Welcome to my personal webpage. I am a philosopher, and I am lucky to divide my intellectual life between the two oldest universities in the world: the University of Oxford, where I am the OII’s Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information and Governing Body Fellow of Exeter College, and the Alma Mater Studiorum – University of Bologna, where I am Professor of Sociology of Culture and Communication, and I direct the Centre for Digital Ethics of the Department of Legal Studies. Outside Oxford and Bologna, I am an Adjunct Professor (“Distinguished Scholar in Residence”) of the Department of Economics, American University, Washington D.C.
My research concerns primarily Digital Ethics (aka Information and Computer Ethics), the Ethics of AI, the Philosophy of Information, and the Philosophy of Technology. My other research interests include Epistemology, Philosophy of Logic, and the History and Philosophy of Scepticism. I have published over 300 papers in these areas, in many anthologies and peer-reviewed journals. My works have been translated into many languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Lithuanian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.
My h-index is here.
My lifetime project is a tetralogy (a fancy word to say 4-volume work, not my term) on the foundation of the philosophy of information, called Principia Philosophiae Informationis. I have completed three-quarter of it. Best scenario, it will probably take me another decade to finish it, not least because I might have to add a fifth volume.
My most recent book in English is The Logic of Information (Oxford University Press 2019). It is preceded by: The Fourth Revolution – How the infosphere is reshaping human reality (Oxford University Press, 2014); The Ethics of Information (Oxford University Press, 2013, volume two of the tetralogy ); The Philosophy of Information (Oxford University Press, 2011, volume one of the tetralogy); Information – A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2010).
Most of my books translated into Italian are published by Raffaello Cortina Editore.
Some of my previous books include Scepticism and the Foundation of Epistemology – A Study in the Metalogical Fallacies (Brill, 1996); Internet – An Epistemological Essay (Il Saggiatore, 1997); Philosophy and Computing: An Introduction (Routledge, 1999); and Sextus Empiricus, The Recovery and Transmission of Pyrrhonism (Oxford University Press, 2002). The book on Sextus’ manuscript tradition was a matter of historical passion. I could indulge in it thanks to the extensive travelling due to my other research. Year after year, I visited more libraries and archives than I can recall and once, in New York, even an auction house that was selling one of the manuscripts. It was great fun.
I edited many volumes and special issues, including The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Computing and Information (Wiley-Blackwell, 2003); The Cambridge Handbook of Information and Computer Ethics (Cambridge University Press, 2010); and The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Information (Routledge, 2016).
I was born in Rome in 1964. I am also a British citizen now (I saw Brexit coming). I was educated at Rome University La Sapienza, where I graduated in philosophy (Laurea) in 1988, first class with distinction, after serving in the army (compulsory). My MPhil (1989, a two-year degree I was awarded instead of a one-year MA) and PhD (1990, awarded a year earlier) were both in philosophy, from the University of Warwick. I worked on philosophical logic as a graduate student with Susan Haack (Warwick) — who taught me how to think about conceptual problems — then as a postdoc with Michael Dummett (Oxford), who taught me how to disagree with him.
I was a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Warwick in 1990-1. I joined the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Oxford in 1990 and then the Department of Computer Science in 1999. I was Junior Research Fellow (JRF = postdoc) in Philosophy at Wolfson College, University of Oxford in 1990-4. A JRF is an immense honour, this much I understood at the time, because the competition was tougher than ferocious. But it is also an incredible privilege, which I slowly grasped only later. It allowed me to pursue any research I thought was important, without any constraint, and no required deliverables, for four years. Today, it seems unbelievable. Without that JRF I would have never had the courage and the time to work on the foundation of the philosophy of information.
Later, I was a Francis Yates Fellow in the History of Ideas at the Warburg Institute, University of London in 1994–95, and Research Fellow (roughly Assistant Professor) in Philosophy at Wolfson College, University of Oxford, in 1994-2001. During these years in Oxford, I held several lectureships in different Colleges and taught a variety of subjects, from Ancient Philosophy to Wittgenstein, but mostly Mathematical Logic. The didactic experience was extremely demanding but also incredibly instructive. I do not regret it, but I do not miss it.
Between 1994 and 1996, I also held a post-doctoral research scholarship at the Department of Philosophy, Università degli Studi di Torino. Between 2001 and 2006, I was Markle Foundation Senior Research Fellow in Information Policy at the Programme in Comparative Media Law and Policy, University of Oxford. Between 2002 and 2008, I was an Associate Professor of Logic (tenure) at the Università degli Studi di Bari. Between 2009 and 2014, I was a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hertfordshire, where I held the UNESCO Chair in Information and Computer Ethics. Between 2006 and 2017, I was a Fellow by Special Election of St Cross College, Oxford.
