The Philosophy of Information and the Structure of Philosophical Revolutions


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Anthony Beavers' presentation at the "Philosophy of the Web" seminar in Sorbonne, May 19 2012.

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The Philosophy of Information and the Structure of Philosophical Revolutions

  1. 1. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy The  Philosophy  of  Informa2on  and  the  Structure  of   Philosophical  Revolu2ons   Seminar  on  the  Philosophy  of  the  Web   The  Sorbonne,  19  May  2012  
  2. 2. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy The  Philosophy  of  Informa2on  and  the  Structure  of   Philosophical  Revolu2ons   Based  largely  on  two  previous  papers:       •  Historicizing  Floridi:  The  Ques2on  of  Method,  The  State  of  the  Profession,  and  the  Timeliness   of  Floridi’s  Philosophy  of  Informa2on.  E<ca  &  Poli<ca  13.2  (2011),  255-­‐275.   •  In  the  Beginning  Was  the  Word  and  Then  Four  Revolu2ons  in  the  History  of  Informa2on.  In   Luciano  Floridis  Philosophy  of  Technology:  Cri<cal  Reflec<ons,  edited  by  Hilmi  Demir   (Springer,  Philosophy  of  Engineering  and  Technology  Book  Series,  2012),  forthcoming.  
  3. 3. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy Contents  of  Talk  
  4. 4. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy Contents  of  Talk    (Slightly  More  Linearly)   •  A  Crisis  of  Relevance  in  Global   Propor2on   •  Four  Revolu2ons  in  the  History  of   Informa2on   •  A  Digress  on  the  Metaphysics  of   Technology   •  Philosophical  and  Intellectual  Co-­‐ incidence   •  What  Unifies  the  Progress  of   Informa2on  History?   •  1982:  The  Beginning  of  the  End  or  the   Seminar  on  the  Philosophy  of  the  Web   End  of  the  Beginning?   The  Sorbonne,  19  May  2012   •  What  Does  Philosophy  Require  in  the   Informa2on  Age?  
  5. 5. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy A  Crisis  of  Relevance  in  Global  Propor2on   “A  philosophy  that  is  not  2mely  but  2meless  is   not  a  philosophia  perennis,  which  unreasonably   claims  unbounded  validity  over  past  and  future   intellectual  posi2ons,  but  a  stagnant  philosophy,   unable  to  contribute,  keep  track  of,  and  interact   with,  the  cultural  evolu2on  that  philosophical   reflec2on  itself  has  helped  to  bring  about,  and   hence  to  flourish.”  (Floridi,  2011,  p.  12)       Does  this  view  imply  rela2vism  or  relevance?  
  6. 6. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy A  Crisis  of  Relevance  in  Global  Propor2on   Provocaon       There  once  was  a  philosopher  not  to  be  named,  who  betrayed  his  teacher  and  in  so   doing  made  a  mess  of  “the  profession.”  This  master  remarked  that  no  great   philosopher  was  wrong,  but  that  each  reported  on  how  we  stood  in  rela2on  to  being   during  his  historical  epoch.  While  naming  him  may  lead  to  immediate  dismissal,  he   nonetheless  s2rred  the  pot  and  in  so  doing  tried  to  revitalize  a  profession  that  was   languishing  in  his  midst.  This  man  was  no  rela2vist,  but  one  who  sought  only  to   make  philosophy  relevant  again.  For  what  could  make  the  history  of  philosophy   more  relevant  than  to  read  it  as  a  record  of  human  transforma2on  rather  than  a   compe22on  to  find  the  one  truth  that  could  stand  s2ll  for  all  2me?  That  man  was   part  poet,  part  philosopher,  part  provocateur;  and  with  that  insight,  he  managed  to   uncover  more  than  most  previous  philosophers  covered  over  in  a  life2me.  
