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21 marzo 2014: Luciano Floridi: The Synthetic Uninformative

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neurophilosophy.unimi.it - Cognition in Action Lecture Series

Luciano Floridi (Oxford Internet Institute - University of Oxford)

The Synthetic Uninformative

Friday 21 March, h. 10.30.

Room: Aula Crociera Alta (Dep. of Philosophy).

La conferenza sarà tenuta in inglese. (The talk will be in English)

La partecipazione all’incontro è fortemente consigliata consigliata agli allievi della Scuola di Dottorato in Filosofia e Scienze dell’Uomo.


It is well-known that information, understood as a good, has three main properties that differentiate it from other ordinary goods, such as cars or loaves of bread:
a)    it is non-rivalrous: Alice holding or consuming the information that p does not prevent Bob from holding or consuming the same information at the same time;
b)    tends to be non-excludable. Some information – such as intellectual properties, non-public and sensitive data, or military secrets – is often protected, but this requires a positive effort precisely because, normally, exclusion is not a natural property of information, which tends to be easily disclosed and shareable;
c)    once it is available, the cost of its reproduction tends to be negligible (zero marginal cost).
Another equally well-known tripartite characterisation specifies that information can be
1) analytic vs. synthetic;
2) a priori vs. a posteriori; and
3) necessary vs. contingent.
In this paper, I use the two kinds of characterisations (a-c) and (1-3) in order to understand what kind of information is the maker’s information, as when Alice is informed (holds the information) that Bob’s coffee is sweetened because she just put two spoons of sugar in it. In the course of the presentation, I shall argue that:
i) we need to decouple a fourth distinction, namely informative vs. uninformative, from the  previous three in (1-3), in particular from its implicit association with analytic vs. synthetic and/or a priori vs. a posteriori;
ii) such decoupling facilitates, and is facilitated by, moving from a propositional to an agent-oriented approach: the distinctions qualify a proposition, a message, or a set of well-formed, meaningful and truthful data not just in themselves but with respect to an informational agent;
iii) the decoupling and the agent-oriented approach facilitate a re-mapping of currently available positions in epistemology (Classic, Innatist, Kant’s and Kripke’s) on these four dichotomies;
iv) within such a re-mapping, a fifth position, capturing the nature of a maker’s information in terms of these four dichotomies, is best described as the synthetic uninformative;
v) the synthetic uninformative is paralleled by what I shall call the non-accruable nature of information in (a-c): if Alice holds that p she cannot be further informed (say, by Bob) that p.  
In the conclusion, I shall explain why the analysis of the maker’s information has important consequences in all those cases in which the poietic (constructive) intervention of the maker determines the maker’s information, from everyday perception to the design of scientific experiments.

21 marzo 2014
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