Ethics and Information Technology

, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 73–81 | Cite as

The tragedy of the digital commons

  • Gian Maria Greco
  • Luciano Floridi


In the paper it is argued that bridging the digital divide may cause a new ethical and social dilemma. Using Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons, we show that an improper opening and enlargement of the digital environment (Infosphere) is likely to produce a Tragedy of the Digital Commons (TDC). In the course of the analysis, we explain why Adar and Huberman's previous use of Hardin's Tragedy to interpret certain recent phenomena in the Infosphere (especially peer-to-peer communication) may not be entirely satisfactory. We then seek to provide an improved version of the TDC that avoids the possible shortcomings of their model. Next, we analyse some problems encountered by the application of classical ethics in the resolution of the TDC. In the conclusion, we outline the kind of work that will be required to develop an ethical approach that may bridge the digital divide but avoid the TDC.

artificial agents digital divide Garrett Hardin Infosphere tragedy of the commons tragedy of the digital commons 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gian Maria Greco
    • 1
  • Luciano Floridi
    • 2
  1. 1.Università degli Studi di Lecce, Italy; Information Ethics research Group, Computing Laboratory, Oxford UniversityDipartimento di Filologia Classica e di Scienze FilosoficheGreat Britain
  2. 2.Università degli Studi di BariDipartimento di Scienze FilosoficheItaly; Information Ethics research Group, Computing Laboratory, Oxford University, Great Britain

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