  7. 7. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy A  Crisis  of  Relevance  in  Global  Propor2on   Concepon       Any  philosophy  of  import  (and  let  us  not  forget  that  those  with  no  import  are  also   not  remembered)  …     1)  …  is  embodied  in  the  ethos  of  a  2me  and   2)  set  to  answer  ques2ons  that  are  pressing  for  its  day.     3)  Consequently,  genuine  philosophy  changes  over  2me.     If  it  does  not,  it  gets  stuck  in  sedimented  thought,  bickers  over  triviali2es,  risks   irrelevance  and  loses  its  ability  to  transform  the  world.       Does  philosophy  today  find  itself  in  this  predicament?  
  8. 8. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy A  Crisis  of  Relevance  in  Global  Propor2on   Diagnosis       Philosophy  today  is  scholas2c.  “It  manifests  itself  as  a  pedan2c  and  ocen  intolerant   adherence  to  some  discourse  (teachings,  methods,  values,  viewpoints,  canons  of   authors,  posi2ons,  theories,  or  selec2ons  of  problems  etc.),  set  by  a  par2cular  group   (a  philosopher,  a  school  of  thought,  a  movement,  a  trend,  a  fashion),  at  the  expense   of  other  alterna2ves,  which  are  ignored  or  opposed.  It  fixes,  as  permanently  and   objec2vely  as  possible,  a  toolbox  of  philosophical  concepts  and  vocabulary  suitable   for  standardizing  its  discourse  (its  special  isms)  and  the  research  agenda  of  the   community.  In  this  way,  scholas2cism  favours  the  professionaliza2on  of  philosophy:   scholas2cs  are  ‘lovers’  who  detest  the  idea  of  being  amateurs  and  wish  to  become   professional.”  (Floridi,  2011,  p.  9)     Are  we  therefore  at  the  end  of  philosophy  as  a  discipline?                                                            
  9. 9. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy A  Crisis  of  Relevance  in  Global  Propor2on   Prognosis       •  Philosophy  is  today  in  a  very  precarious  posi2on.  It  must  either  adapt  or  die.   •  (Adapta2on,  however,  cannot  be  unduly  forced.  That  is,  it  must  be  both   appropriate  and  2mely.  Is  it  the  right  2me?)   •  We  have  been  in  this  situa2on  before  and  have  managed  to  survive  to  become   relevant  once  again.  So,  there  may  be  cause  for  hope  …  maybe.   When?     •  Just  acer  the  epoch  of  Medieval  Scholas2cism,  when  new  mathema2cal  methods   and  changes  in  the  informa2on  environment  created  the  necessity  of  squaring  a   dying  ins2tu2on  of  philosophy  with  new  scien2fic  discoveries.  But  there  is  much   more  to  this  story  …  to  be  outlined  in  a  moment.    
  10. 10. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy A  Crisis  of  Relevance  in  Global  Propor2on   Prescripon       1.  A  willingness  to  confront  the  situa2on  head  on  with  no  self-­‐decep2on  and  some   much  needed  input  from  other  fields;   2.  A  grounded  concep2on  of  the  current  geopoli2cal  landscape  and  the   informa2onal  circumstances  that  have  brought  it  about;  and   3.  A  proper  understanding  of  the  movement  of  philosophy  through  history  along   with  the  precipita2ng  causes  that  have  inspired  its  transforma2ons.       The  remainder  of  this  talk  will  start  in  the  direc2on  of  number  3.  
  11. 11. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy Four  Revolu2ons  in  the  History  of  Informa2on   1.  The  Epigraphic  Revoluon  –  the  inven2on  of  wri2ng;  the  spa2aliza2on  of  oral   and  temporal  informa2on  flow  retemporalized  in  the  act  of  reading;  text;   phoneme  to  grapheme,  grapheme  back  to  phoneme.       2.  The  Prinng  Revoluon  –  the  mass  produc2on  of  wri2ng;  the  easy   transportability  of  text  that  allowed  informa2on  to  flow  quickly  and  efficiently   along  mul2ple  routes  simultaneously.     3.  The  Mulmedia  Revoluon  –  the  industrializa2on  of  informa2on  and  its  flow;   the  decoupling  of  this  flow  from  the  exigencies  of  transporta2on  technology;   mass  media  and  real-­‐2me  dissemina2on.     4.  The  Digital  Revoluon  –  the  reduc2on  of  informa2on  itself,  regardless  of  type,   to  a  common  code;  the  smallest  alphabet,  a  bit  stream  to  carry  all  informa2on,   allowing  it  to  be  transmijed,  processed  and  stored  using  the  same  technologies.  
