Defining agency

With the 'target list' of natural and artificial agents in mind, and focusing on their common characteristics, I can now propose a working definition of agency. At its core, agency is the ability to act. And that action has certain qualities: it serves some purpose, it has a direction towards some utility. Today, I'll offer a short defining phrase and then unpack its meaning piece by piece.

Comparing natural and artificial agents

Between the natural and the artificial agents, there are many differences, but few similarities. An inclusive definition of agency needs to cater for all these agents, in all the diversity they exhibited in the preceding posts. At this stage it is useful to review the major differences, at least conceptually, because any definition of agency will be inclusive if —and only if— it remains agnostic of those differences across the diversity of agents.

Socio-technical systems as artificial agents

This third group of artificial agents sits somewhere between organization and technology, as a blend of both. To understand the agency of socio-technical systems, it is helpful to remember that they belong to the complex adaptive systems. They are open, dynamic, and nonlinear; and they exhibit emergence and resilience.