Luciano Floridi, Philosophy and Computing: An Introduction, Routledge, 1999

Abstract

Luciano Floridi’s Philosophy and Computing: An Introduction is a survey of some important ideas that ground the newly emerging area of philosophy known, thanks to Floridi, as the philosophy of information. It was written as a textbook for philosophy students interested in the digital age, but is probably more useful for postgraduates who want to investigate intersections between philosophy and computer science, information theory and ICT (information and communications technology). The book is divided into five independent chapters followed by a worthy, though impressionistic, afterthought under the title of the conclusion. Chapter One, “Divide et Computa: Philosophy and the Digital Environment,” begins by outlining four topics to consider when examining the significance of the digital revolution: 1) computation, 2) automatic control, 3) modeling and virtual reality, and 4) information management. This preliminary outline is followed by a brief historical consideration of the transition from analogue to digital information processing and the importance of “digitization” for developing mechanical means to manage information. According to Floridi, this digitization has occurred in three main areas. Regarding the scope of digitized content, we have moved from numerical data to sounds and images. At the same time, our interfaces to the computer have become less digital and more humane. Graphical user interfaces and WYSIWYG software have quickly replaced punch cards. In the area of connectivity, we have moved from the mainframe to the Internet, hence, to the possibility of a global information network. Together these transformations are accelerating the evolution of the infosphere and consequently its dramatic effect on the shape of society. These changes are of world historical significance, thus worthy of philosophical investigation, as the last part of the chapter shows..

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Anthony Beavers
University of Evansville

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