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The Cambridge Handbook of Information and Computer Ethics.

The Cambridge Handbook of Information and Computer Ethics

Luciano Floridi (University of Hertfordshire) (ed.)

New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010, 327 pp.

ISBN 978-0-521-71772-4

Information technologies have begun to play the role of re-ontologizing systems. ICTs are re-ontologizing the nature of the infosphere due to the convergence between digital resources and digital tools (ICTs are re-ontologizing our world and are creating new realities). The development of ICT has brought benefits and opportunities, and outpaced our understanding of its conceptual nature and implications. ICTs engineer environments that the user is enabled to enter through gateways. We should see ourselves as connected informational organisms (inforgs) through the re-ontologization of our environment and of ourselves. Infosphere denotes the whole informational environment constituted by all informational entities. The infosphere is absorbing any other ontological space, and will become increasingly synchronized (time), delocalized (space) and correlated (interactions). The digital divide generates forms of discrimination between those who can be denizens of the infosphere and those who cannot. The world itself will be increasingly interpreted and understood informationally, as part of the infosphere. We are informationally embodied organisms, mutually connected and embedded in an informational environment. We are witnessing an unprecedented migration of humanity from its Umwelt to the infosphere itself, and are experiencing the process of dislocation and reassessment of humanity's fundamental nature and role in the universe. The infosphere is an environment worth the moral attention and care of the human inforgs inhabiting it. Morality is usually predicated upon responsibility. Artificial agents are not morally responsible for their actions. The emergence of the infosphere explains the need to enlarge the conception of what can qualify as a moral patient. In a global information society, the individual agent is like a demiurge. A successful marriage betweenphysis and techne is vital. Information societies depend upon technology to thrive. As a full expression of techne, the information society has posed fundamental ethical problems. (Floridi)

Aristotle develops a detailed theory of the nature of the Universe and of the individual objects within it. Individual entities in the Universe consist of matter and form. There are two kinds of reasoning: theoretical reasoning, which generates knowledge and beliefs about the world, and practical reasoning, which generates choices and actions. The ability of humans to choose their actions and control their behavior makes them ethically responsible for what they do and what they become. Thinking and reasoning are processes that either are the physical manipulation of phantasms, or require the presence of such manipulation, requiring information processing that is dependent upon the physiology of the human body. Wiener helps to generate the necessary technology for the information revolution, and provides a philosophical foundation for information and computer ethics. Information is physical (subject to the laws of nature and measurable by science). Human beings are patterns of information that persist through changes in matter-energy. All entities in the Universe consist of information encoded in matter-energy. Wiener uses the traditional distinction between "natural evil," caused by the forces of nature, and "moral evil." The ultimate natural evil is entropy. Cybernetic machines provide choices between good and evil. Wiener foresees social and ethical impacts of cybernetics and electronic computers, viewing animals and computerized machines as cybernetic entities (communities and whole societies are also cybernetic entities). Cybernetic machines will join humans as active participants in society. Animals and cybernetic machines are dynamic systems with internal communications and feedback loops. Wiener envisions societies in which "cyborgs" will play a significant role and will have ethical policies to govern their behavior. Machines will be integrated into the social fabric and the physical environment. Floridi's fundamental information is "strongly semantic," his entropy is synonymous with Non-Being, and his universe ("the infosphere") is Platonic and Spinozistic. Floridi construes every existing entity as an "informational object" with at least a minimal moral worth. Every existing entity can be interpreted as potential agents that affect other entities, and as potential patients that are affected by other entities. Floridi's IE (information ethics) is a "patient-based" non-anthropocentric ethical theory. Every existing entity in the Universe can be construed as an "informational object" with a characteristic data structure that constitutes its very nature. Each entity in the infosphere can be damaged or destroyed by altering its characteristic data structure. (Bynum) Technological artefacts may have embedded values understood as special kinds of built-in consequences. (Brey) Different types of value can be brought to bear upon morally problematic situations. (den Hoven)

Our use of ICTs creates a digital footprint that can be mined by others for valuable information. Mill argues for broad social freedoms for the individual in both the private and public domain. Our free society will be jeopardized if we regulate the speech of minority opinion in any way. Each individual is the master of his or her own thoughts and feelings. Fish says that no society can allow completely unfettered speech and expect to last for long. Every individual expresses herself within a particular society (society is composed of a set of more or less shared values). Each individual is a product of the influences and ideas percolating through her society. We should accept appropriate limits on our freedom of speech to communicate and keep our society working. Our speech must be regulated in order for it to serve its function as a social glue that holds a society together. Floridi claims that information has an ontological force in the construction of our personal identity. We must be afforded certain rights to protect ourselves. (Sullins) The democratizing potential of new technologies is a myth based on technological determinism. (Adam) The virtuality of new technology may contribute to better informed publics. The global diffusion of ICTs raises a wide array of challenges that help to reiterate the importance of ethical pluralism. (Ess and Thorseth) Moor refers to machines as agents with physical and computational aspects (computational activities have a moral dimension). Acting morally refers to a richer form of moral involvement than "just" having moral impact. (Wiegel) The common theme uniting the ethics of artificial life, artificial agents and virtual realities concerns the ethics of autonomous agency. (Allen) CE qualifies as a legitimate field of applied ethics that warrants philosophical analysis. There are no reasons to believe that a new normative ethical theory is required for CE. Floridi states that non-biological or inanimate objects can also have moral status. All entities, qua informational objects, have intrinsic moral value. Human moral agents have special moral responsibilities that exceed those of other moral agents. (Tavani)

This is a rich and fascinating book, bringing to interpretative debates much that has been hitherto unknown. The chapters are long and complex, and the argument is multidimensional and far-reaching.

Reviewed by George Lazaroiu, PhD

Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies in

Humanities and Social Sciences, New York
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Author:Lazaroiu, George
Publication:Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2012
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