Gilbert Ryle Lecture Series

Cut and Paste: Making Sense of our Digital Realities

November 20-22, 2018

Trent University

Members of the Department of Philosophy and Trent Philosophy Society at Trent University are pleased to announce the annual Gilbert Ryle Lecture Series

delivered by

Professor Luciano Floridi, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information at the University of Oxford

Luciano Floridi directs the Digital Ethics Lab of the Oxford Internet Institute, and is Professorial Fellow of Exeter College. He is also Turing Fellow and Chair of the Data Ethics Group of the Alan Turing Institute and has recently served as ethics adviser to companies such as Facebook, Microsoft and Google, the UK government and the European Union on cutting edge policy issues surrounding the ethics of digital technologies. His areas of expertise include digital ethics, the philosophy of information, and the philosophy of technology. Among his recent books, all published by Oxford University Press (OUP): The Fourth Revolution - How the infosphere is reshaping human reality (2014), winner of the J. Ong Award; The Ethics of Information (2013); The Philosophy of Information (2011). His most recent book, The Logic of Information, will be published by OUP in 2019.

Cut and Paste: Understanding the Digital Revolution

Imagine someone asking whether the water is fresh or salty in the estuary where the river meets the sea. That someone has not understood the special nature of the place, which is where the water is brackish and the mangroves grow. Our infosphere is like that place: it is both analog and digital, both online and offline. We spend an increasing amount of our time in the infosphere, living onlife (e.g., Facebook has 2.2 billon users who are onlife on average one hour every day).  The new digital realities we inhabit and experience have been brought about by the digital revolution, and in the first lecture, I shall analyse its nature and scope. I shall suggest that the power of the digital to create the infosphere and the onlife experience is due to its ability to “cut and paste” analog realities, which we thought were either naturally inseparable but are now increasingly decoupled, like presence and location, or naturally separate, like personal information and personal identity, which are now intrinsically coupled. In the following two lectures I will analyse two special cases of this “cut and paste”.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

4-6pm - Trent Student Centre Events Space (1.07)

Cut: Regulating Artifical Intelligence

Our technologies are perfectly evolved to take advantage of the digital realities within which they operate, like mangroves growing in brackish water. And in the infosphere, new forms of autonomous and adaptive agency are evolving. In this second lecture, I shall discuss a significant case of “digital cut”. I shall present the nature and success of Artificial intelligence (AI) not in terms of a marriage but as a divorce between the ability to perform a task to fulfil a goal successfully and the need to be intelligent in doing so. I shall then discuss and dismiss some sci-fi scenarios that AI will not bring about, and focus on the ethical challenges that are really posed by AI, presenting recent work done on how we may deal with them, in terms of an ethical framework for AI.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

4-6pm - Trent Student Centre Events Space (1.07)

Paste:  Designing a Digitally Mature Society

By cutting and pasting our analog realities, digital technologies lower the constrains and increase the possibilities (affordances) to create new and better realities. We have more freedom to build and shape our world because the digital power to “cut and paste” leads to a significant increase in the possibility of design. So, in this third lecture, I shall explain that our age is the age of design, not just invention or discovery, the other two forms of innovation. I shall argue that it should also be the age of good design of a digitally mature society. Against this background, I will criticise recent forms of populist “pasting” political agency by linking sovereignty (popular vote) and governance (e.g. in American politics, with Trump, in the UK, with Brexit, and in continental Europe, with illiberal democracies) in some sort of digital direct democracy. Instead, I shall suggest that the digital blue is a great ally of the environmental green. The two work best in tandem. And if the world will enjoy a development that is ethically preferable for humanity and sustainable for the environment, it will be because the blue and the green will have created a good marriage between technology and nature. It can be done. There is just no time to waste.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

4-6pm - Trent Student Centre Events Space (1.07)


The Gilbert Ryle Lecture Series was established by the Philosophy Department at Trent in 1977 in honour of the late Gilbert Ryle. This year’s lectures are supported by the Office of Provost & VP Academic, the Cultural Studies Department, Kenneth Mark Drain Chair in Ethics, Lady Eaton College, and by funds from members, alumni, and friends of the Department of Philosophy.

