The information revolution has been changing the world profoundly and irreversibly for some time now, at a breath-taking pace, and with an unprecedented scope. It has made the creation, processing, management, and utilization of information vital issues, and brought enormous benefits as well as opportunities. However, it has also greatly outpaced our understanding of its nature, implications, and consequences, and raised conceptual issues that are rapidly expanding and evolving.1 They are also becoming increasingly serious. Today, philosophy faces the challenge of providing a foundational treatment of the phenomena and the ideas underlying the information revolution, in order to foster our understanding and guide both the responsible construction of our society and the sustainable management of our natural and synthetic environments. In short, we need to develop a philosophy of information.
The philosophy of information investigates the conceptual nature and basic principles of information, including its ethical consequences (Floridi, 2011a). It is a thriving new area of research that intersects with, and complements, other classic areas of philosophical investigation, especially epistemology, metaphysics, logic, philosophy of science, philosophy of language and mind, and ethics. It is based on two simple ideas. Information is something as fundamental and significant as knowledge, being, validity, truth, meaning, mind, or good and evil, and so equally worthy of autonomous, philosophical investigation. But it is also a more impoverished concept, in terms of which the others can be expressed, interrelated, and investigated philosophically.
As the reader will see in Chapter 2, I interpret information ethics (IE) as the branch of the philosophy of information that investigates, in a broad sense, the ethical impact of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) on human life and society. ICTs have profoundly affected many aspects of the human condition, including the nature of communication, education, work, entertainment, industrial production and business, health care, social relations, and armed conflicts. They have had a radical and widespread influence on our moral lives and on contemporary ethical debates. Examples come readily to mind, from privacy and freedom of expression to Wikileaks, from the digital divide to a dystopian ‘surveillance society’, from artificial companions to drones and cyberwar. Indeed, the ethical problems raised by ICTs are ubiquitous in our society and in contemporary culture, and often lie behind debates in medical ethics, environmental ethics, neuroethics, and bioethics. As I shall argue in this book, they actually invite us to reconsider some fundamental tenets in our moral theories