  12. 12. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy Four  Revolu2ons  in  the  History  of  Informa2on   1.  The  Epigraphic  Revoluon  (c  3500  BCE  –  1450  CE)   1.  Offline  storage  –  extended  mind  and   memory   2.  Transportability  across  space  and   2me   3.  With  the  phone2c  alphabet,   immediate  translatability  from   speech  to  text   During  the  epigraphic  revolu2on,  innova2on  generally  concerned  portability  and   permanence;  clay  tables,  papyrus,  parchment,  paper,  the  first  copyists  (scribes)  and   libraries.  
  13. 13. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy Four  Revolu2ons  in  the  History  of  Informa2on   2.  The  Prinng  Revoluon  (c  1450  CE  –  1830  CE)   1.  Everything  from  the  Epigraphic   Revolu2on,  plus  …   2.  The  mass  produc2on  of  text   3.  Increase  in  literacy  by  transla2on  of   text  into  vernacular  languages   4.  Private  reading;  the  populariza2on  of   books  and  pamphlets   With  out  a  prin2ng  press,  there  could  have   been  no  Reforma2on.  
  14. 14. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy Four  Revolu2ons  in  the  History  of  Informa2on   2.  The  Prinng  Revoluon  (c  1450  CE  –  1830  CE)   Deibert  (1997)  aptly  describes  the  situa2on:   "About  20  million  books  were  printed  before   1500  in  Europe  among  a  popula2on  at  the  2me   of  about  100  million.  This  number  of  books,   produced  in  the  first  ficy  years  of  prin2ng,   eclipsed  the  en2re  es2mated  product  of  the   previous  thousand  years"  (p.  65).  He  goes  on  to   note  that  "Febvre  and  Mar2n  (1976)  es2mate   that  150  million  to  200  million  were  then   produced  in  the  next  hundred  years.”    
  15. 15. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy Four  Revolu2ons  in  the  History  of  Informa2on   3.  The  Mulmedia  Revoluon  (c  1830  CE  –  1980  CE)   1.  Everything  from  the  Prin2ng   Revolu2on,  plus  …   2.  The  decoupling  of  informa2on  from   transporta2on   3.  Immediate  dissemina2on  of   informa2on,  (mostly  in  one   direc2on)   4.  The  emergence  of  global   community  and  a  developing   awareness  of  world-­‐wide  concern   Ocen  overlooked,  the  Mul2media  Revolu2on  made  world  war  possible  and   brought  with  it  new  problems  in  cross-­‐cultural  understanding.  
  16. 16. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy Four  Revolu2ons  in  the  History  of  Informa2on   3.  The  Mulmedia  Revoluon  (c  1830  CE  –  1980  CE)   1836  –  Telegraphy   1906  –  Radio  (the  “wireless”)   1839  –  Daguerreotype   1906  –  Teletype   1856  –  Telegraphic  Printer   1914  –  Telescribe   1863  –  Stock  Ticker   1926  –  Television   1877  –  Telephone   1927  –  Electric  Phonograph   1878  –  Phonograph   1928  –  Na2onal  Broadcas2ng  System   1880  –  Light  Bulb   1928  –  Magne2c  Tape   1880  –  Photophone   1948  –  Cable  Television   1881  –  Wireless  Telegraphy   1958  –  Casseje  Tape   1881  –  Wax  Cylinder   1963  –  Touch  Tone  Phone   1891  –  Mo2on  Picture  Camera   1966  –  GE  Color  Television   1898  –  Rotary  Telephone   1969  –  Video  Casseje  Recorder               All  dates  approximate          
  17. 17. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy Four  Revolu2ons  in  the  History  of  Informa2on   3.  The  Mulmedia  Revoluon  (c  1830  CE  –  1980  CE)   “What  we  might  call  the  telephoniza2on  of   city  life,  for  lack  of  a  simpler  word,  has   remarkably  altered  our  manner  of  living  from   what  it  was  in  the  days  of  Abraham  Lincoln.  It   has  enabled  us  to  be  more  social  and   coopera2ve.  It  has  literally  abolished  the   isola2on  of  separate  families,  and  has  made   us  members  of  one  great  family.  It  has   become  so  truly  an  organ  of  the  social  body   that  by  telephone  we  now  enter  into   contracts,  give  evidence,  try  lawsuits,  make  speeches,  propose  marriage,  confer   degrees,  appeal  to  voters,  and  do  almost  everything  else  that  is  a  majer  of  speech.”   (Casson,  1910,  p.  199.  N.B.,  the  quote  predates  the  inven2on  of  the  television.)        
