“We are used to seeing ICTs [information and communication technologies] as tools through which we interact with the world and each other. In reality, these technologies have become environmental, anthropological, social and interpretative forces”.
Luciano Floridi, philosopher of information, in his The Fourth Revolution, outlines the new developments in information and communication in the new analogue-digital space in which we have found ourselves immersed. At first glance, this book may appear to be the classic generalist book, without art or part, for bookshops: the baroque graphics of that ‘4’ made of clouds, the bombastic and curious title, the neologism in the subtitle that opens up the imagination. Flipping through it, however, will reserve us quite a few surprises.
Generalist this book really is, because it speaks to us about philosophy in very concrete terms, always remaining faithful to the reality of facts and clarity of ideas. It is therefore a book for all those who want to better understand the reality that surrounds them, starting precisely from the concept of the title: after the Copernican, Darwinian and Freudian revolutions, human conception is undergoing a fourth revolution, even more extreme, with the advent of the new technologies of recent decades. After man has had to accept that he is not at the centre of the universe, that he is not at the centre of animal evolution, that he is not, even, centred in his thoughts, he now discovers that he is no longer even at the centre of the understanding of reality, in fact a computer processes reality extremely faster than he does. A cognitive earthquake that, to give just one simple example, is demonstrated by the series of neologisms that Floridi uses in the first chapters of the book: hyperhistory, which evolves from history, thanks to ICTs and the ever-increasing presence of big data in our lives; the infosphere, which covers the whole world, like the biosphere, but is made of information; being onlife, always connected in the analogue-digital space, simultaneously in digital and analogue reality, constantly entering and leaving ICT screens.
Floridi touches on numerous topics, always impeccably, from human-machine interaction to artificial intelligence, from social to environmental policies, and even the elusive topic of ethics. It is a book that can be read in one go and manages to become, for those who wish to, a supporting structure for numerous reflections on the present.
Luciano Floridi, The Fourth Revolution: How the Infosphere is Reshaping Human Reality, OUP Oxford, 2014