Thoughts on Luciano Floridi: The Fourth Revolution

Reading seminar

Review n. 1, ISKM57 Reading Seminar: Educational Technology and Learning Society

Over all I really enjoyed reading Luciano Floridi’s The Fourth Revolution. His argumentation throughout the text is clear a convincing, it easily grabs one’s attention. After reading two chapters (2: Space: Infosphere; 4: Self-understanding: The Four Revolutions) I stay motivated to read the whole book, to fill in all the missing parts in the fascinating picture Floridi is painting.

From this reason I do not seek to critically evaluate all the thoughts presented in The Fourth Revolution. Instead I would like to mention few moments I find subjectively interesting and worth discussing (and believe me, it was difficult to choose only these! 🙂 ).

People as “living tools”

Floridi is distinguishing three generations of technologies based on the changing relationship between humans, nature and technology. First-generation technologies, such as knife, stand between the user (human) and the nature. Second-generation technologies greater the distance – user interacts with one technology to access another one, for example when he uses a key to open a door.

Third-generation technologies exclude the user completely – there is no need for “human’s touch” when it comes to synchronizing Google Calendar between two devices. Pretty sci-fi, huh?

Although it may seem so, Floridi argues that the third-generation technology is actually rather old concept. In ancient, and unfortunately also later societies, slaves served as this type of technology to the ones with power. Nowadays robots may serve the same purpose.

Fear of being out of the loop

But what are the psychological effects on humans? How do we feel about the evolution of technologies? The answer might bring light to a lot of confusion, fear and tension in present society.

The second-generation technologies are mostly the inventions of modern society. The modern mindset is still persistent in the minds of many people among the generations, but mostly the ones born before Generation X. The clash of viewing the world between the pre-X and X-after generations can be seen for example in congressmen interrogating Mark Zuckerberg with pretty bizarre questions. 🙂

What the third-generation technologies cause is placing the humans out of the “loop”. We are no longer needed, we are no longer privileged to control all the processes attached to the technologies. Does that make us feel relieved that we have “less work”, or do we fear we are losing control of our lives?

The four revolutions

This is not the first time the humankind stands in front of a big shift. Floridi says that any revolution changes the way we are thinking about the world and also the way we are thinking about ourselves.

First big revolution was Copernican revolution which taught us that the Earth is not in the centre of the universe. Second revolution, the one Charles Darwin imposed, went even further – humans are no different from other animals when it comes to the process of evolution. We are all beings of nature, evolving to advanced organisms from the very simple ones.

Third shift was caused by Sigmund Freud and his notion of unconsciousness. He exposed, that not even our trust in human reason and its uniqueness and reliability should be without doubt. The forth revolution comes with Alan Turing and the invention of ICTs, which dethroned humans from the superior position of the only beings that can reckon and do logical operations.

What are the implications of these revolutions? They correct our view of humankind as central and superior to all the other forms of living and non-living entities. We are no longer in the centre of the universe nor the nature, our reason is not crystal clear and can be outsmarted pretty easily by ICTs.

The rise of human creativity?

I think there is no point in crying about the “lost privilages” of past times, they were all false anyway. 😉 The computer can count better and faster than us, it can store much more information than our brains etc. – we should accept these facts and try to ask more interesting questions. What is it, that makes us human? What do we posses, that animals nor ICTs does not (so far)?

In my opinion, one of the possible answers could be the creativity in all its broadness. What do you think? 😉

Floridi, L. (2014). The 4th revolution: how the infosphere is reshaping human reality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

5 thoughts on “Thoughts on Luciano Floridi: The Fourth Revolution

  1. Hi!
    I see that creativity may be the main thing making us human, however, I reckon ICTs are able to be creative as well, to some extent. I think one of the main things that are making us human is the ability to love and to feel a wide range of emotions.
    Do you agree with Floridi that with the invention of ITCs there happened the fourth revolution and that it is comparable to those previous revolutions? Do you feel like it is possible to compare Turing with names like Copernicus, Darwin and Freud?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Erika! 🙂 Thank you for your comment. Wonderful, yes! Ability to love and wide range of emotions are for sure very human, althoug animals have this ability too. It is pretty complicated, the more I think of it, the more I fail to find purely human feature, which cannot be found in animals or ICTs. You are right that ICTs can be creative too. Maybe we can give it more thought and see, what comes up later. 🙂

      To your question, in my opinion yes. The change in work, production, human relationships, power structures and so on is immense. For example, look at us – we communicate asynchronously, in different time and space, about philoshopical topics proposed in a book by Luciano Floridi, which we never held in our hands and we have read it only thanks to ICTs. Would this connection between you, Floridi and me be possible without ICTs? What is extraordinary about the fourth revolution is its scope, its widespreadness. It affects not only elites, but the middle class and the poorest among us too.

      Páči sa mi

  2. Hello Anna!

    Reading your review was for me pleasurable like reading Floridi’s book. 😉
    I have also found interesting this idea of “the piano nobile” where people live without knowing how everything is managed by other people down there in inferior levels.
    During the reading of Floridi’s book, I realized that I live in such a level! I really don’t know how the devices around me are precisely working and I am not able to repair them.
    I agree with you that in pre-X generation (but not only in this generation) all the changes bring up a lot of confusion, fear and tension. My grandmother does not understand almost any of these changes.
    And I also feel little bit confused and fear a little bit because all the changes would not have to continue in a right way.
    Do you really think that machines wouldn’t be able to be more creative than us? And what if the ICT’s would realize that we are inferior creatures and would behave the same way we behave to animals. Do you think it could happen?
    My favourite writer Brian Herbert wrote books about the fight between humankind and machines. In his opinion, the difference between humans and machines is our emotions and unpredictable behaviour which is connected to our emotions. What do you think about this opinion?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Karel! 🙂 Thank you for your comment, it was pleasant to follow your thoughts! 🙂 I will try to respond to your questions.

      “Do you really think that machines wouldn’t be able to be more creative than us?” Absolutely not, after all, I did not express this thought anyware in my text. 🙂 I think that they eventually could, and probably will be. What it will bring is hard to predict for me.

      “In his opinion, the difference between humans and machines is our emotions and unpredictable behaviour which is connected to our emotions. What do you think about this opinion?” I recognize this to be human and to be part of the human creativity also. The creative moment often comes “from nowhere”, in “strange” situation, as a reply to something we heard, felt, randomly. (Although yes, it can be trained and developed too.) I agree that unpredictability and emotions play a big role in our human nature, and also in the process of creativity.

      Páči sa mi

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