Remember the days when gathering information required a visit to the library? Now we have access to a deluge of information at our fingertips without ever leaving the house. With the Internet, which is increasingly a big part of many people's lives (using search engines like Google and the Wikipedia encyclopaedia, for instance), we have access to an unprecedented amount of information. And while it may seem overwhelming at times, it does have the power to change our lives. This is the premise of a forthcoming international conference which explores the power of information, and how science and technology can make a difference. The conference, organised by the European Commission, aims to address the successes and problems of the use of information and technologies. It will also focus on how 'active information' could increase the quality of human experience, and whether this can make a difference for science and technology.
It is estimated that there are 5 times as many people using the Internet as there were 10 years ago, when there were only 361 million Internet users — barely two-thirds of the number of Facebook users today.
Now it is hard to imagine life without it. Computers, software and the Internet have increased our possibilities to compile, select, organise, analyse and disseminate information.
However, there is a drawback, which the aforementioned conference intends to address. The processing of information does not necessarily produce the powerful 'active information' necessary to increase the quality of our experience, and open new perspectives.
The conference will focus on how a better understanding of 'active information', as distinguished from 'listed information', can increase the impact and quality of the Internet experience. It will also gather up-to-date insights about the success and problems of 'active information' with a focus on three areas, starting with innovation. This will cover information, new technologies and social change. Security will also be discussed, and the compiling of information into 'intelligence systems' to protect people against crime. Lastly, attendees will discuss how data protection and privacy efforts are promoting and enforcing mechanisms to avoid information reaching society in the wrong way, and ultimately hindering rather than helping people.
Each topic will be approached from a variety of different perspectives including science, engineering, and industry; policymaking and law; and social studies, ethics and philosophy.
Two world-leading analysts of technology will also present a Golden Keynote Lecture. Their philosophy of technology has inspired scientists and industrialists
as well as politicians, philosophers, opinion leaders and the public at large.