Showing posts from April, 2020

The New Morphology of Power in the Infosphere

What is the nature of power today, in mature information societies ?  In an article available here , I argue that in liberal societies – awash with cheap goods and services as well as free information – the sociopolitical ability to control or influence people’s behaviour (power) is exercised not so much through the control of things (think of the means of productions of goods and services) or information about things (think of the fourth power), but mainly through the control of the questions that determine the answers that give rise to information about things. And since a question without an answer is just another way of describing uncertainty, I suggest that the new morphology of power is the morphology of uncertainty : those who control the questions shape the answers; and those who shape the answers control the world. If this sounds a bit like 1984 it is because it is just a rephrasing of George Orwell's famous quote: "Who controls the past controls the future:

Mind the app - considerations on the ethical risks of COVID-19 apps

[22 April update: at the Digital Ethics Lab (OII, University of Oxford) we have elaborated a list of 16 questions to check whether an app is ethically justifiable, the full article, open access, is available here ] There is a lot of talk about apps to deal with the pandemic . Some of the best solutions use the Bluetooth connection of mobile phones to determine the contact between people and therefore the probability of contagion. In theory, it may seem simple. In practice, there are several ethical problems, not only legal and  technical ones . To understand them, it is useful to distinguish between the validation and the verification of a system.  The validation of a system answers the question: "are we building the right system?". The answer is no if the app is illegal,  for example, the use of an app in the EU must comply with the GDPR; mind that this is necessary but not sufficient to make the app also ethically acceptable, see below; is unnecessary, f

Notes wrapped around a bottle with a rubber band

"And I made some notes on a sheet of yellow paper on the nature and quality of being alone. These notes would in the normal course of events have been lost as notes are always lost, but these particular notes turned up long afterward wrapped around a bottle of ketchup and secured with a rubber band." John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley in Search of America After ten years, I decided to re-activate this blog. I started it in 2006 and stopped it in 2010. At the time, it no longer served its purpose, which was to share news and ideas on the philosophy of information. Today, a new need to fix some thoughts in writing, and "secure them with a rubber band" means that it can be revived with a new goal: to make some notes to myself, occasionally, a bit randomly, hopefully unsystematically.