It makes for an important milestone now that the continent has its own Top-Level Domain (TLD), dotAfrica (.Africa).
A two-day schedule is expected to commence next week that will culminate with general availability for anyone to own a dotAfrica website beginning July 2017 (see dotafrica.org).
And, aside from the TLD merely giving the continent its own identity, as noted last month during its launch by the then out-going Chairperson of the AU Commission, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, one would hope it will provide a platform for introspection in view of our many self-inflicted challenges, even as we take on the world from our own digital patch.
Shepherded by the AU, the TLD is being touted as “an African initiative created by Africans for Africans.”
It is also aimed at “the worldwide audience of companies, organisations and individuals interested in, associated with and connected with the African community and markets.”
I wish to challenge our think-tanks’ scholasticism to shed some light on what it should all mean, now that the near totality of humanity is riding on the information age.
I want to imagine that, in addition to Africa’s broad footprint on global knowledge as the cradle of mankind and intellectual awakening, dotAfrica should afford a firmer foothold in the “infosphere” in our self-examination and salvation, as well as telling our own story.
Here, I am thinking of it in terms of Luciano Floridi, professor of philosophy and ethics of information at the University of Oxford, as set out in his book The Fourth Revolution: How the Infosphere Is Reshaping Human Reality.
To be sure, it is more of a philosophical quest. I want to disagree with those who suggest that philosophy is dead.
Prof. Floridi recalls the scientific revolutions that have had deep impact in changing our understanding of the world around us and how we can interact with it, and how they have modified our conception of who we are and may expect to become. (Also see his analysis, Why Information Matters.)
The first revolution was sparked by Nicolaus Copernicus, the Renaissance mathematician and astronomer who placed the sun other than the Earth as the centre of the universe, thereby displacing humanity from its perception as the centre of the universe.
The second was by Charles Darwin, who showed that all species of life have evolved over time from common ancestors through natural selection, thus displacing humanity from the pinnacle of rational design.
The third revolution, especially as buoyed by contemporary studies in neuroscience, he says, draws from the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, in that we acknowledge that the mind is more than pure rationality. That it is influenced by hidden processes and subject to forces of which we are unconscious.
That, put another way, we are not transparent to ourselves. Thus, perhaps, the more reason we as Africans should reexamine ourselves within the larger global polity.
Prof. Floridi suggests a fourth revolution, drawing from how knowledge is organized, especially how information is organised through language and logic, including communication, flows, and processing.
From this, he asserts, information has arisen as a concept as fundamental and important as being, knowledge, life, intelligence, meaning, and good and evil — all concepts with which it is interdependent.
And as the spectre of artificial intelligence takes hold of every aspect of our lives, including banishing us from the workplace, the “infosphere” has been unleashed as the fourth revolution.
It is here that the challenge lies. He conceives of a study of the informational activities that make possible the construction, conceptualization, and also the moral stewardship of reality, both natural and artificial, as well as both physical and anthropological.
DotAfrica should not merely be an identity. I propose that it should be the springboard towards this conceptualization and moral stewardship of our often unhappy reality on the continent.
It should be yet another homegrown cog in addressing our challenges, drawing from the information age now upon us.