We believe that societies must protect, cherish and nurture humans’ attentional capabilities. This does not mean giving up searching for improvements: that shall always be useful. Rather, we assert that attentional capabilities are a finite, precious and rare asset. In the digital economy, attention is approached as a commodity to be exchanged on the market place, or to be channelled in work processes. But this instrumental approach to attention neglects the social and political dimensions of it, i.e., the fact that the ability and the right to focus our own attention is a critical and necessary condition for autonomy, responsibility, reflexivity, plurality, engaged presence, and a sense of meaning. To the same extent that organs should not be exchanged on the market place, our attentional capabilities deserve protective treatment. Respect for attention should be linked to fundamental rights such as privacy and bodily integrity, as attentional capability is an inherent element of the relational self for the role it plays in the development of language, empathy, and collaboration. We believe that, in addition to offering informed choices, the default settings and other designed aspects of our technologies should respect and protect attentional capabilities.


§ 4.5 Rethinking and developing new forms of education are certainly among the most exciting challenges of our time. There are great opportunities, but also a serious risk of missing them. In the same way as we lack a post-Westphalian way of approaching politics, likewise we are still missing a post–Gutenberg way of approaching pedagogy. The difficulty is further exacerbated by the mental constrain imposed by the overbearing presence of the book for so many centuries, which makes it hard to consider alternative forms of education (think for example of the written assessment procedure); and by the omnipresence of ICTs, which constantly distract our reflection into believing that the real issue concerns which technical solutions are or will be more feasible to manage learning processes involving digital natives, when in fact the fundamental problem is not how but what: what kind of knowledge will be required and expected when living onlife.

Luciano Floridi (editor)

The Onlife Manifesto – being human in a hyperconnected era. Luciano Floridi (editor). University of oxford (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-04093-6

Note (from the Springer website): What is the impact of information and communication technologies (ICTs) on the human condition? In order to address this question, in 2012 the European Commission organized a research project entitled The Onlife Initiative: concept reengineering for rethinking societal concerns in the digital transition. This volume collects the work of the Onlife Initiative