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16 July 2015

The Fourth Revolution: Philosophy to Survive in the Digital Age

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Who are we and how do we relate with others? These are two fundamental questions, the answers to which render the changes caused by the internet particularly evident. The way in which we shape our personalities and relate with our surrounding has changed dramatically. ICT no longer represents a mere tool; it is now inescapably entwined with the environment in which we live. According to philosopher Luciano Floridi, it represents an anthropological, social and interpretative force.

In a world of “e-everything (e-commerce, cloud computing, smartphones, apps, wearables, online courses, social media…), we need philosophy more than ever. A philosophy that supports an intellectual framework is essential to any revolution, including that which we are now experiencing. The philosophy of information is the philosophy of our time.

Technophobes and technophiles. Everyone wants answers and everyone wants to know what will come next. Is there a unified perspective; a global macro-trend that we can use to evaluate the emergence of ICT? Communication technology is changing our physical and intellectual environments, opening new possibilities for how we interpret the world.

The “onlife” life

The barriers between our online (connected to the internet) and offline (outside the digital sphere) worlds are fading; we now move within the maelstrom of the “infosphere”, living an “onlife” (everyday lives lived simultaneously between both worlds). According to Floridi, this metaphysical change represents the fourth step after Copernicus, Darwin and Freud: the fourth revolution.

As we shop, watch our health and deal with social relations, we are interacting with the worlds of law, finance and politics. Even war. In each of these facets of life ICT now represents an inescapable environmental force.

The emerging tech scenario, with its immediate digital benefits, requires intellectual responsibility that, according to Floridi, is not yet palpable or institutionalized in the academic world, but is on the streets. There is an air of expectation and concern at the same time. Of worry and fascination regarding how technology is changing the world. Changing how we view the world, ourselves and others. Does ICT empower or control us? Can we benefit from new technologies without allowing the net to seize control over us?

Find out what philosophical changes are afoot in the book by Luciano Floridi, The Fourth Revolution: How the Infosphere is Reshaping Human Reality.

Dory Gascueña for OpenMind

@dorygascu

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