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The philosophy of information (PI) is a branch of philosophy that studies topics relevant to computer science, information science and information technology.
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras. Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust? Do humans have free will?
Computer science is the study of processes that interact with data and that can be represented as data in the form of programs. It enables the use of algorithms to manipulate, store, and communicate digital information. A computer scientist studies the theory of computation and the practice of designing software systems.
Information science is a field primarily concerned with the analysis, collection, classification, manipulation, storage, retrieval, movement, dissemination, and protection of information. Practitioners within and outside the field study application and usage of knowledge in organizations along with the interaction between people, organizations, and any existing information systems with the aim of creating, replacing, improving, or understanding information systems. Historically, information science is associated with computer science, psychology, and technology. However, information science also incorporates aspects of diverse fields such as archival science, cognitive science, commerce, law, linguistics, museology, management, mathematics, philosophy, public policy, and social sciences.
The philosophy of information (PI) has evolved from the philosophy of artificial intelligence, logic of information, cybernetics, social theory, ethics and the study of language and information.
Artificial intelligence has close connections with philosophy because both share several concepts and these include intelligence, action, consciousness, epistemology, and even free will. Furthermore, the technology is concerned with the creation of artificial animals or artificial people so the discipline is of considerable interest to philosophers. These factors contributed to the emergence of the philosophy of artificial intelligence. Some scholars argue that the AI community's dismissal of philosophy is detrimental.
The logic of information, or the logical theory of information, considers the information content of logical signs and expressions along the lines initially developed by Charles Sanders Peirce. In this line of work, the concept of information serves to integrate the aspects of signs and expressions that are separately covered, on the one hand, by the concepts of denotation and extension, and on the other hand, by the concepts of connotation and comprehension.
Cybernetics is a transdisciplinary approach for exploring regulatory systems—their structures, constraints, and possibilities. Norbert Wiener defined cybernetics in 1948 as "the scientific study of control and communication in the animal and the machine." In other words, it is the scientific study of how humans, animals and machines control and communicate with each other.
The logic of information, also known as the logical theory of information, considers the information content of logical signs and expressions along the lines initially developed by Charles Sanders Peirce.
In semiotics, a sign is anything that communicates a meaning that is not the sign itself to the interpreter of the sign. The meaning can be intentional such as a word uttered with a specific meaning, or unintentional, such as a symptom being a sign of a particular medical condition. Signs can communicate through any of the senses, visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, or taste.
Charles Sanders Peirce was an American philosopher, logician, mathematician, and scientist who is sometimes known as "the father of pragmatism". He was educated as a chemist and employed as a scientist for thirty years. Today he is appreciated largely for his contributions to logic, mathematics, philosophy, scientific methodology, semiotics, and for his founding of pragmatism.
One source for the philosophy of information can be found in the technical work of Norbert Wiener, Alan Turing (though his work has a wholly different origin and theoretical framework), William Ross Ashby, Claude Shannon, Warren Weaver, and many other scientists working on computing and information theory back in the early 1950s. See the main article on Cybernetics.
Norbert Wiener was an American mathematician and philosopher. He was a professor of mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). A child prodigy, Wiener later became an early researcher in stochastic and mathematical noise processes, contributing work relevant to electronic engineering, electronic communication, and control systems.
Alan Mathison Turing was an English mathematician, computer scientist, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher and theoretical biologist. Turing was highly influential in the development of theoretical computer science, providing a formalisation of the concepts of algorithm and computation with the Turing machine, which can be considered a model of a general-purpose computer. Turing is widely considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence. Despite these accomplishments, he was not fully recognised in his home country during his lifetime, due to his homosexuality, and because his work was covered by the Official Secrets Act.
Claude Elwood Shannon was an American mathematician, electrical engineer, and cryptographer known as "the father of information theory". Shannon is noted for having founded information theory with a landmark paper, A Mathematical Theory of Communication, that he published in 1948.
Some important work on information and communication was done by Gregory Bateson and his colleagues.
Gregory Bateson was an English anthropologist, social scientist, linguist, visual anthropologist, semiotician, and cyberneticist whose work intersected that of many other fields. In the 1940s, he helped extend systems theory and cybernetics to the social and behavioral sciences. He spent the last decade of his life developing a "meta-science" of epistemology to bring together the various early forms of systems theory developing in different fields of science. His writings include Steps to an Ecology of Mind (1972) and Mind and Nature (1979). Angels Fear was co-authored by his daughter Mary Catherine Bateson.
Later contributions to the field were made by Fred Dretske, Jon Barwise, Brian Cantwell Smith, and others.
Frederick Irwin "Fred" Dretske was an American philosopher noted for his contributions to epistemology and the philosophy of mind.
Kenneth Jon Barwise was an American mathematician, philosopher and logician who proposed some fundamental revisions to the way that logic is understood and used.
