Book Chapters

Social Machines in a Data-driven World

In Hagengruber, Ruth Edith. Women Philosophers on Economics, Technology, Environment, and Gender History: Shaping the Future, Rethinking the Past, Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2023.

Abstract: In the last decades, social machines have evolved from supporting the collaborative and creative endeavors of humans to being proactive experts themselves. In many cases they are no longer mere tools but interaction partners. Algorithmic innovations in Big Data-based analytics and machine learning result in less influence for the human collaborators and more power for these machines. Examples from medicine and pharmacy demonstrate that Big Data analytics promises to provide not just insights but foresight: predictive analytics is used for optimizing the discovery path in drug discovery and decision processes in medical environments. The anticipatory governance in medical early warning systems and preventive healthcare systems allows medical decision processes to be supported or even automated. Thus, it may be exemplified that so-called social machines have evolved from technology-enabled social systems towards expert systems relying on the latest developments in the computational sciences.

Von Cyberphysikalischen Systemen zu intelligenten Infrastrukturen (From Cyberphysical Systems to Intelligent Infrastructures)

In Philosophisches Handbuch Künstliche Intelligenz (Philosophical Handbook: Artificial Intelligence) Ed. K. Mainzer, Springer VS, 2020

Autonomie und Kontrolle in Big Data basierten Systemen (Autonomy and Control in Big Data based Systems)

In Berechenbarkeit der Welt?, Eds. J. Wernecke, W. Pietsch, M.Otte, Heidelberg: Springer VS, 2016


The deployment of Big Data technologies forms an integral part of the latest generation in complex adaptive systems. In such systems, e.g. future proactive health and wellbeing systems, governance will already be embedded. Social engineering restricts the autonomy of the participants. Thus a responsible innovation process guiding the modelling and employment of such systems is essential.

The Participatory Turn: A Multidimensional Gradual Agency Concept for Human and Non-human Actors

in Collective Agency and Cooperation in Natural and Artificial Systems: Explanation, Implementation and Simulation, Ed. C. Misselhorn, Philosophical Studies Series, New York: Springer, 2015. 

Abstract: Novel varieties of interplay between humans, robots and software agents are on the rise. Computer-based artefacts are no longer mere tools but have become interaction partners. Distributed problem solving and social agency may be modelled by social computing systems based on multi-agent systems (MAS). MAS and agentbased modelling (ABM) approaches focus on the simulation of complex interactions and relationships of human and/or non-human agents. MAS may be deployed both in virtual environments and cyber-physical systems. With regard to their impact on the physical environment, such systems possess a virtual actuality in a testbed. They have a real actuality when they are employed in real time in order to govern processes in the natural world. Constellations of inter-agency and distributed agency materialize. This paper presents a multidimensional, gradual classification framework for individual and joint agency. Activity level, adaptivity, interaction and personification of others are essential dimensions. The framework allows constellations of distributed and collective agency in sociotechnical systems to be analysed in detail. Scenarios where solely humans act can be compared to testbed simulations based on this classification scheme.

Exploring Social and Asocial Agency in Agent-Based Systems, in Agent-Based Simulation of Organizational Behavior: New Frontiers of Social Science Research, Eds. D. Secchi & M. Neumann, New York: Springer, 2015.

Abstract: Agent-based systems focus on the simulation of complex interactions and relationships of human and/or non-human agents. Social and asocial agency in agent-based systems depends on the conceptual engineering performed by computer scientists and application engineers. The perspective of multidimensional, gradual agency allows both agency (potentiality) and action (actuality) in socio-technical systems to be examined. A conceptual framework is presented which permits the phenomena of complex regulation of behavior and execution control in computer-mediated environments to be characterized. On this basis scenarios in which humans and non-human agents interact can be analyzed. Emergence in such systems may be described. Distributed action in the material reality can be compared to test-bed simulations. It is shown how the exploration of social and asocial agency in virtual environments may profit from work done in machine ethics.

Agency and Interagency in Socio-Technical Systems, Rethinking Responsibility in Science and Technology (Robolaw Series III), Eds. F. Battaglia, N. Mukerji  & J. Nida-Rümelin, Pisa: University of Pisa Press, 2014.

Abstract: In order to understand agency and interagency in socio-technical systems a concept of multi-dimensional, gradual agency is introduced. It offers a classification framework for the observation and interpretation of scenarios where humans and nonhumans interact. It may be applied to the analysis of the potential of social computing systems and their virtual and real actualizations. The approach may also be used to describe situations where options to act are delegated to technical agents. Ethically relevant scenarios where solely humans act can be compared to test-bed simulations and hybrid constellations. The state of the art in proto-ethical behaviour, social interaction and social autonomy of current socio-technical systems is presented.