The Future Is Here, How on Earth Do We Deal with It

Posted on Wednesday 13 September 2023.

autonomous agency blog

Since OpenAI released ChatGPT to an unsuspecting world in November 2022, the internet has been in super-hype mode again. Within a week, ChatGPT had gained 1 million users, and since then, we’ve seen it develop through several releases.

OpenAI has also made its latest release, GPT-4, available as an API for developers to build applications and services. As a result, we are currently witnessing unprecedented advancements in the realm of AI applications, the likes of which have never been seen before!

Some people in the industry have even whispered that we’re witnessing the birth of early-stage Artificial General Intelligence (AGI).

AGI has become a buzz phrase, but what is it?

For many, AGI is seen as the end goal of AI development. An intelligent, autonomous system that can perform any task set to them and potentially do it better than humans.

But are organisations ready for this kind of leap into the future of work?

Many may think absolutely not! However, although the genie is well and truly out of the bottle, it’s also opened up a whole new discussion and debate on precisely that subject.

What is an Autonomous Agency?

Autonomous agency theory is a concept in social psychology that emphasises the idea that individuals have a certain level of control and agency over their own lives, decisions, and actions.

According to this theory, people have the capacity for autonomous action. They can make choices based on their personal values, goals, and beliefs rather than being solely influenced by external forces like social norms or cultural expectations.

“Autonomous agency theory emphasises the importance of personal responsibility and self-determination in shaping one's own life and achieving individual goals.”

In organisations, leadership and management structures provide their own form of autonomous agency to support achieving strategic and operational goals.

The most evident example of this is the human-to-human relationship. Line managers are responsible for directly fulfilling objectives or delegating tasks to a team for which they are held accountable. And to facilitate goal attainment, managers may employ a combination of supervised and unsupervised engagements.

The specific mix of autonomous agencies used in human-to-human relationships can vary depending on impact, urgency, process adherence, policy, legislation, compliance, contractual obligations, service levels, performance management, and success factors.

Additional considerations that influence the mix of autonomous agency in these relationships include the following:

✅ Management styles

✅ Organisational culture

✅ The levels of trust existing among individuals

Definition of autonomous artificial intelligence

Autonomous artificial intelligence (AAI) is a type of AI system that has the ability to operate independently without human intervention. You may be wondering about the distinction between AAI and traditional AI.

Unlike traditional AI systems that depend on human input, AAI systems can learn from data, make decisions, and perform tasks without any human assistance.

anatomy of autonomy
Source: Latent Space

The one thing that all autonomous AI systems have in common is self-determination.

They can determine how to act independently without just following human instructions. So, it’s crucial to address how we can use autonomous AI technology safely and responsibly as it continues to develop.

The 3 Key Autonomous Agency Relationships

#1 Human to Human

This relationship concept highlights that people can control their actions and make choices according to their values and objectives. In the context of an organisation, this means that employees should be encouraged to take responsibility for their own work and make decisions that align with the organisation’s objectives.

⚡ What’s the role of managers?

Providing employees with autonomy and decision-making power and creating a culture of trust and collaboration.

#2 Human to Machine

In the human-to-machine relationship, individuals have agency over their interactions with technology and can decide how to use technology to support their goals.

In the context of an organisation, this means that employees should be empowered to use technology in a way that aligns with the organisation’s objectives.

⚡ What’s the role of managers?

Managers can support this by providing training and resources to help employees understand how to use technology effectively. They should also ensure that technology is designed to be user-friendly and aligned with the organisation’s goals.

#3 Machine to Machine

This concept allows machines to have agency and control over their own actions and can make decisions based on their programming and inputs.

When it comes to organisations, machines should be created to work in harmony with the overall objectives and be programmed to make decisions that align with those objectives.

⚡ What’s the role of managers?

Managers can support this by ensuring that machines are designed with clear goals and objectives in mind and monitoring machine behaviour to ensure that it aligns with the organisation’s goals.

Should We Start Focussing on The Machine-to-Machine Relationship?

The rise of machine-to-machine (M2M) relationships has ushered in a new era of technological advancement and automation. As we witness the development of advanced artificial general intelligence (AGI), it becomes crucial to understand the dynamics and implications of autonomous machines working together to achieve common goals.

Managing the level of autonomous agency in M2M relationships is essential to ensure effective and responsible outcomes.

There are several factors to consider that could help manage the level of autonomous agency, and the good news is that this is familiar. Why? Well, because IT service management has spent the last 30-plus years developing practices that can be applied to all the relationships we’ve previously discussed.

To learn more about these factors and gain access to the Machine-to-machine framework, download our latest guide 📕 Shaping the Future of Work: The Impact of Autonomous Agency and AGI.

David Wright

David Wright

SDI's Chief Value & Innovation Officer (CVIO)



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