DISCUSSION WEEK #11: Ethics

Floridi, The Fourth Technological Revolution (TED talk), SUMMARY:

Luciano Floridi addresses the many influential factors from the Information Revolution that affects not just how we communicate, but how we develop self-understanding. As an Oxford scholar in philosophy and ethics, he addresses two “why” questions: 1) Why is the Information Revolutions making such a big difference, and 2) Why is it making a difference when it comes to health, and our self-understanding? Floridi acknowledges that there is an extrovert and introvert way of changing our understanding, how we not only understand about the world around us, but also what we understand from ourselves. For the case of technology, he asserts that it is not about what we can do, but what the technology and computer science behind the communications we use that actually tells who we are, about ourselves. For the first question,”why is the Information Revolutions making such a big difference”, Floridi elaborates that within the infosphere (where information is our environment and deeply affects our understanding as agents) we have become more interconnected and informational “sharing” (whether we will it or not). For the second question, “why is it making a difference when it comes to health, and our self-understanding”, he addresses that in health there are (2) concepts and (2) trends that come into play. The (2) concepts bring to light that we view our bodies as transparent and that we share bodies – not in a metaphysical sense, as he states, but rather how we identity ourselves in terms of belonging and viewing ourselves as “mechanisms”. The (2) trends address that the technology we use spreads and gives more access to our information, as well as how we socially identify with groups concerning particular health conditions.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

  • 1) How would you self-identify yourself in terms of communication?
  • 2) What is your take on Floridi’s (2) concepts: transparent and sharing bodies? If you agree, give an example. If not, well, why not?

MAIN IDEAS:

  • (3) Past Self-Understanding revolutions
    • 1) We thought we were the center of the universe (Copernican revolution).
    • 2) We are the “kings/queens” of the animal kingdom (Darwinian revolution).
    • 3) We are rational, we are in full control of ourselves (Freudian revolution).
      • We now know we are none of these.
  • “There is a fourth revolution coming, and in fact that’s why I’d like to insist why we find the Information Revolution so dramatically amazing. It’s not about what we can do, not only. The point is not that ‘wow this iPhone is so cool’. It is about what that technology and the computer science behind it is actually telling about ourselves. And that is why we find it so dramatic.”
  • 1st questions: Why does it make such a big difference?
    • Information is about our environment (infosphere) and deeply affects our understanding of ourselves as agents.
    • Within the infosphere, we are becoming informational organisms.
  • 2nd question: What difference does it make?
    • We view that we are mechanisms, “if something goes wrong, you can fix it”.
    • Health: the (2) concepts and (2) trends
      • Concepts
        • 1) The view that we have a transparent body, you can see more inside our “mechanisms” (ex. Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
        • 2) We share bodies, for a sense of belonging to a particular group
      • Trends
        • 1) The democratization of health information: The data that we have or own is spread by the technology we use and consent to giving particular pieces of information.
        • 2) The socialization of health conditions: On social networks (ex. YouTube), one can identify groups organized around particular health conditions. “Socializing health conditions means that, if you’re suffering from a particular disease, you are not alone”.
  • It’s a matter of leading the technology in order to become more “aggressive”, when it comes to developing the right ICT (Information and Communication Technology).
    • ICT is not just the web, it is the development of mobile applications, when it comes to international development.
      • What that means: we can do more, with less.

Covered by: Alexander Lakin

Floridi, Distributed Morality in an Information Society, SUMMARY:

In Luciano Flordi’s “Distributed Morality in an information Society”, Flordi discusses digital morality and its effects in information societies. In his research, Floridi discusses the idea of infraethics, which effects both positive and negative moral behaviors. The analysis goes on to describe the various reasons as to why limiting ethical discourse of individual agents affects the investigation of distributed morality. The question he poses to answer and support is if, big morally- loaded actions can be the result of a number of small morally neutral or negligible actions. This then brings the question to whether environments are morally resilient. The example Floridia uses, is a driver on a highway is speeding; this action which could be evil, doesn’t, because of the resilience of the environment. His actions may be reckless, but they fail to become evil due to the outcome of speeding on the highway. The majority of actions are morally negligible because they fall under the moral threshold, which we have created. Flordi concludes that the study of digital morality is important in fighting ethical issues in society. He believes that by understanding how exactly digital morality functions, the possibility of some of the most ethical problems in the world today can be solved. It is without question that major ethical and moral issues have arisen and there has not yet been a solution found. Digital morality and infraethics can play a pivotal roll in solving these issues and creating a different technologically forward society.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