  18. 18. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy Four  Revolu2ons  in  the  History  of  Informa2on   4.  The  Digital  Revoluon  (c  1980  CE  –  present)   1.  Everything  from  the  Mul2media   Revolu2on,  plus  …   2.  A  common  code  for  all  informa2on  to   expedite  its  transmission   3.  The  rapid  emergence  of  a  global   informa2on  environment  with   ubiquitous  access  to  almost  anything   from  almost  anywhere   4.  The  prolifera2on  of  informa2on  beyond   the  scope  of  our  understanding   Facebook,  now  in  its  8th  year,  is  the  3rd  largest  civic  organiza2on  on  the  planet  and   the  largest  social  science  database  ever  compiled  in  the  history  of  the  world.  
  19. 19. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy Four  Revolu2ons  in  the  History  of  Informa2on   4.  The  Digital  Revoluon  (c  1980  CE  –  present)   In  a  recent  study,  researchers  at  Berkeleys  School  of  Informa2on  Management  and   Systems  es2mated  that  humanity  had  accumulated  approximately  12  exabytes  of   data  in  the  course  of  its  en2re  history  un2l  the  commodifica2on  of  computers,  but   that  it  had  produced  more  than  5  exabytes  of  data  just  in  2002  ….  Five  exabytes  of   informa2on  is  equivalent  in  size  to  the  informa2on  contained  in  37,000  new  libraries   the  size  of  the  Library  of  Congress  book  collec2ons’  (Lyman  and  Varian  [2003]).  In   2002,  this  was  almost  800  MB  of  recorded  data  produced  per  person.  It  is  like  saying   that  every  newborn  baby  came  into  the  world  with  a  burden  of  30  feet  of  books,  the   equivalent  of  800  MB  of  data  on  paper.  This  exponen2al  escala2on  has  been   relentless:  ‘between  2006  and  2010  [...]  the  digital  universe  will  increase  more  than   six  fold  from  161  exabytes  to  988  exabytes.’  (Floridi,  2009,  p.  154)      
  20. 20. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy Digress  on  the  Metaphysics  of  Technology   Enabling  Causes  &  Necessary  Condions     P  -­‐>  Q  |  P  ||  Q                                        ~Q  -­‐>  ~P  |  ~P  ||  ~Q     A  philosophical  quandary  is  involved  in  how  to  read  “-­‐>”.  On  the  one  hand,  and  in   both  examples,  it  represents  logical  entailment.  In  fact,  the  two  expressions  are   logically  equivalent.  But  can  we  provide  a  causal  reading  to  the  “-­‐>”  connector?     “P  causes  Q”  means  that  in  the  presence  of  P,  Q  will  occur.  Can  we  therefore  say   that  the  absence  of  Q  “causes”  the  absence  of  P,  since  in  the  absence  of  Q,  P  cannot   occur?  If  so,  what  kind  of  causa2on  is  represented  by  a  necessary  condi2on?     Borrowing  a  term  from  Deacon  (Norton,  2011),  it  seems  that  we  need  to  speak  of   “specific  absences”  when  considering  technological  causes.    
