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Losing Sight in the Digital World

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As the famous French author, Gide, once mentioned, “one does not discover new lands without losing sight of the shore.”

The concept of information has interestingly attracted much more attention than the concept of computation despite the advancement in the field of computational technologies. This is perhaps because of the fact that the term ‘information’ is much older or perhaps because of the fact that in order for computation to occur, there needs to be available information. According to Floridi, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information at the University of Oxford, a typical life cycle of information includes the following phases:

  • occurring (discovering, designing, authoring, etc.),
  • processing and managing (collecting, validating, modifying, organizing, indexing, classifying, filtering, updating, sorting, storing, networking, distributing, accessing, retrieving, transmitting, etc.),
  • and using (monitoring, modeling, analyzing, explaining, planning, forecasting, decision-making, instructing, educating, learning, etc.).

According to Floridi, the third revolution started with the networked computer, following the development of the mainframe after the invention of the PC. Consequently, an important change occurred in societal dynamics, especially regarding the sensibility within cultural and intellectual realms. Making sense of key concepts such as truth, knowledge and meaning became more and more difficult, not to mention their interconnection with other fields.

Given the rapid proliferation of technologies into our daily lives, issues pertaining to the development, management, and utilization of information and computational resources are gaining an increasing importance. Throughout history, no previous generation has ever witnessed such an amazing acceleration of technological power resulting in massive social changes and ethical responsibilities. Given its power has raised ICT (information communication technologies)- an umbrella term encompassing artificial intelligence or machine learning technologies as well- has become the characteristic technology of our time both factually and rhetorically.

Similar to the major influence of the mechanical clocks or the steam engine in the age of the industrial revolution, it would be no exaggeration to assert that technology plays a crucial role when it comes to governing science and other aspects of the society as well as its future.

Living by information- as it is the common feature of the postindustrial society- means defining a pervasive problem in terms of an informational problem. As Floridi suggests, the criteria with which to test the soundness of the informational analysis of a concept should be:

  • What would it be like for x not to have an informational nature at all?

Rather than checking whether x can be formulated in informational terms, such a question will cope us to live in today’s infosphere.

The emergence of the infosphere (the semantic environment which millions of people inhabit nowadays) along with the growth of an information society made the concept of ‘information’ become as fundamental and important as “knowledge,” “life,” “intelligence,” “meaning,” or “good and evil”. Therefore, the concept of ‘information’ should be explained both in the Aristotelian sense of the primacy of its object, information and in the Cartesian-Kantian sense of the primacy of its methodology and problems in order to guide the purposeful construction of our intellectual environment within the contemporary society. As Floridi states, “once done correctly, humanity can make better sense of the world and construct it responsibly, reaching a new stage in the semanticization of being.”

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Ayse Kok
Ayse completed her masters and doctorate degrees at both University of Oxford (UK) and University of Cambridge (UK). She participated in various projects in partnership with international organizations such as UN, NATO, and the EU. She also served as an adjunct faculty member at Bogazici University in her home town Turkey. Furthermore, she is the editor of several international journals, including IEEE Internet of Things Journal, Journal of Network & Computer Applications (Elsevier), Journal of Information Hiding and Multimedia Signal Processing...etc. She has also played the role of the guest editor of several international journals of IEEE, Springer, Wiley and Elsevier Science. She attended various international conferences as a speaker and published over 100 articles in both peer-reviewed journals and academic books. Moreover, she is one of the organizing chairs of several international conferences and member of technical committees of several international conferences. In addition, she is an active reviewer of many international journals as well as research foundations of Switzerland, USA, Canada, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom. Having published 3 books in the field of technology & policy, Ayse is a member of the IEEE Communications Society, member of the IEEE Technical Committee on Security & Privacy, member of the IEEE IoT Community and member of the IEEE Cybersecurity Community. She also acts as a policy analyst for Global Foundation for Cyber Studies and Research. Currently, she lives with her family in Silicon Valley and works for Google in Mountain View.

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