Computing, Digital and Citizen Science

Computing (or computational science) has always been a bit of a confusing term. Is it the science of computing, or is it science (whatsoever) with the help of computing (as in computational physics or mathematics). Of course we have got used to the terminology and use it as deemed fit for the argument.

It becomes however a bit more complicated if we start talking about Digital Science (or Digital Ethics, which I use also myself). Where computing can be seen as a reasonably well defined activity, this cannot be said anymore of Digital. Almost everything that has something to do with information, will relate to the digital world nowadays. So how would we define or describe Digital Science. Internet Science is likely an introspective part of it, as it studies part of the digital world (the Internet). But is seems that it is mostly used for doing science in a digitally enabled way. Like using AI or deep learning for understanding natural or social phenomena.

Now we see emerging the term Citizen Science, and in the white paper of the Socientize project ( ) this is described as: Continue reading

Digital Ethics – Michel Riguidel, Jacques Bus

DEF plans a debate on Digital Ethics in October of this year as a follow-up of the discussions at DEF 2015. This blog invites comments and critique and suggestions in preparation of that debate

The need to anticipate legislation and usages

Digital technologies have so modified human activity and digital usage evolves so quickly, it is essential to constantly update the rules of digital ethics and review deontology in many areas (trade, health, education …). Following the new opportunities and potentials, it is well possible to use or divert erroneously or act maliciously.

Digital Ethics touches on many hot issues, including respect for privacy and consequences of profiling, ethics of content, information collection and storing, right to be forgotten, cybercrime and terrorism, (mass) surveillance, freedom of expression, IoT and Big Data, robots and drones, digital artificial body implant or augmented reality in neurobiology, intellectual property, virtual currency, precaution, accountability, responsibility and intentionality, global and cultural differences of ethical norms. Continue reading

DEF 2015: The implications of the Code as Law

Ajit Jaokar was a speaker at the Digital Enlightenment forum 2015 (DEF2015). A blog of him focuses on a specific talk from DEF 2015: Legal questions in the digital world by TJ McIntyre – UCD and Digital rights Ireland. The event talks and presentations can be found HERE.

The discussion related to the loss of Utopian ideals on which the Internet has been founded – specifically in the legally murky world of ‘Code as law’ – which encapsulates legal enforcement in the form of Code. “Code as law” also creates a new (often reluctant) law enforcer in the form of ICT companies.  This issue is thus a key part of Internet Governance today. Ajit’s views on this talk can be found at the EIF News.

Established Societal Norms

I read the paper of the Information Accountability Foundation to which Malcolm Crompton referred in his blog below on Digital Ethics of 8 Feb. It is indeed a laudable initiative, but I am a bit worried that it is just another attempt of trying to establish control on our world, its values and compliance to it. And I am afraid the world is too complex to try and control its state.

It is a “classical” approach with as a point of departure: “Established Societal Norms”, but it fails to address two basic questions:

  1. Is there a universal ethics basis. This point is discussed also in the book of Floridi (see the blog below on Informational Ethics of 17 Feb). If the answer is positive, the basis lies certainly must deeper and is much smaller than what is called “established societal norms” in the paper, which are recognised as different in different cultures.
  2. How do “established societal norms” differ between cultures and how do they change over time (incl. under influence of contacts between different cultures). A direct result of accepting dependence on time (which is rather undeniable; just compare norms in western Europe in the middle ages and now), is that it is highly dangerous to try to implement them at any specific moment through static algorithms that could become the static “code” of the future.

Established societal norms Continue reading

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.

Continue reading