INSEIT MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: LUCIANO FLORIDI

1. What's life like for Luciano Floridi these days? How do you keep up with all you have happening?

 

Life is absolutely wonderful these days. It has not always been so sweet, and this is probably what makes me appreciate it more attentively. Kia and I enjoy an extraordinary marriage and a very fulfilling relationship. We live in the countryside (a small village in the Oxfordshire), we like a bit of gardening, making our own jam and baking our own pizza, while Kia’s college (she is also an academic, professor of cognitive neuroscience at Oxford) provides an amazing cellar. Could I ask for more? I’m writing all this in front of our fireplace, and I know it all sounds too idyllic. But then I’m also aware that this is how I manage to cope with the relentless and mounting pressure from the professional life. The amount of work and its pace is staggering. I try my best to cut on commitments, but they seem to be like roses, the more your prune them the more they grow. These days, I have more air mileage than I can use, more invitations than I can possibly accept and I hardly take a weekend off (but see below for a memorable exception). Among other projects, I’ve signed four contracts for as many books, IACAP keeps me rather busy since I was elected President, and then there is the usual university business, teaching, the tons of bureaucracy, training with the squash team... so many new things to do and to learn. The new research chair in philosophy of information at the University of Hertfordshire is proving a fantastic opportunity. All this is very exciting and I confess equally wonderful, almost addictive. I know the meaning of workaholic. 

  1. Who has influenced you the most, personally and/or professionally?

Personally, the greatest influence in my life has been Kia’s, apart from my parents’, of course. She has made me a happy person. Professionally, I could mention many living people, but in order not to be unjust, let me restrain the scope of the question to the dead. Kant is certainly the philosopher who has exercised the deepest and widest influence on the way I think. So, the answer is two Ks, really. 

 

3. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?

If I could cheat, then that book would undoubtedly be the second edition of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare published by OUP and edited by Stanley Wells, Gary Taylor, John Jowett, and William Montgomery. But if cheating is not allowed, then I have not doubts. They say humanity is divided between the Iliad-sort and the Odyssey-sort. I would read the second edition of the Odyssey in the Loeb Classical Library, translated by A. T. Murray and revised by G. E. Dimock. I much prefer Robert Fagles’ translation, but I would like to have the Greek text as well.

 

4. Word has it you watch "House" quite regularly. What else is on your DVR?

Who has spilt the beans? I have some suspicions... oh well, you will also find, in alphabetic order, Bones, CSI, Numbers and lots of science fiction, B action films and B fantasy films. I confess that I use what I watch to rinse that spongy, gray material that lies behind the eyes.

 

5. What trends do you predict in information ethics scholarship?

This is a very hard question, and I’m sure I won’t be able to answer it without some serious bias. I suspect we may witness three trends. One is already taking shape. It is the recognition of information/computer ethics (what Charles Ess nicely acronymises as ICE) as a respectable field of philosophical research. The fact that some textbooks in applied ethics have begun to include chapters on ICE, beside chapters on the now established areas of bioethics or environmental ethics, is already very significant. This trend, I’m afraid, will also bring some institutionalization, and the inevitable fixation of a canon of texts. A second trend, that I also find very interesting, is the exploration of less “classic” issues. We seem to be expanding the range of topics covered by our discipline, which now includes not only the usual issues raised by privacy, ownership, the digital divide and so forth, but also innovative questions posed by less explored phenomena, such as the ethical construction of the self through digital environments, the establishment of e-trust, the possibility of ethical design of software, the emergence of e-conflicts, or the growing importance of distributed morality through multiagent, hybrid systems. These are just a few examples, but when you start feeling like an interface between your GPS and your car, as I do these days, then you realise that ICE has a lot to say on how our moral lives will be shaped by information and communication technologies (ICTs) already in the near future. Finally, I would add a third trend, which is even more difficult to map than the previous two. Because ICTs are so pervasive and crucial in our society, I expect more ICE-related, exciting work will emerge in areas of overlapping ethical concerns, where ICE meets for example biometrics and genetics, environmental problems, business procedures or medical decisions. To summarise: consolidation, expansion and cross-pollination, as clarified above, are the three trends that I expect.

 

6. Armani or Prada?

Honestly? Davide Cenci (http://www.davidecenci.com/4.swf), if only I could afford it more often. But if Armani or Prada must be the choice, then Armani, by all means. I grew up envying Richard Gere’s wardrobe in American Gigolo. And I like Armani’s own style. My favourite colour is grey.

 

7. How do you want to be remembered?

Kia and I just spent a wonderful weekend in Stratford for my birthday, where we went to see Richard II. There was a line in the play that I can adapt to answer this hard question. I would be already delighted if my name were not be “blotted from the book of life” and “from heaven banish'd as from hence!”