I am the OII’s Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information at the University of Oxford, where I am also the Director of the Digital Ethics Lab of the Oxford Internet Institute. Still in Oxford, I am Distinguished Research Fellow of the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics of the Faculty of Philosophy, and Research Associate and Fellow in Information Policy of the Department of Computer Science. Outside Oxford, I am Faculty Fellow of the Alan Turing Institute (the national institute for data science) and Chair of its Data Ethics Group; and Adjunct Professor (“Distinguished Scholar in Residence”) of the Department of Economics, American University, Washington D.C.
My research concerns primarily Information and Computer Ethics (aka Digital Ethics), the Philosophy of Information, and the Philosophy of Technology. Other research interests include Epistemology, Philosophy of Logic, and the History and Philosophy of Scepticism. I have published over a 150 papers in these areas, in many anthologies and peer-reviewed journals. My works have been translated into many languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Lithuanian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.
My lifetime project is a tetralogy (not my term) on the foundation of the philosophy of information, called Principia Philosophiae Informationis. I am half way through. Best scenario, it will probably take me another decade to complete it.
My most recent books are: 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). I edited many volumes, 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).
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 was born in Rome in 1964. 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) and PhD (1990) are both in philosophy, from the University of Warwick. I worked on philosophical logic as a graduate student with Susan Haack (Warwick) — she 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 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 constrains, and no required deliverables, for four yeas. 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 Francis Yates Fellow in the History of Ideas at the Warburg Institute, University of London in 1994–95, and Research Fellow in Philosophy at Wolfson College in 1994-2001. During these years in Oxford, I held several lecturerships in different Colleges and taught a variety of subjects, from Ancient Philosophy to Wittgenstein and 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 Associate Professor of Logic (tenure) at the Università degli Studi di Bari. Between 2009 and 2014, I was 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 Fellow by Special Election of St Cross College.
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 awarded a laurea honoris causa 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 the 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 Member of the Académie Internationale de Philosophie des Sciences (MAIPS). In 2014, I 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.
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 data 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, and the Information Commissioner’s Office, as well as with multinational corporations (e.g. Cisco, Google, IBM, Microsoft, and Tencent). Currently, I am a Member of the EU’s Ethics Advisory Group on Ethical Dimensions of Data Protection, of the Royal Society and British Academy Working Group on Data Policy, of Google Advisory Board on “the right to be forgotten”, of the Advisory Board of Tencent’s Internet and Society Institute, and of NEXA’ Board of Trustees. I am the Chairman of the Ethics Advisory Board of the European Medical Information Framework (a €56 million EU project on medical informatics).
In the past, I was Co-chairman of the Ethics in Data Science Working Group, British Cabinet Office, Chairman of the 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 is based (the outcome of the project, The Onlife Manifesto, is open access and freely available online). I was a member of the Ethics Strategic Panel of the British Computer Society (2010-2013), responsible for reviewing the national Code of Conduct for IT professionals. I co-authored the UNESCO Code of Ethics for the Information Society (UNESCO Information for All Programme 2009), in view of developing a UNESCO Declaration to be submitted to the General Conference.
In recent years, I have been the PI or Co-PI of the following grants/projects: “Data Philanthropy” (Microsoft Academic Grant 2017-2018); “The Ethics of Medical Data Analytics: Opportunities and Challenges” (Microsoft Academic Grant, 2016); “Commitment to Privacy and Trust in Internet of Things Security (ComPaTrIoTS) Research Hub” (Co-PI, UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, 2016-18); “The Logics of Information Visualization” (European Union H2020, MSCA-IF-2014, 2015-17); “Viral Messaging: its Nature and Dynamics” (Tencent Internet and Society Institute 2015-17); “An Ethical Framework for the New Civic Responsibilities of Online Service Providers” (Google Academic Grant 2015); “The Ethics of Biomedical Big Data” (John Fell Fund Main Award, 2014); “Protection of Information and the Right to Privacy: A New Equilibrium?” (Google Academic Grant, 2013); “The Onlife Initiative” (European Commission, 2012-13); “Online Security and Civil Rights: A Fine Ethical Balance” (University of Hertfordshire Grant, 2012); “Online Security” (Google Academic Grant, 2012); “Understanding Information Quality Standards and their Challenges” (UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, 2011-13); “The Ethics of Information Warfare: Risks, Rights and Responsibilities” (Marie Curie Fellowship, FP7- PEOPLE-2009-IEF, 2011-12); “The New Ethical Responsibilities of Internet Service Providers” (Google Academic Grant, 2011); “The Construction of Personal Identities Online” (UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, 2009-11).
I like and practice (when I can) two geometrical sport: chess and squash. I wish I were better at both.
But most importantly than anything you read, assuming you came this far, is that I’m Kia Nobre‘s husband.