Brian Cantwell Smith is a scholar in the fields of cognitive science, computer science, information studies, and philosophy, especially ontology. His research has focused on the foundations and philosophy of computing, both in the practice and theory of computer science, and in the use of computational metaphors in other fields, such as philosophy, cognitive science, physics, and art. Smith was Dean of the University of Toronto Faculty of Information from 2003–2008; he is currently professor of information, computer science, and philosophy at University of Toronto.
The Center for the Study of Language and Information (CSLI) was founded at Stanford University in 1983 by philosophers, computer scientists, linguists, and psychologists, under the direction of John Perry and Jon Barwise.
More recently this field has become known as the philosophy of information. The expression was coined in the 1990s by Luciano Floridi, who has published prolifically in this area with the intention of elaborating a unified and coherent, conceptual frame for the whole subject.[ citation needed ]
The concept information has been defined by several theorists.
Charles S. Peirce's theory of information was embedded in his wider theory of symbolic communication he called the semeiotic, now a major part of semiotics. For Peirce, information integrates the aspects of signs and expressions separately covered by the concepts of denotation and extension, on the one hand, and by connotation and comprehension on the other.
Claude E. Shannon, for his part, was very cautious: "The word 'information' has been given different meanings by various writers in the general field of information theory. It is likely that at least a number of these will prove sufficiently useful in certain applications to deserve further study and permanent recognition. It is hardly to be expected that a single concept of information would satisfactorily account for the numerous possible applications of this general field." (Shannon 1993, p. 180)[ full citation needed ]. Thus, following Shannon, Weaver supported a tripartite analysis of information in terms of (1) technical problems concerning the quantification of information and dealt with by Shannon's theory; (2) semantic problems relating to meaning and truth; and (3) what he called "influential" problems concerning the impact and effectiveness of information on human behaviour, which he thought had to play an equally important role. And these are only two early examples of the problems raised by any analysis of information.
A map of the main senses in which one may speak of information is provided by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article. The previous paragraphs are based on it.
Gregory Bateson defined information as "a difference that makes a difference".which is based on Donald M. MacKay: information is a distinction that makes a difference.
According to Luciano Floridi[ citation needed ], four kinds of mutually compatible phenomena are commonly referred to as "information":
The word "information" is commonly used so metaphorically or so abstractly that the meaning is unclear.
Recent creative advances and efforts in computing, such as semantic web, ontology engineering, knowledge engineering, and modern artificial intelligence provide philosophy with fertile ideas, new and evolving subject matters, methodologies, and models for philosophical inquiry. While computer science brings new opportunities and challenges to traditional philosophical studies, and changes the ways philosophers understand foundational concepts in philosophy, further major progress in computer science would only be feasible when philosophy provides sound foundations for areas such as bioinformatics, software engineering, knowledge engineering, and ontologies.
Classical topics in philosophy, namely, mind, consciousness, experience, reasoning, knowledge, truth, morality and creativity are rapidly becoming common concerns and foci of investigation in computer science, e.g., in areas such as agent computing, software agents, and intelligent mobile agent technologies.[ citation needed ]
According to Luciano Floridi "one can think of several ways for applying computational methods towards philosophical matters:
Numerous philosophers and other thinkers have carried out philosophical studies of the social and cultural aspects of electronically mediated information.
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Philosophy of information
Metaphilosophy is "the investigation of the nature of philosophy". Its subject matter includes the aims of philosophy, the boundaries of philosophy, and its methods. Thus, while philosophy characteristically inquires into the nature of being, the reality of objects, the possibility of knowledge, the nature of truth, and so on, metaphilosophy is the self-reflective inquiry into the nature, aims, and methods of the activity that makes these kinds of inquiries, by asking what is philosophy itself, what sorts of questions it should ask, how it might pose and answer them, and what it can achieve in doing so. It is considered by some to be a subject prior and preparatory to philosophy, while others see it as inherently a part of philosophy, or automatically a part of philosophy while others adopt some combination of these views. The interest in metaphilosophy led to the establishment of the journal Metaphilosophy in January 1970.
Semantics is the linguistic and philosophical study of meaning in language, programming languages, formal logics, and semiotics. It is concerned with the relationship between signifiers—like words, phrases, signs, and symbols—and what they stand for in reality, their denotation.
John Florian Sowa is an American computer scientist, an expert in artificial intelligence and computer design, and the inventor of conceptual graphs.
Analytic philosophy is a style of philosophy that became dominant in the Western world at the beginning of the 20th century. The term can refer to one of several things:
Dana Stewart Scott is the emeritus Hillman University Professor of Computer Science, Philosophy, and Mathematical Logic at Carnegie Mellon University; he is now retired and lives in Berkeley, California. His research career involved computer science, mathematics, and philosophy. His work on automata theory earned him the ACM Turing Award in 1976, while his collaborative work with Christopher Strachey in the 1970s laid the foundations of modern approaches to the semantics of programming languages. He has worked also on modal logic, topology, and category theory.
