples stretched all the way to the end of the coastline. Interestingly enough, the crater itself was actually steaming, as Vesuvius is still active.

Zhu View from Vesuvius Crater

View from Vesuvius crater

My second day was the highlight of my trip, and the main reason why I went on my trip. I began by taking a train from Naples to Salerno, which was just under two hours away. From there, I took a ferry to Amalfi, the namesake of the Amalfi Coast, getting a great view of the coastal towns along the way. From there, I transferred to a bus that took me on a long, winding climb to a village that clung to the top of a coastal mountain, to begin my hike on the famous Sentiero Degli Dei – The Path of the Gods.

This six-mile mountain trail along the Amalfi Coast provides the best views one can get, 3,000 feet above the beautiful blue sea below with a sharp descent to the coastal town of Positano at the end. Along the way, I passed by both ancient dwellings, from houses carved into the rock faces of cliffs to old stone huts, and modern ones, generally small vineyards.

It’s a mystery how some of the current inhabitants survive, as there are no roads and most of the time the only way down is a drop off a cliff. All food and supplies need to be brought up by horse (and don’t picture some big wagon either, as the trail is only barely wide enough for one horse with saddlebags).

The hike took a total of about four hours, as the trail was very rocky and had many steep descents and ascents. The most tiring part though, was the sharp drop at the end, a near-vertical descent of about 2,000 feet worth of stairs. The sight of a gelato shop near the entrance into Positano was, to say the least, quite a relief. And I was able to relax for an hour on the Positano beach before taking the ferry back to Salerno.

Overall, vicious sunburns aside, my hike on the Path of the Gods was the most beautiful hike I have ever been on. The Amalfi coastline is, I would say, an incomparable sight. I’m already itching to go again.

Zhu Positano

Tony Zhu is an Olin Junior studying Economics and Strategy and Finance. He is spending the semester in London with the London Internship Program.

Arriving in Milan on a cloudy day in January, I had many expectations. While taking a taxi from the airport to my new apartment, I looked out and saw grey stone buildings, sprayed with un-artistic graffiti. This was not the Italy I had been expecting— the one that was on magazine covers and in the movies.

Whether it is a classic pizza and pasta, or a unique veal dish, the standards of Italian food are so high that you're sure to enjoy it wherever you go.

Whether it is a classic pizza and pasta, or a unique veal dish, the standards of Italian food are so high that you’re sure to enjoy it wherever you go.

Culture shock was very real. Soon after realizing Milan was not a touristy city at all, I began to see how much I could learn from the experience. Fewer people speak English than I imagined. I quickly began to learn small phrases to order dinner in a restaurant or even get a haircut. Italian traditions and customs are certainly unique as well. Breakfast is a coffee and a pastry, not a fancy omelet with home fries and toast. And being “on time” simply does not exist.

The more I explored and learned about the place I was living, the more I began to enjoy it.

Not only have the sights been great, the food has, too. Eating at top-rated restaurants and family trattorias alike means tasting unique twists on different Italian foods.

I visited the Milan Duomo, a cathedral built over several hundred years, including a climb to the roof overlooking Milan.

I visited the Milan Duomo, a cathedral built over several hundred years, including a climb to the roof overlooking Milan.

Whether it is a classic pizza and pasta, or a unique veal dish, the standards of Italian food are so high that  you’re sure to enjoy it wherever you go.

Besides wandering Milan, I have also been able to travel to many cities across Europe.

The ease of getting from country to country via air or train in a cheap and reliable manner leaves no place off the table.

Thus far, I’ve visited Brussels, Prague, Turin, Barcelona, Spain, Amsterdam, Florence, and Venice, with many more to come in the remaining weeks.

The ability to sample these cultures for a few days is always an exciting experience, but it’s equally as great returning to Milan and enjoying the time in a city I can now call home.

Guest Blogger: Ross Fine is an Olin junior studying abroad in Milan, Italy. He is studying Accounting and Finance.

Above photo: Ross Fine visits da Vinci’s famous The Last Supper.

Greetings from Milan – Italy’s center of fashion and business! We are in the midst of Milan Fashion Week, which along with making public transportation a bit more lively, has provided me the opportunity to live and breathe fashion for a few days. From seeing buyers dining at the Armani cafe near Via Montenapoleone, to lurking outside fashion shows for a chance to get a glimpse at bloggers and fashion icons, fashion is all around. (more…)

And you thought you knew Parmesan.

Heading further north in our CHS Inc. sponsored agricultural immersion trip, the team’s next stop is the heart of Parma’s iconic cheese production region. Our team gathered at the Parmigiano-Reggiano packaging facility and donned our paper hairnets, overcoats, and plastic booties to enter the processing plant.

Guest blogger: Annicka Webster, MBA’15

DSC_0064The tour began in the most hallowed of places: the parmesan storage warehouse. Here, artisan-crafted wheels of parmesan (400,000 in total) are aged for 24-30 months to develop the right taste and consistency of one of Italy’s most well-known cheeses. Like many of the traditional products made in Italy, the production and quality assurance of protected designation of origin (PDO) products like Parmigiana-Reggiano is overseen by a consortium. The consortium is responsible for protecting the designation of origin and preserves the cheese’s authenticity and rich history of production by guaranteeing the process followed by the area’s independent producers.


DSC_0045Local cheese-makers prepare the cheese in 40kg wheels that are inspected by the consortium and marked with the inscription “Parmigiano-Reggiano” around the rind. Each wheel is also stamped with the month of preparation, the number identifying the workshop where the cheese was produced, and the consortium’s official seal (pictured at right). Then the deliciously crafted masterpieces are collected for aging.

How can you tell that the cheese is ready? With a hammer!

Parmesan cheeseWhen the cheese has aged for over 2 years, experts check each wheel with a small hammer, training their connoisseurs’ ears on the sound and reverberations of the cheese. Our hosts showed us the inside of a wheel of cheese and discussed the different textures and uses for the various parts: cheese on the outside of the wheel is harder and better suited for grated products. Cheese in the middle is higher-quality and better used for cheese wedges like those found in your local grocery, or in my opinion, best used for immediate consumption. One of the many highlights of the visit was the moment when our hosts pulled a wheel down and split it open just for us to taste.

DSC_0094When the cheese is ready and its quality has been assessed, it enters the packaging facility where it is cleaned, carved, weighed, and packaged. There is very little waste in this facility because the entire wheel can be used. Pieces that are rejected by quality assurance for improper sizing or breakage are sent to the grating room where they can be finely grated into the table parmesan that can be found in virtually every restaurant, and especially pizza parlor, in Italy.

We saw multiple packaging lines and various products being prepared from deli-style cheese wedges, to individual snack packs, to grated cheese blends. The most notable part of the factory was the emphasis on quality assurance. Each step of the process was overseen by an employee and double- or triple- checked by computer. In a matter of minutes, a wheel of cheese was sliced, diced, measured, measured again, wrapped, counted, and packaged.

From the director of the facility to the production line workers, you can see the pride for their product in the faces of every Parmigiano-Reggiano employee. They are fiercely proud of their cheese and its authentic origins. “No green bottles here.” Only delicious artisanal creations.

Having had some time to reflect back on the trip I have begun to realize what an amazing experience CHS Inc. provided the students here at Olin. The time we spent in the Parmigiano-Reggiano factory was an experience like no other. Tasting fresh parmesan from a wheel straight from the factory was something I will never forget and I am thankful that CHS Inc. was able to provide us this experience. From marketing to operations the opportunities available for students in the agricultural industry abound and I hope these trips help people learn of the amazing opportunities available in the agricultural sector.