All members of the University and the general public are cordially invited to attend this free series of lectures.

For more information, please contact Kathy Axcell at 705-748-1011 x7166 or



Past Gilbert Ryle Lecturers: 1976-present

  • 2017-18:  Jason Stanley, How Fascism Works
  • 2016-17:  Catherine Wilson, Life According to Nature
  • 2015-16:  Leo Groarke, Words, Pictures, Arguments: What Happens to Logic in an Age of Pictures?
  • 2014-15:  Richard Swinburne,  God and Christian Morality
  • 2013-14:  Harry Brighouse, Justice and Educational Policy
  • 2012-13:  Claudia Card,  Surviving Atrocities
  • 2011-12:   Sally Haslanger,  Doing Justice to the Social
  • 2010-11:  Anthony Grayling,  Forms of Liberty: The Evolution of an Idea and its Applications
  • 2009-10:  Paul Boghossian,  Rules, Relativism and Reduction
  • 2008-09:  No Ryle lectures this year.
  • 2007-08:   Nancy Fraser, Abnormal Justice
  • 2006-07:   Simon Blackburn, Pragmatism, Minimalism, and Common-Sense
  • 2005-06:  Evelyn Fox Keller, Self-Organization" and the Problem of Life
  • 2004-05:  Alvin Plantinga, Christian Belief and Science: surface conflict, deep discord: Naturalism and Science: surface concord, deep conflict
  • 2003-04:  Iris Marion Young, Political Responsibility and Structural Injustice
  • 2002-03:   Drucilla Cornell, Whose Development?: Freedom,Equality, and Globalization
  • 2001-02:  Dennis Dutton, Art and Human Evolution
  • 2000-01:   G. A. Cohen,  Rescuing Justice from Constructivism
  • 1999-2000:   Susan Haack, Defending Science - Within Reason
  • 1998-99:  Paul Churchland, New Light on Some Old Philosophical Problems: How Computational Neuroscience Illuminates Mind, Meaning, and Morals
  • 1997-98:  Thomas P. Kasulis, A Cultural Philosophy of Relationship—Intimacy vs. Integrity
  •  1996-97:   Kenneth Schmitz,  The Recovery of Wonder - Unmakable Things and the New Freedom
  • 1995-96:  Francis Sparshott, The Future of Aesthetics
  • 1994-95:  Calvin O. Shrag, The Portrait of the Self—After Postmodernity
  • 1993-94:  No lecture this year.
  • 1992-93:  William Newton-Smith,  The Nature of Rationality
  • 1991-92:  Jonathan Glover,  Ethics: Lessons From the Nazi Period
  • 1990-91:  Alan Donagan,  The Cartesian Myth Revisited (Cancelled)
  • 1989-90:  Martha Nussbaum, Aristotelian Politics—Human Functioning and Social Structure
  • 1988-89:   Daniel J. O’Connor,  Time and Free Will
  • 1987-88:  Tom Regan,  Individualism Reconsidered
  • 1986-87:  David Gallop, Reminations
  • 1985-86:  David Kaplan, Word and Belief
  • 1984-85:  Bernard Williams, Social Justice
  •  1983-84:  Errol Harris, Time and the World
  •  1982-83:   Donald Munro, Images of Human Nature
  •  1981-82:  Mary Midgley, Wickedness
  •  1980-81:  Richard Taylor, Directions of Moral Philosophy
  •  1979-80:  Robert Paul Wolff,  The Language of Marxian Economics
  •  1978-79:  A. J. Ayer, Hume’s Philosophy Reappraised
  •  1977-78:  William Dray, Theories of History
  •  1976-77: Master Anthony Kenny, Free Will and Responsibility