David Kellogg Lewis was an American philosopher. Lewis taught briefly at UCLA and then at Princeton from 1970 until his death. He is also closely associated with Australia, whose philosophical community he visited almost annually for more than thirty years. He made contributions in philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, philosophy of probability, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophical logic, and aesthetics. He is probably best known for his controversial modal realist stance:
(i) Possible worlds exist.
(ii) Every possible world is a concrete entity.
(iii) Any possible world is causally and spatiotemporally isolated from any other possible world.
(iv) Our world is among the possible worlds.
In physics and cosmology, digital physics is a collection of theoretical perspectives based on the premise that the universe is describable by information. It is a form of digital ontology about the physical reality. According to this theory, the universe can be conceived of as either the output of a deterministic or probabilistic computer program, a vast, digital computation device, or mathematically isomorphic to such a device.
Game semantics is an approach to formal semantics that grounds the concepts of truth or validity on game-theoretic concepts, such as the existence of a winning strategy for a player, somewhat resembling Socratic dialogues or medieval theory of Obligationes.
Computer ethics is a part of practical philosophy concerned with how computing professionals should make decisions regarding professional and social conduct. Margaret Anne Pierce, a professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computers at Georgia Southern University has categorized the ethical decisions related to computer technology and usage into three primary influences:
Computational epistemology is a subdiscipline of formal epistemology that studies the intrinsic complexity of inductive problems for ideal and computationally bounded agents. In short, computational epistemology is to induction what recursion theory is to deduction.
Neurophilosophy or philosophy of neuroscience is the interdisciplinary study of neuroscience and philosophy that explores the relevance of neuroscientific studies to the arguments traditionally categorized as philosophy of mind. The philosophy of neuroscience attempts to clarify neuroscientific methods and results using the conceptual rigor and methods of philosophy of science.
John Richard Perry is Henry Waldgrave Stuart Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Stanford University and Distinguished Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at the University of California, Riverside. He has made significant contributions to philosophy in the fields of philosophy of language, metaphysics, and philosophy of mind. He is known primarily for his work on situation semantics, reflexivity, indexicality, personal identity, and self-knowledge.
Luciano Floridi is currently Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information and Director of the Digital Ethics Lab, at the University of Oxford, Oxford Internet Institute, Professorial Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford, Senior Member of the Faculty of Philosophy, Research Associate and Fellow in Information Policy at the Department of Computer Science, University of Oxford, and Distinguished Research Fellow of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics. He is also Adjunct Professor, Department of Economics, American University, Washington D.C. He is Turing Fellow and Chair of the Data Ethics Group (DEG) of the Alan Turing Institute
The International Association for Computing and Philosophy (IACAP) is a professional, philosophical association emerging from a history of conferences that began in 1986. Adopting its mission from these conferences, the IACAP exists in order to promote scholarly dialogue on all aspects of the computational/informational turn and the use of computers in the service of philosophy.
Diagrammatic reasoning is reasoning by means of visual representations. The study of diagrammatic reasoning is about the understanding of concepts and ideas, visualized with the use of diagrams and imagery instead of by linguistic or algebraic means.
The Barwise prize was established in 2002 by the American Philosophical Association, in conjunction with the APA Committee on Philosophy and Computers, on the basis of a proposal from the International Association for Computing and Philosophy for significant and sustained contributions to areas relevant to philosophy and computing.
The philosophy of computer science is concerned with the philosophical questions that arise with the study of computer science, which is understood to mean not just programming but the whole study of concepts and methods that assist in the development and maintenance of computer systems. There is still no common understanding of the content, aim, focus, or topic of the philosophy of computer science, despite some attempts to develop a philosophy of computer science like the philosophy of physics or the philosophy of mathematics.
Terrell Ward Bynum is an American philosopher, writer and editor. Bynum is currently director of the Research Center on Computing and Society at Southern Connecticut State University, where he is also a professor of philosophy, and visiting professor in the Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility in De Montfort University, Leicester, England. He is best known as a pioneer and historian in the field of computer and information ethics; for his achievements in that field, he was awarded the Barwise Prize of the American Philosophical Association, the Weizenbaum Award of the International Society for Ethics and Information Technology, and the 2011 Covey Award of the International Association for Computing and Philosophy. In addition, Bynum was the founder and longtime editor-in-chief of the philosophy journal Metaphilosophy ; a key founding figure (1974–1980) and the first executive director (1980–1982) of the American Association of Philosophy Teachers; biographer of the philosopher/ mathematician Gottlob Frege, as well as a translator of Frege's early works in logic. Bynum's most recent research and publications concern the ultimate nature of the universe and the impact of the information revolution upon philosophy.