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.

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.