Before the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, hieroglyphics were already regarded as information, even if their semantics were beyond the comprehension of any interpreter. The discovery of an interface between Greeks and Egyptians did not affect the related semantics, but rather its accessibility. So, contrary to popular belief, we may have reached the information age long ago.
The shift from an analogue to a digital world and the rapid development of information technologies are changing every aspect of our lives ranging from education to politics. In our digital age, information seems to refer to power. As information technologies influence major aspects of our lives, they start affecting the causes, effects, and solutions of today’s problems. In a talk in April 2010, Bill Gates asked “whether the brightest minds are working on the most important problems.”
Philosophy is something that needs to be done to make the world a better place rather than something to get rid of. The brightest philosophical minds can contribute insights and visions, analyses and syntheses, theories and critiques, questions and answers to solve these problems.
Furthermore, information technologies profoundly affect how we understand the world. Therefore, if philosophers are to help enable humanity to make sense of our world, information needs to be a significant field of philosophical study.
What philosophy can offer to contemporary debates that involve the concept of information, whether we discuss the intelligence of computers or the makeup of the universe, is clarity about how to ask the right questions so that answers are possible and useful.
Today, we are slowly accepting the idea that we are not at the center of the growing “infosphere” that surrounds us because we are not the only smart agents able to carry out complex tasks. Our computers are often better than we are at dealing with information.
Information has arisen as a concept as fundamental and important as being, knowledge, life, intelligence, meaning, and good and evil — all concepts with which it is interdependent, and so equally worthy of autonomous investigation. This is why philosophy may explain and guide the purposeful construction of our intellectual environment and provide the systematic treatment of the conceptual foundations of contemporary society.
In our digital age, philosophy can be presented as the study of the informational activities that make possible the construction, conceptualization, and also the moral stewardship of reality, both natural and artificial, both physical and anthropological. It promises to be one of the most beneficial areas of philosophical research in our time.