Luciano Floridi (University of Oxford): What is the Human Project for our Information Societies?

Thu, Oct 5, 2017,
4:30 pm to 6:00 pm

Today, in many advanced information societies, asking whether one is online or offline has become meaningless. Imagine being asked whether you are online by someone who is talking to you through your smart phone, which is linked up to your car sound system through Bluetooth, while you are driving following the instructions of a GPS, which is also downloading information about traffic in real-time. The truth is that we are neither online nor offline but onlife, that is, we increasingly live in that special space that is both analog and digital, both online and offline. An analogy may help. Imagine someone asking whether the water is sweet or salty in the estuary where the river meets the sea. That someone has not understood the special nature of the place. Our information society is that place. And our technologies are perfectly evolved to take advantage of it, like mangroves growing in brackish water. In the mangrove society, all relevant (and sometimes the only) data available are machine-readable, and decisions as well as actions may be taken automatically, through sensors, actuators, and applications that can execute commands and output the corresponding procedures, from alerting or scanning a patient, to buying or selling some bonds. The consequences of such radical transformation are many, but one is particularly significant and rich in consequences: what is the human project we should pursue in designing the mangrove society? This is the question I shall discuss in the talk, in view of exploring a possible answer.

Luciano Floridi is the OII’s Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information. In Oxford, he is also Fellow of St Cross College; Distinguished Research Fellow of the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics; Research Associate and Fellow in Information Policy at the Department of Computer Science; and Member of the Faculty of Philosophy. Outside Oxford, he is Adjunct Professor (“Distinguished Scholar in Residence”) of the Department of Economics, American University, Washington D.C.

Before joining the OII, Floridi was UNESCO Chair in Information and Computer Ethics and Research Chair in Philosophy of Information at the University of Hertfordshire; Associate Professor of Logic and Philosophy of Science at the Università degli Studi di Bari; Markle Foundation Senior Research Fellow in Information Policy, Programme in Comparative Media Law and Policy, University of Oxford; Francis Yates Fellow of the Warburg Institute, University of London; Junior Research Fellow and then Research Fellow of Wolfson College, University of Oxford; and Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Warwick.

301 Marx Hall