Information Ethics

Our lives and our fate is coming increasingly under the control, or at least the influence, of an increasing number of autonomous technical information systems. And at the same time our society reaches through technology development and in particular digitisation, levels of complexity that seem to undermine our democracy and moral rules.

Fighting the decaying of Being could be seen as the basic objective of ethics or the ultimate benchmark for any moral evaluation, and therefore also of “Informational Ethics. This is the approach of Luciano Floridi in his book The Ethics of Information (Oxford Univ Press, 2013). Floridi addresses two important aspects:

  1. Actors in the ethical space are not restricted to human agents and patients, but include all information entities. Hence also non-intelligent objects and creatures, autonomous (intelligent) technical systems, organisations or communities, etc.
  2. Can we develop a basic informational ontology for a global digital world. Can we come to a general theory of ethics that might form a practical basis for global policy development concerning the interaction between all these information entities, to the benefit of humanity.

A basic point in the ongoing discussions within DEF is the relation between humans and technology. Also Floridi argues strongly the necessity to develop a successful ecological relationship (“marriage”) between what he calls “Physis” and “Techne” and he suggests that philosophy and information ethics can help us here?

During DEF 2014, under influence of the discussions generated by the Snowden revelations about surveillance by the state, the concept of “A New Social Covenant or Contract” was proposed by Kim Cameron. Later the term “Magna Charta for the Internet” was launched by Tim Berners Lee in an interview with the BBC and presented also in Brussels on 18 Nov 2014.

I consider DEF as a means to facilitate and stimulate a process towards such “contract”. I.e. an agreement (that includes implicit social and moral rules as well as explicit technical and legal rules) between parties constituting a society in the digital world, which of course includes the role of Artificial Intelligence and Information Systems. Of course, all human agents cannot but sign a social contract when they come into existence in a society, but they can work on constantly renewing and improving it in successive generations.

DEF 2015 (25-26 Mar in Kilkenny, IRL) addresses these aspects, talking about the “The Citizen – Negotiating Life in the Digital World”.

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