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Floridi, Luciano. The Ethics of Information.

FLORIDI, Luciano. The Ethics of Information. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. xxii + 353 pp. Cloth, $60.97; paper $35.00--In this groundbreaking work, Luciano Floridi builds the foundations of Information Ethics (IE) by arguing that an informational interpretation of reality is required due to our increased reliance on information and communication technologies (ICTs) for our well-being and success. IE then deals with ethical questions concerning the well-being of informational entities (that is, anything interpreted informationally) and their informational environments (infospheres).

Floridi takes a tripartite approach to building his ethical framework, aiming at a metatheoretical, an introductory, and a constructionist goal. To achieve his metatheoretical goal, Floridi seeks to provide the foundation and background for his ethics. Here, Floridi advances an informational level of abstraction (LoAi) and the principles of IE. Concerning LoAi, Floridi states, "IE is committed to a LoA that interprets reality, that is, any system--informationally." In other words, an informational level of abstraction consists in recognizing systems and processes in informational terms. This interpretation of reality is ontological. This is because every informational entity, Floridi argues, is an instance of being, which "enjoys an initial, overrideable and minimal right to exist and develop in a way appropriate to its nature." This informational interpretation, then, affects Floridi's conception of being insofar as anything observable at LoAi is of intrinsic moral value. This allows Floridi to ground the four guiding principles of IE. These principles are: (1) Entropy ought not to be caused in the infosphere. (2) Entropy ought to be prevented in the infosphere. (3) Entropy ought to be removed from the infosphere. (4) The flourishing of information entities, as well as the whole of the infosphere, ought to be promoted by preserving, cultivating and enriching their well-being.

These four principles aim at protecting and improving the welfare of an infosphere (the environment interpreted at an informational LoA) and the informational entities within it by decreasing informational entropy. Here, informational entropy is best described as the corruption or decay of information within a given infosphere. IE then is a theory which seeks to broaden the range of what has moral worth, and subsequently to protect and respect those things of intrinsic value.

Moving to his introductory objective, Floridi discusses the role of moral agents, patients and actions within IE. Here, Floridi argues for a so-called e-environmental approach, concerned foremost with the infosphere and the informational entities within it. This holistic approach leads to the bold claim that "no aspect of reality is extraneous to IE, and that the whole of the environment is taken into consideration." This includes manmade artifacts which are not only of moral worth, but impact the flourishing of the infosphere. In this section, it becomes obvious that Floridi desires IE to be an all-inclusive ethics which takes into account all morally valuable things. It is also clear that IE is focused with the stewarding of the infosphere.

In aiming at his constructionist goals, Floridi applies his now developed framework to some of the ethical quandaries that have arisen alongside ICTs. This includes questions of distributed morality, which is best described as collective moral action among multiple agents and infraethics, which "can facilitate and promote morally good actions." Once again, an e-environmental focus takes center stage as Floridi argues that we can take advantage of the opportunity provided by distributed morality so long as we are capable of "morally enabling the environment." This is because Floridi believes the strength of distributed morality is in reinforcing the informational environment and increasing its resiliency, which would assist in diminishing moral evils and enhancing morally good actions. In other words, infraethics, which arises though harnessing distributed morality, would result in the strengthening of the infosphere by providing "norms for collaboration, coordination and cooperation" within the relevant infosphere. It is unambiguous that the solution to many ethical problems in IE are found in the flourishing of informational entities and their infospheres.

While Floridi's e-environmental focus is commendable and appears to be the right direction for IE, it would have been nice to see more of a focus on the ethics of human interaction, given our nature as accountable informational agents. It is not the case that his holistic approach need exclude all anthropocentric issues from its focus. Of course, Floridi does not ignore humans as informational entities altogether, as his foray into personal identity and privacy indicate, but there is certainly room for growth. Moral issues such as the spreading of dis- or misinformation, censorship, and the ethics of honesty could prove to be fruitful fields for IE to expand its focus.--Brendan Rowe, Trent University
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Author:Rowe, Brenda
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 1, 2016
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