  21. 21. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy Digress  on  the  Metaphysics  of  Technology   The  Logic  of  Specific  Absences  I     Causally  (and  counterfactually),  to  say  that  P  -­‐>  Q  is  to  say  that  ~P  -­‐>  ~Q  and  not     ~Q    -­‐>  ~P,  as  logical  entailment  requires.     There  are  plenty  of  examples:     To  say  that  “the  fire  caused  the  house  to  burn  down”  is  not  to  say  that  “the  house   not  burning  down  caused  the  fire  not  to  occur”  (nonsense),  but  that  “if  there  had   been  no  fire,  the  house  would  not  have  burned  down.”     Thus,  the  “-­‐>”  cannot  be  read  simultaneously  as  indica2ng  logical  entailment  and   causal  rela2on.  But  this  does  not  mean  that  an  expression  in  the  nega2ve  form  of   ~Q  -­‐>  ~P  is  causally  inert,  since  some2mes  expressions  of  this  sort  can  be  true  and   some2mes  false.      
  22. 22. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy Digress  on  the  Metaphysics  of  Technology   The  Logic  of  Specific  Absences  II     Consider  ~Q  -­‐>  ~P  again.  Whether  we  agree  or  disagree  over  the  content,  the  no2on   of  specific  absences  as  causes  is  not  nonsense.     Case  1:  The  absence  of  industrialized  communica2on  caused  (i.e.,  posi2vely   inhibited)  informa2on  from  being  transmijed  apart  from  the  transporta2on   industry.     Case  2:  The  absence  of  Mar2ans  on  earth  caused  (i.e.,  posi2vely  inhibited)   informa2on  from  being  transmijed  apart  from  the  transporta2on  industry.     The  first  seems  true  (though  perhaps  within  limits);  the  second  is  obviously  false.  If   truth  and  falsity  can  be  applied  to  such  nega2ve  causa2on,  then  a  logic  of  specific   absence  seems  possible.      
  23. 23. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy Digress  on  the  Metaphysics  of  Technology   Specific  Absences  and  Technological  Causes  I     Generally,  technological  causes  operate  as  enabling  condi2ons  that  answer  to   specific  absences  that  address  pressing  needs.  The  problem  needing  a  solu2on  can   then  be  thought  of  as  negated  consequent  and  its  poten2al  solu2on  as  a  negated   antecedent  in  a  condi2onal  statement.     Thus,  let  X  represent  the  solu2on  that  will  solve  the  problem  of  world  hunger  and  Y   represent  the  world  being  fed.     ~X  -­‐>  ~Y  means  the  absence  of  X  causes  the  absence  of  Y,  and  that  finding  X  is  to   solve  the  problem  represented  by  ~Y,  that  is,  this  is  to  say  that  X  causes  Y.    
  24. 24. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy Digress  on  the  Metaphysics  of  Technology   Specific  Absences  and  Technological  Causes  II     In  other  words  the  absence  of  specific  technologies  are  inhibitory  causes  in  cases   where  a  problem  is  present  that  is  awai2ng  a  solu2on  and  a  specific  technology  offers   the  needed  solu2on.     Quesons  Concerning  Informaon  Technology     •  Given  the  persistent  historical  development  of  informa2on  and  communica2on   technologies,  what  are  the  persistent  problems  to  which  they  provide  an  answer?   •  Does  the  presence  of  one  technological  solu2on  create  an  absence  that  causes   other  problems,  thereby  necessita2ng  other  informa2on-­‐technological  solu2ons?   •  Can  this  be  formalized  into  a  causal  logic  of  informa2on-­‐technological  change?      
