We use technologies to interact with our physical environment, essentially to obtain energy and raw material, and to transform them into "whatever it is that we need". Until recently, technologies were firmly "under our thumb". That historic certainty is fading fast. In that emerging story, robots, algorithms, and Artificial Intelligence feature as prominent examples.
Organizations as artificial agents
Unlike the natural agents, which are born, artificial agents are human-made; artificial agents spring from human agency. I will introduce them as three groups that are not perfectly delineated: organizations, technologies, and socio-technical systems. Let's start with organizations, which we use to structure our interactions with others, be that for social, political, or economic purposes.
Within the natural agents, we find ourselves –humans– and any other biological organism, including animals, plants, fungi, and even unicellular life forms. However, fluids or fire do not qualify as natural agents. Here's the story.
Second only to creativity, agency is the key ingredient that fuels our innovation engine. Hence innovators should develop a solid grasp of their own agency, and that of others. Today, I start a series of posts that will explore the concept of agency, what it is, what it is not. To achieve that goal, the series will look at the vast diversity of agents, what they have in common, and what makes an agent an agent.
How we got to where we are
Thinking of the distant past, the numbers are staggering. In order to grasp the relative pace of the long-term developments, it helps to condense the entire history since the Big Bang into one single year: imagine 13.8 billion years boiled down to 365 days.