Luciano Floridi, born on November 16, 1964, in Rome, Italy, is a mathematician and philosopher. Luciano graduated from Rome University La Sapienza in 1988, with a degree in philosophy. Floridi then obtained his masters in philosophy in 1989 and PhD degree in 1990 from from the University of Warwick. His career accomplishments include development and refinement of the realm of information ethics and philosophy. See his websitefor more information.
- 1 Current Positions and Associations
- 2 Philosophy
- 3 Key Ideas
- 4 Books
- 5 See Also
- 6 External Links
- 7 References
Current Positions and Associations
- Research Chair in Philosophy of Information, Department of Philosophy, University of Hertfordshire.
- UNESCO Chair in Information and Computer Ethics, School of Humanities, University of Hertfordshire.
- Coordinator of the GPI, the research Group on Philosophy of Information, University of Hertfordshire.
- Fellow of St Cross College, University of Oxford.
- Senior Member, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford.
- Research Associate and Fellow in Information Policy, OUCL (Dept. of Computer Science), University of Oxford.
- Coordinator of the IEG, the Information, Ethics interdepartmental research Group, University of Oxford.
- Editor-in-Chief of Philosophy & Technology (Springer).
- Area editor (computing and information), Synthese.
- Associate editor (philosophy of information), The Information Society.
- Member, Editorial Boards of Ethics and Information Technology | Minds and Machines | International Journal of Technology and Human Interaction | Telematics & Informatics | Identity in the Information Society.
- Member of the Ethics Strategic Panel of the British Computer Society (BCS).
Floridi focuses his work primarily on Computer Ethics and Information Technology, which is relatively an uncommonly studied field. Floridi coined the phrase "Philosophy of Information" (P.I) in the 1990s, a term that refers to an integration of ethical and philosophical ideals of computer science, information technology, and philosophy. Additionally, Floridi defines information by noting 4 phenomena that work in harmony: information about something (e.g. a train timetable), information as something (e.g. DNA, or fingerprints), information for something (e.g. algorithms or instructions), and information in something (e.g. a pattern or a constraint).
Ethical Framework of Artificial Agents
In his highly influential paper “On the Morality of Artificial Agents” he coauthored with philosopher J.W. Sanders, Floridi laid the groundwork for a framework of how to understand the moral capabilities of artificial agents. In the paper, Floridi argues that artificial agents are capable of performing morally qualifiable action.
Method of Abstraction
In order to frame his argument, Floridi introduces an ontological framework for modeling all systems and processes called the Method of Abstraction. This framework borrows a key concept from Computer Science called the Level of Abstraction (LoA). Formally, Floridi defines LoA in the following way:
The term variable is commonly used throughout science for a symbol that acts as a place-holder for an unknown or changeable referent. A typed variableis to be understood as a variable qualified to hold only a declared kind of data. By an observable is meant a typed variable together with a statement of what feature of the system under consideration it represents. A level of abstraction or LoA is a finite but non-empty set of observables, which are expected to be the building blocks in a theory characterised by their very choice. An interface (called a gradient of abstractions in Floridi and Sanders, 2003a) consists of a collection of LoAs. An interface is used in analysing some system from varying points of view or at varying LoAs.
To illustrate this concept, Floridi describes the following example:
Suppose we join Anne, Ben and Carole in the middle of a conversation.4 Anne is a collector and potential buyer; Ben tinkers in his spare time; and Carole is an economist. We do not know the object of their conversation, but we are able to hear this much:
- Anne observes that it has an anti-theft device installed, is kept garaged when not in use and has had only a single owner;
- Ben observes that its engine is not the original one, that its body has been recently re-painted but that all leather parts are very worn;
- Carole observes that the old engine consumed too much, that it has a stable market value but that its spare parts are expensive.
By Floridi’s description, Anne, Ben, and Carole each observe an object under different levels of abstraction. Each LoA considers a different set of observables (e.g. anti theft device installed, worn leather parts, old engine, etc.) to define the same system. Formally, the Method of Abstraction is the system of modeling a system as a function of a set of observables.
Applied to Artificial Agents
Floridi uses the Method of Abstraction to define the qualities of a moral agent. To do so he first defines what the constitution of agency. He argues that an agent displays the following criteria:
- Interactivity: the agent and its environment can act upon each other.
- Autonomy: the agent is able to change its state without direct response to interaction
- Adaptability: the agent’s interactions can change the transition rules by which it changes state.
Floridi argues that if one can describe a LoA for which a system is considered interactive, autonomous, and adaptable, it is an agent. From this, Floridi states, “An agent is said to be a moral agent if and only if it is capable of morally qualifiable action.”
Floridi argues that Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are re-ontologizing the nature of the Infosphere in which information is contained. Re-ontology is refined as a radical re-engineering or re-formulation, resulting in a transformation of an intrinsic nature. The transformation of information from analog to digital is one such example. It has resulted in an erosion in the right to ignore as users of the information. The ease of accessibility due to digitalization has created a dramatic increase in cumulative common knowledge amongst the public domain.
Ontological Model of Privacy
On the issue of Privacy, Floridi offers his Ontological Model. In this framework, privacy is measured at the extent to which ontological friction exists in the infosphere. Ontological friction is anything that limits the free-flow of information in the infosphere.
The Infosphere encompasses the domain in which the information is stored, transmitted, and used, especially following digitalization. It addresses the role of infomation as a resource, as a product, and as a target.
Entropy is defined by Floridi as the destruction, pollution, and depletion (marked reduction in quantity, content, quality, and value) of information objects. He states that entropy
- Ought not to be caused in the infosphere
- Ought to be prevented
- Ought to be removed
- The infosphere ought to be protected, extended, improved, enriched, and enhanced.
- The Fourth Revolution - The Impact of Information and Communication Technologies on Our Lives (Oxford University Press, under contract).
- The Philosophy of Information (Oxford University Press, 2011). He is a big deal on Facebook. 
- Information – A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2010).
- The Handbook of Information and Computer Ethics (edited for Cambridge University Press, 2010).
- Sextus Empiricus, The Recovery and Transmission of Pyrrhonism (Oxford University Press, 2002).
- Philosophy and Computing: An Introduction (Routledge, 1999).
- Internet – An Epistemological Essay (Il Saggiatore, 1997).
- Scepticism and the Foundation of Epistemology - A Study in the Metalogical Fallacies (Brill, 1996).
- Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Computing and Information (edited for Blackwell, 2004).
- Luciano Floridi Homepage http://www.philosophyofinformation.net/About.html
- My Facebook. Http://facebook.com
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