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Information: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) [Paperback]

Luciano Floridi
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Book Description

25 Feb 2010 Very Short Introductions
We live an information-soaked existence - information pours into our lives through television, radio, books, and of course, the Internet. Some say we suffer from 'infoglut'. But what is information? The concept of 'information' is a profound one, rooted in mathematics, central to whole branches of science, yet with implications on every aspect of our everyday lives: DNA provides the information to create us; we learn through the information fed to us; we relate to each other through information transfer - gossip, lectures, reading. Information is not only a mathematically powerful concept, but its critical role in society raises wider ethical issues: who owns information? Who controls its dissemination? Who has access to information?

Luciano Floridi, a philosopher of information, cuts across many subjects, from a brief look at the mathematical roots of information - its definition and measurement in 'bits'- to its role in genetics (we are information), and its social meaning and value. He ends by considering the ethics of information, including issues of ownership, privacy, and accessibility; copyright and open source.

For those unfamiliar with its precise meaning and wide applicability as a philosophical concept, 'information' may seem a bland or mundane topic. Those who have studied some science or philosophy or sociology will already be aware of its centrality and richness. But for all readers, whether from the humanities or sciences, Floridi gives a fascinating and inspirational introduction to this most fundamental of ideas.
ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 152 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (25 Feb 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199551375
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199551378
  • Product Dimensions: 17.4 x 11.3 x 0.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 232,614 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Luciano Floridi is the OII's Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information, University of Oxford. In Oxford, he is also Distinguished Research Fellow of the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics; Research Associate and Fellow in Information Policy at the Department of Computer Science; and Member of the Faculty of Philosophy. Outside Oxford, he is Adjunct Professor ("Distinguished Scholar in Residence") of the Department of Economics, American University, Washington D.C.

Floridi's long-term project is a tetralogy on the foundations of the philosophy of information. His most recent books are: The Fourth Revolution - How the infosphere is reshaping human reality (OUP, 2014); The Ethics of Information (OUP, 2013, vol. II of the tetralogy); The Philosophy of Information (OUP, 2011, vol. I of the tetralogy); Information - A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2010); and The Cambridge Handbook of Information and Computer Ethics (edited for CUP, 2010).

His recognitions include: Member of the Académie Internationale de Philosophie des Sciences (MAIPS); Weizenbaum Award, by the International Society for Ethics and Information Technology, for his "significant contribution to the field of information and computer ethics, through his research, service, and vision"; Fellow of the British Computer Society (FBCS); Covey Award, by the International Association for Computing and Philosophy, for outstanding research in philosophy and computing; first Distinguished Scholar (adjunct professor of economics) ever nominated by American University in Washington since its foundation in 1892; laurea honoris causa by the University of Suceava, Romania, for "his groundbreaking work on the philosophy of information"; Fellow of the Center for Information Policy Research, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; University of Hertfordshire; Hertfordshire Vice-Chancellor Award "for research supporting engagement with business, the profession and partner organisations"; Gauss Professor by the Göttingen Academy of Sciences (first philosopher elected); Barwise Prize, by the American Philosophical Association "in recognition of his research on the philosophy of information"; Fellow of the Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and the Simulation of Behaviour.

Product Description


Splendidly pellucid. (Steven Poole, The Guardian)

About the Author

Luciano Floridi is the Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information at the Oxford Internet Institute, and a fellow of St Cross College, Oxford University. He is the founder and director of the Oxford University Information Ethics Research Group. His research interests include the philosophy of information, information and computer ethics, epistemology and philosophy of logic, and the history and philosophy of scepticism. He is the author of Philosophy and Computing: An Introduction (Routledge, 1999) and editor of the Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Computing and Information (Blackwell, 2004).

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review 16 May 2010
Sat in a small office for a seminar on modal logic, my then logic tutor told me that "if you read something once and do not understand, it is your fault. If you read something twice and do not understand, it is the authors fault". This is something to be kept in mind when reading this book.

The title should not fool the reader. This is not "Information for Dummies". The book can be technical and difficult requiring occasional reflective breaks. Unlike some of the other VSI series, to understand the book properly will take more than three or four hours.

However, this is where Prof. Floridi comes into his own. Using many elegant metaphors, analogies and examples, Floridi provides some of the intuitive first steps required to understand what would be baffling concepts. My favourite metaphor is that used for understanding quantum superposition, whereby we are asked to think of a Escher painting. The use of a simple example (John and his blinking car battery light) pervades the book which helps the reader grasp the interconnectedness of the various uses of information, which may otherwise simply look like equivocations.

The philosophy in the book is distributed throughout, but culminates in the final two chapters. It is somewhat a shame that more of the philosophy of information and information could not be covered, but then 1. The book would not be a short introduction and 2. The book would not be a way into the subject but on the subject. I find some of Floridi's ethical moves profound and others a little harder to swallow, not because they are implausible, but because they are novel enough to invoke at least some scepticism.

Information: A Very Short Introduction is not an easy book, but an extremely rewarding one if you are at least willing to blame yourself for not understanding everything the first time your eyes glean the text.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Floridi has carved out a niche in philosophy which is so relevant to the modern age that it is a wonder more are not jostling for position here. In this little book (fits easily in the pocket!) he gives a broad ranging but very concise introduction to almost all the aspects of 'information' that I can think of. The writing style he uses is professional but very approachable - easy to follow but not at all condescending. Those not familiar with the academic study of information itself will find this book a real eye-opener. Those who have some prior knowledge will enjoy the high standard of clarity and precision of definitions presented in a very readable style and might take inspiration from the examples given to illustrate various points. For the price I would recommend this book to almost anyone.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great title in this series... 20 Sep 2011
Another great title in this series. In fact one of the best ones in recent years. When I bought this one I had no intention to refer to it in my studies. The material was so far-reaching and rich, up to date, and relevant that I ended up referring to it throughout my ICT studies. You may need to look back over some sections to fully grasp the whole picture as previous reviewers suggested. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good quick intro but... 16 Feb 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a good quick intro to information theory that goes beyond Shannon conceptually. The ideas in here, along with the digital physics of John Wheeler should make you think about the ultimate nature of reality, and, if you are a physicalist, about the way in which knowledge is implemented in the brain.

The analogy of computer software is a useful one. Computer software doesn't exist as an entity itself. It is always instantiated in patterns in some physical matter, whether it's states of magnetic fields, charges on transistors in a memory device, or the pattern of flowing electrons in an electrical circuit, through the air as electromagnetic energy. Computer software is information instantiated in electronic systems. Human knowledge is information instantiated in the states of neurons in brains, or encoded into letters words and sentences in books, or as patterns in computer archives - as in Kindle books.

So, where's the 'but'? The but is that you can get pretty much the same information that's in this little book from the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. Look it up online and search for 'Information Theory'.
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