On 3 May 2013 (1 PM Brussels time / CET), as part of the "Future Fridays" series of webinars on Futurium, Prof. Luciano Floridi presented his vision of the future around OnLife, focusing on Infraethics: What it is and why it matters. It was an opportunity to further explore OnLife's challenges, opportunities and policy implications with webinar participants. This webinar was also a follow-up to the Inaugural Event that took place in Brussels on Friday 8 February 2013.
Infraethics: What it is and why it matters
ICTs blur the divide between online and offline in favour of an onlife experience. By doing so, they emphasise trust, privacy, transparency, openness, neutrality, intellectual property right, and so forth. These and other similar phenomena are probably better understood in terms of an infrastructure that is there to facilitate or hinder the moral or immoral behaviour of the agents involved. By placing our informational interactions at the centre of our onlife, ICTs seem to have uncovered something that, of course, has always been there, but less visibly so in the past: the fact that moral behaviour is also a matter of “ethical infrastructure” or simply infraethics. As business and administration systems in an economically mature society increasingly require physical infrastructures (transport, communication, services etc.), so too human interactions in an informationally mature society increasingly require an infraethics.
Any complex society has an implicit infraethics, which can be more or less successful, and more or less evil-unfriendly. Theoretically, even a society of angels, that is, of impeccably moral agents, needs infraethical rules for coordination and collaboration. So how can we design the successful facilitations and constraints provided by the right infraethics? Is it possible to build a coherent system of good infraethical rules and morally good values, such as civil rights? Why, for example, is it so difficult to balance security and privacy?
These and other challenging questions were discussed at Infraethics – What it is and why it matters webinar on Friday 3 May, at 1 PM CET (Brussels time) with Luciano Floridi as the keynote speaker.
The deployment of ICTs and their uptake by society affect radically the human condition, insofar as it modifies our relationships to ourselves, to others, and to the world. This digital transition shakes established reference frameworks, which impact the public space, politics itself, and societal expectations toward policy making. The Onlife Initiative intends to explore these impacts within the policy context of the Digital Agenda for Europe.
Luciano Floridi is the Chair of the OnLife initiative. He is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hertfordshire, UNESCO Chair in Information and Computer Ethics, and Fellow of St Cross College, University of Oxford. Among his recognitions: Gauss Professor by Göttingen’s Academy of Sciences, APA’s Barwise Prize, AISB Fellowship, IACAP’s Covey Award, INSEIT’s Weizenbaum Award. In 2012, he was appointed Chairman of the European Commission’s expert group “Concepts Engineering”, to work on the impact of information and communication technologies on the digital transformations occurring in the European society. His most recent books are: The Ethics of Information (OUP, forthcoming), The Philosophy of Information (OUP, 2011), Information: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2010).
Participation to this webinar was free and open to all those interested in the subject. The webinar took place entirely online in a virtual room. Keep an eye on the events section of Futurium for more upcoming webinars that you might want to take part in!
Those who want to understand all technical nuts and bolts of participation in our webinars through the virtual room may read the webinar mini-manual, downloadable from here.