  25. 25. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy Philosophical  and  Intellectual  Co-­‐Incidence   1.  The  Epigraphic  Revoluon  &  Ancient  Philosophy   “Both  wri2ng  and  prin2ng  favor  and  encourage  an  abstract,  ra2onal  cogni2ve   orienta2on  by  arres2ng  the  flow  of  oral  conversa2on,  permi{ng  the  comparison   and  juxtaposi2on  of  words  and  documents,  and  detaching  the  content  of  com-­‐ munica2on  from  place,  2me,  and  personality.”  (Deibert,  1997,  p.  84)       “Schools  of  oratory  grew  up  to  teach  the  art  of  speech  making  (really,  speech   wri2ng),  the  most  famous  of  which  was  perhaps  that  of  Isocrates.  The  sheer   presence  of  the  amount  of  Greek  legal  oratory  we  s2ll  possess  in  wri2ng  tes2fies   to  this  fact.  More  important  for  the  discipline  of  philosophy  is  the  climate  of   sophistry  that  this  created  for  which  Plato’s  Academy  could  become  an   an2dote.”  (Beavers,  2011)    
  26. 26. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy Philosophical  and  Intellectual  Co-­‐Incidence   1.  The  Epigraphic  Revoluon  &  Ancient  Philosophy   Though  talk  of  Plato  and  the  sophists  is  the  stuff  of  introductory  classes,  this  clash   between  persuasion  and  truth-­‐telling  nonetheless  provided  the  cri2cal  context  for   understanding  Plato’s  corpus  and  perhaps  jus2fies  his  skep2cism  over  wri2ng   expressed  in  the  Phaedrus.  Greek  philosophy  emerges  in  a  social  and  poli2cal   climate  that  problema2zed  the  rela2onship  between  speech  and  wri2ng  in  light  of   social  problems  arising  by  confusion  in  the  informa2on  environment  of  the  day   and  that  may  have  led,  at  least  on  a  Platonic  reading,  to  the  Athenian  loss  of  the   Peloponnesian  War.  Philosophy  began,  in  other  words,  with  a  pressing  need  to   sort  out  the  true  from  the  false  in  an  age  where  the  confla2on  of  speech  and   wri2ng  made  this  necessary.  Only  in  such  a  context  could  it  make  sense  for   Socrates  (or  anyone)  to  ask  another  to  “hand  over  a  speech”  (on  reflec2on,  an  odd   locu2on)  for  scru2ny.  (Redacted  from  Beavers,  2011)            
  27. 27. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy Philosophical  and  Intellectual  Co-­‐Incidence   2.  The  Prinng  Revoluon  &  Modern  Philosophy   “The  gradual  rise  of  individualism  as  both  a  prevailing  symbolic  form  and  a  predomi-­‐   nant  moral  idea  flourished  in  the  prin2ng  environment.  The  mass  produc2on  of   printed  material  favored  newly  circula2ng  no2ons  of  authorship,  copyright,  and  in-­‐   dividual  subjec2vity,  while  the  portability  of  printed  books  facilitated  the  trend  to-­‐   ward  silent,  private  reading  and  intellectual  isola2on  and  reflec2on.  (Deibert,  1997,   p.  100)       The  Reforma2on  brought  with  it  not  only  a  theological  protestan2sm,  but  also  an   epistemic  one,  perhaps  best  represented  by  Descartes’  turn  from  the  received   wisdom  of  the  ancients  to  the  desire  to  establish  truth  on  his  own.  Other  moderns   followed  in  his  wake  by  applying  mathema2cal  methods  to  philosophical  ques2ons   in  an  ajempt  to  bring  philosophy  in  line  with  a  newly  developing  science.    
  28. 28. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy Philosophical  and  Intellectual  Co-­‐Incidence   3.  The  Mulmedia  Revoluon  &  19th/20th  Century  Philosophy   “The  [19th  century]  reac2on  [to  Kant]  was  largely  centered  around  a  telling  issue,   the  individual  against  an  emerging  mass  society,  Hegel  arguing  on  behalf  of  society   (on  some  readings)  and  Marx,  Kierkegaard  and  Nietzsche  (along  with  others)   advoca2ng  for  the  individual  that  was  being  exploited  or  lost  in  a  herd.  During  this   par2cular  period  of  philosophy  it  was  as  if  philosophy  was  an2cipa2ng  changes  in   informa2on  technology  that  would  come  later  in  the  century,  or  perhaps  bejer   put,  that  society  itself  was  providing  a  vacuum  that  would  need  to  be  filled  by  such   technologies.”  (Beavers,  2011,  p.  267)     Later  in  the  century,  acer  1880,  language  itself  became  a  central  preoccupa2on  in   philosophy  in  a  contest  between  Frege  and  Husserl.  Philosophy  divides  into  two   methodological  camps,  one  favoring  the  analysis  of  language,  the  other  an   imagis2c  descrip2on  of  experience.  The  argument  con2nues  to  this  very  day.    
