Facebook and Plato's cave

Plato is a great philosopher of information without the word being there. When it comes to the classic image of the myth of the cave, you can reinterpret the whole thing today in terms of the channel of communication and information theory: who gets access to which information. The people chained in front of the wall are effectively watching television, or glued to some social media. You can read it that way without doing any violence to the text. That shows two things. First, why it is a classic. A classic can be read and re-read, and re-interepreted. It never gets old, it just gets richer in consequences. It’s like old wine, it gets better with time. You can also see what I mean when I say we’ve been doing the philosophy of information since day one, because really the whole discussion of the cave is just a specific chapter in the philosophy of information. The point I try to glean from that particular feature in the great architecture of the Republic is the following: some people have their attention captured constantly by social media – it could be by cats on Facebook. They are chained to that particular social media – television yesterday, digital technology today. Some of these people can actually unchain themselves and acquire a better sense of what reality is, what the world really is about. What is the responsibility of those who have, as it were, unchained themselves from the constant flow, the constant grab of attention of everyday media, and are able to step back, literally step out of the cave? Are they supposed to go back and violently force the people inside to get away, as the text says? Updated that would mean, for example, implementing legislation. We would have to ban social media, we could forbid people from having mobile phones, we’d put some kind of back doors into social media because we want control. Or do we have to exercise toleration? If so, it would be a matter of education. We’d have to go back and talk to them. In essence here Plato, by addressing these questions, is giving us a lesson in the philosophy of information. 

From an interview of Luciano Floridi, Oxford Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information and a member of Google's advisory council around the “right to be forgotten” court case in Europe.

People addicted to social media as the people chained in front of the wall in Plato's cave allegory. I wish I'd thought of that.