Professor Luciano Floridi, professor of philosophy and ethics of information with the Oxford Internet Institute, has been awarded the highest-ranking honour in the Italian republic for his internationally-recognised contribution to Philosophy.
Other illustrious winners of the Cavaliere di Gran Croce Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana or the Knight of the Grand Cross, first class, include the Nobel Laureate Rita Levi-Montalcini, fashion designer Giorgio Armani, the writer Jorge Luis Borges, film director Federico Fellini, astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, the politicians Henry Kissinger and Nancy Pelosi.
Professor Floridi, who divides his time between Oxford and the University of Bologna, received the award in a ceremony today in the Quirinal Palace in Rome.
The philosopher was overwhelmed to have been nominated for the top award, which is reserved for people highly distinguished in their fields, and said how honoured he was to be recognised in this way.
No aspect of our lives has remained untouched by the digital revolution... there is a constant flow of new intellectual challenges and ethical problems that must be addressed by contemporary philosophy
Professor Luciano Floridi
According to Elsevier’s database Scopus, Professor Floridi is the most cited living philosopher in the world. By background a philosopher, he has worked at the intersection of philosophy and the digital world for some 30 years and established a new field of research ‘The Philosophy of Information’.
Although initially seen as a niche area, as the digital world has made an increasing impact on people’s lives, concerns have grown around the conceptual and ethical issues raised by digital technologies and Professor Floridi has found himself the go-to adviser to governments, international organisations, and companies.
Professor Floridi says, ‘More than 30 years ago, I started looking at the digital impact on people’s lives, addressing the conceptual and ethical issues generated by the information revolution. Now, we hear about such issues every day – in terms of privacy and freedom of expression, artificial intelligence and driverless cars, apps and drones, web and metaverse, cryptocurrencies and cybersecurity, and so on. No aspect of our lives has remained untouched by the digital revolution. So there is a constant flow of new intellectual challenges and ethical problems that must be addressed by contemporary philosophy.’
There are philosophical questions …increasingly involving politics and the law. We live in an age of fake news and online campaigns, of policies which can be tried out and discarded immediately...There is constant feedback. You can see in a moment what is important on Twitter. It is affecting democracies and it is shaping decisions
He adds, ’There are philosophical questions that are crucial …increasingly involving politics and the law. We live in an age of fake news and online campaigns, of policies which can be tried out and discarded immediately, if they do not receive support. We are discussing forms of direct democracy made possible by digital technologies…
‘There is constant feedback. You can see in a moment what is important on Twitter. It is affecting democracies and it is shaping decisions…. Digital sovereignty is a significant topic of debate – who controls information, and for what purposes? Power has shifted, and some companies have more resources and influence than medium-sized countries.’
But Professor Floridi warns, ‘Millions of people are on the losing side of the digital divide, they do not have access to the digital world and do not have ‘full citizenship’ of the new world. Can they really exercise their rights? We must work to ensure that the digital revolution benefits all humanity and every environment.’