Peering into the Future of the Infosphere

Peering into the Future of the Infosphere
by Luciano Floridi
Published this week in TidBITS#848/25-Sep-06

…Digital ICTs as Reshaping Technologies — In order to grasp the scenarios that we might witness and experience in the near future, I need to introduce two key concepts: “infosphere” and “radical reshaping.”

“Infosphere” is a word I coined years ago on the basis of “biosphere” a term referring to that limited region on our planet that supports life. By “infosphere” then, I mean the whole informational environment made up of all informational entities (including informational agents), their properties, interactions, processes, and relations. It is an environment comparable to, but different from, “cyberspace” (which is only one of the sub-regions of the infosphere, as it were), since the infosphere also includes offline and analog spaces of information. We shall see that it is also an environment (and hence a concept) that is rapidly evolving.

By “radical reshaping,” I mean a very radical form of change, one that not only structures a system (e.g., a company or a machine) anew, but also fundamentally transforms its intrinsic nature. In this sense, for example, nanotechnologies and biotechnologies are not merely changing the world in a significant way (as did the invention of gunpowder) but actually reshaping our world in that both enable us to create fundamentally new substances that didn’t previously exist and enable us to interact with and manipulate the world in previously unimagined ways.

Using these concepts, my basic claim can now be formulated thus: digital information and communication technologies are radically reshaping the very nature of the infosphere, and therein lies the source of some of the most profound transformations and challenging problems that we shall experience in the near future, at least as far as technology is concerned. In the rest of this article, I mean to clarify and substantiate this simple claim by highlighting three fundamental trends in the reshaping of the infosphere and some of their significant implications…

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