  29. 29. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy Philosophical  and  Intellectual  Co-­‐Incidence   4.  The  Digital  Revoluon  &  …   Neo-­‐scholas2cism  or  Innova2on?   The  answer  is  up  to  us  …   But,  then,  what  should  we  embrace?  
  30. 30. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy What  Unifies  the  Progress  of  Informa2on  History?   3000  BCE   1450  CE   1940  CE   20??  CE   This  is  precisely  to  ask:  Given  the  persistent  historical  development  of  informa2on   and  communica2on  technologies,  what  are  the  persistent  problems  to  which  they   provide  an  answer?  
  31. 31. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy What  Unifies  the  Progress  of  Informa2on  History?   The  Human/Computer  Network     •  While  focusing  on  the  developing  of  informa2on  technologies  in  isola2on  paints   a  portrait  of  improvements  in  data  storage,  increases  in  the  speed  of   transmission,  and  the  ease  of  retrieval,  viewing  the  history  from  a  func2onal   point  of  view,  leads  to  a  “network  concep2on”  of  our  interconnec2vity.   •  The  history  of  informa2on  is,  thus,  the  history  of  an  emerging  ubiquitous   network  in  which  subnet  assimilates  with  subnet  to  allow  informa2on  to  flow   more  freely  and  more  openly.     •  With  the  Digital  Revolu2on,  one-­‐way  media  gives  way  to  two-­‐way  interac2vity,   thus  wiring  mind  to  mind  in  a  global  informa2on  network  rather  than  situa2ng   individuals  orthogonally  toward  centers  of  ins2tu2onalized  authority.    
  32. 32. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy What  Unifies  the  Progress  of  Informa2on  History?   The  Human/Computer  Network     If  we  wish  to  preserve  some  semblance  of  a  Turing  metaphor,  we  could  say  that   humans  and  networked  computers  are  both:     •  Read/write  heads  with  internal  informa2on  buffers  (on  board  storage)  that   interact  with  a  common  tape.     •  That  the  networked  world  is  precisely  such  a  tape;  that  is,  an  offline  informa2on   store  for  each  of  us  as  individuals.     •  And  that  from  a  cogni2ve  science  point  of  view,  intelligence  is  a  property  best   ajributed  to  the  species,  while  individuals  (both  human  and  computers)  are   mere  nodes  that  contribute  par2ally  to  an  emerging  global  species  intellect.  
  33. 33. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy 1982:  The  Beginning  of  the  End  or  the  End  of  the  Beginning?   •  If  one  had  to  pick  a  year  when  informa2on   started  to  take  another  leap  forward,  it   could  be  1982.   •  Digi2zed  media  was  just  star2ng  to   become  popular.   •  Yet,  we  s2ll  largely  understood  ourselves   as  captured  in  a  media  environment  of   one  way  communica2on.   •  But  as  we  will  learn  in  the  next  decade,   interac2vity  will  change  everything.      