  • (1) In your opinion, how would digital morality and infraethics help solve issues in todays society?
  • (2) Moral negligence is a major factor as to why many other issues go unnoticed. Do you believe that moral negligence has increased and thus creating a more moral less society?
  • (3) How do you value the idea of digital morality and infraethics? Is many small moral actions the answer to why one major morally loaded action occurs?
  • (4) Do you believe this topic is something worth studying and implementing into today’s society? Why/ Why not?

MAIN IDEAS:

  • Can “big: morally-loaded actions be the result of many, “small” morally-neutral or morally-negligible interactions? YES— the result of many smaller actions will most likely influence the larger action.
  •  -We need to evaluate actions not from a sender, but rather from a receiver perspective.
  • The majority of actions are morally negligible because the fall under the moral threshold which we have created.
  • Aggregation of possibly good actions, so that the latter might reach the critical mass necessary to make a positive difference to the targeted environment and its inhabitants. Fragmentation, so that the possibly evil actions might be isolated, parceled and neutralized.
  • Infraethics is not necessarily morally good in itself. However, it has the potential to change and/or influence a variety of global issues.

Covered by: Christian Preciado

Floridi, The Informational Nature of Personal Identity, SUMMARY:

Humanity’s concept of “self” is slowly being reimagined as we move forward into the future. Floridi focuses on the philosophy of identity as a whole- what defines a person? What makes something part of their self-identity? With the construction of online identities, we are learning new ways in which we can define those around us and ourselves. .

Floridi addresses two elements of “self” at first: what constitutes the self as a whole, and what enables that self to remain itself as it goes through changes and passes through time. He questions the entire unity of self as it is formed through online spaces. He then addresses Plato’s dissections of self, referring to the difference between what makes something an identity versus what makes it a personal identity. In sections two and three he questions how we ask others and ourselves what is something that defines them. He focuses prominently on the theory of context, and how, for a question to be useful, we must understand exactly what we are being asked. “You cannot look for something unless you know what you are looking for,” hence, personalization, or individualization, comes before what an identity is.

Section three tackles our process of information: how we define self within ourselves and within others and what factors we use to define these things. A problem often left unsolved is how we identify ourselves. In order to identify a self there needs to be a narrator, but the narrative of information in our brains is what constitutes a narrator. Selves are made similar to that of our biochemical physical components, except they are built as informational components instead. He uses a three step model: “A corporal membrane encapsulating an organism, proceeds through a cognitive membrane encapsulating an intelligent animal, and concludes with a consciousness membrane encapsulating a mental self.” The idea that the self is made of these three entities entails that anything that affects them is a “technology of the self.” A self can be entirely separate from what constituted its existence, however. Once these membranes made the “self” possible, the self is independent of them. The concept of memory as a whole takes a big part in our identities, and technology today helps us keep these memories and narratives of ourselves at a still point in time. These technologies also give us a view into how others view us.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

1) Do you personally agree that the fact that our memories, now displayed on social media, make a big impact in how we develop as people?

2) Would we be different if some of these memories faded away without social media to remind us?

3) With this recent technology giving us the ability to plot out and present our lives and activities for all to see, do you think that we get redefined predominantly by others or by ourselves?

MAIN IDEAS:

  • The differences between the identification of someone and the personal identity of someone: the personal issues must always be addressed first, as you cannot separate an individual’s identity without considering their personal context.
  • How we define ourselves is altered today by being able to see how others regard us online. We have new insight that we previously never had before- we can selectively pick and choose how we want to be portrayed to others.
  • Technology, as a keeper of pictures and memories, will forever change how we live out the rest of our lives. Certain memories will not fade into the background as we will always have reminders of what we have done in the past, and how it defines us currently.

Covered by: Elizabeth Carrozza

Reviewed by: Hailey Peterson & Lauren Nowak

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

Network Ethics – Information and Business Ethics in a Networked Society (PDF)

Ethics and Technology, Who do You Trust (Video)

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