Between 2006 and 2010, I was President of IACAP (International Association for Computing And Philosophy). In 2009, I became the first philosopher to be elected Gauss Professor by the Göttingen Academy of Sciences. Still in 2009, I was awarded the Barwise Prize by the American Philosophical Association in recognition of my research on the philosophy of information, and I was elected Fellow of the Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and the Simulation of Behaviour. In 2010, I was appointed Editor-in-Chief of Springer’s new journal Philosophy & Technology and elected Fellow of the Center for Information Policy Research, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. In 2011, I was awarded an honorary doctorate (Laurea honoris causa) in philosophy by the University of Suceava, Romania, for my research on the philosophy of information. In 2012, I was appointed Chairman of the expert group, organised by the DG INFSO of the European Commission, on the impact of information and communication technologies on the digital transformations occurring in European society. Still in 2012, I was the recipient of the Covey Award, by the International Association for Computing and Philosophy, for “outstanding research in philosophy and computing”. I was then the recipient of the Weizenbaum Award for 2013 for my “significant contribution to the field of information and computer ethics, through his research, service, and vision” (the Award is given every two years by the International Society for Ethics and Information Technology). Still in 2013, I was elected Fellow of the British Computer Society (FBCS) and a Member of the Académie Internationale de Philosophie des Sciences (MAIPS). In 2014, I was awarded a Cátedras de Excelencia by the University Carlos III of Madrid (UC3M) for my work on the philosophy and ethics of information. In 2015, I was elected Fernand Braudel Senior Fellow of the European University Institute. In 2016, I received the Copernicus Scientist Award by the Institute of Advanced Studies of the University of Ferrara. I also received the J. Ong Award by the Media Ecology Association for my book The Fourth Revolution; and the Malpensa Prize, by the city of Guarcino, Italy. In 2017, I was elected Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. In 2018 I was elected to a Professorial Fellowship of Exeter College, Oxford. In 2018 I was awarded the Premio Conoscenza, Conferenza dei Rettori delle Università Italiane (CRUI, equivalent of Universities UK)), for achievements in research and communication about digital ethics; and the Thinker Award by IBM for my work on AI Ethics. In 2019, I was awarded the Premio Aretè “Maestro della Responsabilità”, Nuvolaverde, Confindustria, Gruppo 24 Ore Salone della CSR e dell’innovazione sociale, for ethics of communication; and the CogX Award, for “outstanding achievement in ethics of AI”. I also delivered the 2019 “Gilbert Ryle Lectures”. In 2020, I received the Premio Socrate, Cesare Landa Foundation, for philosophical communication, and the Premio Udine Filosofia, Mimesis Festival, for The Logic of Information (OUP, 2019). In 2021 I was awarded an honorary doctorate (Laurea honoris causa) in informatics by the University of Skövde, Sweden, for “groundbreaking work on the philosophy of information”. In 2022, I was elected Fellow of the Accademia delle Scienze dell’Istituto di Bologna.
I am deeply engaged with emerging policy initiatives on the socio-ethical value and implications of digital technologies and their applications. And I have worked closely on digital ethics (including the ethics of algorithms and AI) with the European Commission, the German Ethics Council, and, in the UK, with the House of Lords, the Cabinet Office, the Information Commissioner’s Office, several Governments, as well as with multinational corporations like Cisco, Facebook, Fujitsu, Google, IBM, Microsoft, and Tencent.
My current commitments include:
2022- Chair, Ethics and Data Governance Board, National Centre for HPC, Big Data and Quantum Computing, Italy
2022- Member, Expert Panel, Gruppo tecnico “Il digitale per la competitività del sistema industrial”, Confindustria.
2022- Member, Comitato Scientifico, Republica Digitale, Dipartimento per la Trasformazione Digitale, Ministero per l’Innovazione Tecnologia e la Transizione Digitale, Italy.
2021- Chair, Scientific Committee, STEP FuturAbility District, Milan, Italy.
2021- Editor-in-Chief, Digital Society (Springer)
2021- President of iFAB International Scientific Board, Italy
2020- Member, Consiglio Scientifico, Humane Technology Lab, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Italy
2020- Member, Ethics Board, MediaFutures: Research Centre for Responsible Media Technology & Innovation, University of Bergen, Norway
2019- Member, Advisory Board, Vodafone Institute for Society and Communications
2019- Member, Advisory Board, Leonardo Foundation, Italy
2018- Chair, Ethics Committee of the Machine Intelligence Garage project, Digital Catapult, UK innovation programme
2018- Editor-in-Chief, Digital Ethics Lab Yearbook Series (Springer)
2010- Editor-in-Chief, Philosophy & Technology (Springer)
Currently Member, editorial boards of Big Data & Society: Critical Interdisciplinary Inquiries; Ethics and Information Technology; Etica e Politica; Information; International Journal of Technology and Human Interaction; Minds and Machines; Philosophical Inquiries; Rivista Internazionale di Filosofia e Psicologia; Synthese (subject editor – philosophy of computing and information); Telematics & Informatics; The Information Society (associate editor – philosophy of information).