  34. 34. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy 1982:  The  Beginning  of  the  End  or  the  End  of  the  Beginning?   In  1982  Emmanuel  Levinas  characterized  society  at  the  2me  as  one  ...    “whose   boundaries  have  become,  in  a  sense,  planetary:  a  society,  in  which,  due  to  the  ease   of  modern  communica2ons  and  transport,  and  the  worldwide  scale  of  its  industrial   economy,  each  person  feels  simultaneously  that  he  is  related  to  humanity  as  a   whole,  and  equally  that  he  is  alone  and  lost.  With  each  radio  broadcast  and  each   days  papers  one  may  well  feel  caught  up  in  the  most  distant  events,  and  connected   to  mankind  everywhere;  but  one  also  understands  that  ones  personal  des2ny,   freedom  or  happiness  is  subject  to  causes  which  operate  with  inhumane  force.  One   understands  that  the  very  progress  of  technology—and  here  I  am  taking  up  a   commonplace—which  relates  everyone  in  the  world  to  everyone  else,  is  inseparable   from  a  necessity  which  leaves  all  men  anonymous.  Impersonal  forms  of  rela2onship   come  to  replace  the  more  direct  forms,  the  short  connec2ons  as  Ricoeur  calls   them,  in  an  excessively  programmed  world.”  (Levinas,  1982,  p.  212)       Is  this  twen2eth-­‐century  diagnosis  being  undone  by  the  presence  of  the  Internet?  
  35. 35. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy What  Does  Philosophy  Require  in  the  Informa2on  Age?   Conclusion     If  we  are  to  escape  irrelevance  and  contribute  to  the  viability  of  our  species:     •  We  must  turn  our  ajen2on  to  problems  that  ul2mately  plague  the  species  and  if   lec  unsolved  will  lead  to  our  demise.  This  does  not  mean  universal  ac2vi2sm,   since  there  is  serious  work  to  be  done  across  all  branches  of  philosophy.   •  We  must  drop  the  agonis2c  no2on  that  philosophy  proceeds  by  combat  and  help   each  other  form  the  best  arguments  possible  for  whichever  posi2on  is  being   advoca2ng.   •  We  must  accept  our  responsibility  to  protect  the  integrity  of  informa2on,  pu{ng   the  search  for  truth  second  to  a  more  primary  direc2ve  of  preserving  the  integrity   of  the  infosphere.  We  are  and  always  have  been  shepherds  of  informa2on.      
  36. 36. Anthony  F.  Beavers,  Ph.D. Professor  of  Philosophy References   •  Beavers,  A.  Historicizing  Floridi:  The  Ques2on  of  Method,  The  State  of  the  Profession,  and  the  Timeliness   of  Floridi’s  Philosophy  of  Informa2on.  E<ca  &  Poli<ca  13.2  (2011),  255-­‐275.   •  Beavers,  A.  In  the  Beginning  Was  the  Word  and  Then  Four  Revolu2ons  in  the  History  of  Informa2on.  In   Luciano  Floridis  Philosophy  of  Technology:  Cri<cal  Reflec<ons,  edited  by  Hilmi  Demir  (Springer,   Philosophy  of  Engineering  and  Technology  Book  Series,  2012),  forthcoming.   •  Casson,  H.  The  history  of  the  telephone.  A.  C.  McClurg  and  Co.,  1910.   •  Deacon,  T.  Incomplete  Nature.  Norton,  2011.   •  Deibert,  R.  Parchment,  Prin<ng,  and  Hypermedia:  Communica<on  in  World  Order  Transforma<on.   Columbia,  1997.   •  Febvre,  L  and  H-­‐J  Mar2n.  The  coming  of  the  book:  The  impact  of  prin<ng    1450-­‐1800.  Translated  by   David  Gerard.  Verso,  1958/1976.     •  Floridi,  L.  The  informa2on  society  and  its  philosophy:  Introduc2on  to  the  special  issue  on  ‘The   philosophy  of  informa2on,  its  nature  and  future  developments.’  The  Informa<on  Society  25.3  (2009):   153-­‐158.   •  Floridi,  L.  The  Philosophy  of  Informa<on.  Oxford,  2011.   •  Levinas,  E.  The  pact.  In  The  Levinas  reader,  ed.  Seán  Hand,  211-­‐226.  Blackwell,  1982/1989.     •  Lyman,  P.  and  H.  Varian.  How  much  informa<on?  2003.  hjp://www2.sims projects/how-­‐much-­‐info-­‐2003/,  2003.  Accessed  14  February  2011.