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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 24 | volume V | January-February, 2002



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                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 24January-February, 2002
Essays

Ethics in the infosphere

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p. 1
Luciano Floridi

    We call our society 'the information society' because of the pivotal role played by information-intensive services. As a social structure, it has been made possible only by ICT (information and communication technologies). It has already posed fundamental ethical problems, whose complexity and global dimensions are rapidly evolving.
    What is the best strategy to construct an information society that is ethically sound? Let me anticipate my conclusion. The task is to formulate an information ethics that can treat the world of data, information, knowledge and communication as a new environment: the infosphere. This information ethics must be able to solve the new ethical challenges arising in the new environment on the basis of the fundamental principles of respect for information, its conservation and valorisation. It must be the environmental ethics for the information environment.
    The digital divide (DD) is the source of most of the ethical problems emerging from the evolution of the information society. It is the combination of a vertical gap and a horizontal gap. The vertical gap separates ours from past generations. In less than a century, we have moved from a state of submission to nature, through a state of power of potential total destruction, to the present state, in which we have the means and tools to engineer entire new realities, tailor them to our needs and invent the future. For the first time in history, we are responsible for the very existence of whole new environments. Our technological power is immense. It is also growing relentlessly. It is already so vast to have overcome the barrier between the natural and the artificial. Our moral responsibilities towards the world and future generations are therefore equally enormous.
    Unfortunately, technological power and moral responsibilities are not necessarily followed by ethical intelligence and wisdom. We are still like children, light-heartedly and dangerously toying with a marvellous universe. We may have almost demiurgic power over it, but we can rely only on our fallible good wills to guide us in our constructions.
    The vertical gap signals the end of modernity. The project of modernity was the full control and mastery over reality understood as the physical environment. The information age builds on the modern project, but its essence is no longer just the shaping of the physical world. Rather, it is the creation and construction of alternative, non-natural environments that replace or underpin it. The mechanical mind dealt with nature and tried to control






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