My past commitments included:
2020-21 Chair, Ethics Board, Cluster Science of Intelligence, German Excellence Initiative, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) EXC-2002/1.
2020 Member, Scientific Advisory Board, SIENNA (Stakeholder-informed ethics for new technologies with high socio-economic and human rights impact) project, European Union’s H2020 research and innovation programme.
2019-21 Member, Board of the UK’s Centre for Data Ethics an Innovation (CDEI)
2019-20 Member, EY AI Advisory Board
2019-20 Member, EU Commission’s High-Level Group on Artificial Intelligence
2019-20 Member, Advisory Board of The Institute for Ethical AI in Education (IEAIE), UK
2019-20 Member, Vatican Committee on the Ethics of AI
2019 Chair, Advisory Board on Tech Ethics within the APPG (All-Party Parliamentary Group) on Data Analytics, UK
2019 Member, Council of Europe’s Expert Committee on Human Rights Dimensions of Automated Data Processing and Different Forms of Artificial Intelligence (MSI-AUT) – Ministers’ Steering Committee on Media and Information Society (CDMSI)
2019 Member, Google’s Advanced Technology External Advisory Council
2019 Member, Advisory Group on Open Finance, Financial Conduct Authority, UK
2018-19 Member, World Economic Forum’s Council on The Future of Technology, Values and Policy
2018-19 Chair, Scientific Committee of AI4People, “Europe’s first global forum on the social impacts of artificial intelligence”
2018 Chair, Advisory Board of the 2018 International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners, EDPS, EU
2017-20 Chair, Data Ethics Group, The Alan Turing Institute
2017-18 Chair, Ethics Advisory Board of IMI-EMIF, the EU’s European Medical Information Framework
2017 Chair, Facebook’s Working Group on Digital Ethics
2016-19 Member, Science Panel of the Commitment to Privacy and Trust in Internet of Things Security (ComPaTrIoTS) Research Hub, EPSRC
2016-17 Member, EU EDPS’ Ethics Advisory Group on Ethical Dimensions of Data Protection
2016-17 Member, Royal Society and British Academy Working Group on Data Governance
2014-20 Member, Advisory Board of Tencent’s Internet and Society Institute
2014-17 Editor-in-Chief, Philosophical Studies book series (Springer)
2014-15 Co-chair, Ethics in Data Science Working Group, Cabinet Office
2014-15 Member, Google’s Advisory Council on the Right to be Forgotten
2013-18 Member, Board of Trustees, Nexa Center for Internet & Society
2012-13 Chair, European Commission’s project The Onlife Initiative – rethinking public spaces in the digital transition, on which the call ‘ICT 31-2014: Human-centric Digital Age’ within Horizon 2020 was then based
2011-13 Scientific Advisor, European Centre for International Political Economy, Brussels
2010-13 Member, Ethics Strategic Panel of the British Computer Society, responsible for reviewing the national Code of Conduct for IT professionals
2009-13 Advisor, Director General of the Information Society and Media Directorate-General of the European Commission about European policies concerning the “Future Information Technology & Society”
2009-10 Advisor and co-author, UNESCO Code of Ethics for the Information Society, UNESCO Information for All Programme
2006-10 President, International Association of Computing and Philosophy
2006-10 Member, Executive Board of the International Society for Ethics and Information Technology
2003-06 Vice-President, International Association of Computing and Philosophy
2000-04 Member, American Philosophical Association Committee on Philosophy and Computers
1996-97 Vice-President, Interacta, the Italian Association for Interactive Communication
1995-08 Founder and Director, Italian Web Site for Philosophy (SWIF)
In recent years, I have been the PI or Co-PI of several research projects (see publications).
I like and practice (when I can) two geometrical sport: chess and squash. I wish I were better at both. One of the achievements of which I am most proud is having my name engraved on the Oxford Squash trophies, as captain of the Wolfson teams who won cuppers in 1998-2002, the intercollegiate competitions at the University of Oxford.
Last but most importantly than anything you read, assuming you came this far, is that I’m lucky to be Kia Nobre‘s husband.