Internet and the flow of knowledge: Which ethical and political challenges will we face?

Niels Gottschalk-Mazouz


The classic philosophical definition of knowledge does not address important features of the kind of knowledge that is central in so-called knowledge societies, or so I will argue. I will therefore propose a different characterisation of such knowledge by combining and interpreting typical features of knowledge that have been expressed in a range of proposals to redefine knowledge from the perspective of sociology, economics, psychology & information science. On this basis, I will then discuss the question: which kind of knowledge is provided through the internet? I will characterise it as representative and consisting of chunks of “knowledge candidates”, because it has to be recognised as knowledge on an individual basis as institutional recognition mechanisms are mostly absent. I will then discuss how this might change with Web2.0, i.e. socially generated knowledge, and with other recent or planned innovations, like the Semantic Web or Ubiquitous Computing. With respect to the flow of knowledge and to the types of knowledge that constitute this flow, I will argue that these innovations might interact in a way that intensifies the propagation of candidates of what is traditionally referred to as know-how, but in this case embodied in machines. If this prospect is plausible, then further political and ethical struggles should focus more on the control over the actual functioning of such machines than on legal issues: It will be on what you can (or cannot) do, not on what you are allowed to do. I will briefly sketch the main challenges within these struggles.


20th century philosophy; ethics; philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; applied ethics; communication; ethics; information; internet; knowledge; Dretske Fred; Plato; robotics

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