CILIP — the leading British association for librarians — was yesterday holding its annual conference in Manchester. I noticed that one of the two keynote presentations was to be given by Luciano Floridi: the Oxford philosopher, (but of course he is deeply Italian!), who has for some years been developing an ambitious philosophy of information. Professor Floridi is a wide-ranging and well read philosopher and his The 4th Revolution: How the infosphere is reshaping human reality is particularly recommended. He also makes excellent presentations, and is prepared to say “boo” to an AI goose.
Although I follow Floridi on Twitter and read his stuff (some of it, not all of it, he writes a lot), I did not know that he was influential in Library and Information Science. After a quick check on Google and Twitter, it was clear that there is quite a stream of work in LIS building on his ideas. So I kept half an eye on the #cilipconf17 floridi stream on Twitter yesterday. There were hundreds of tweets about his presentation. Uniformly enthusiastic. Of course one cannot really get a full picture of a presentation from the tweet stream it occasions, but this was a very dense stream; and I am sure that CILIP’s organisers will feel that they made a good choice in inviting Floridi to their event.
I especially liked his concluding thought (see the photo of his slide above). Library and Information Science does not just take care of the past for the present, it takes care of the present for the future. Librarians, and cultural curators of all kinds, really do have a crucial role to play in preserving the present for the future. And we need to remember that, although much of what we do seems to be concerned with preserving the past for the present. He also reminded his audience that librarians have real power: they have power to the extent that they can help their users and their patrons to ask the right questions. Whoever controls the questions plays a big part in controlling the answers.