We cannot simply assume that unthinkingly applying digital technologies will inevitably bring about a seamless transition to a "better" digital world—a world in which the values of collective action, common knowledge and civic dignity are the norm—rather than ending up in a world of financial or social exploitation through surveillance capitalism, techno-feudalism and diminished humanity.
"The message from world leaders, academics and non-governmental organisations is clear: if we want to address existential threats like climate change, or if we want to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for peace, equality, and social justice, then rapid societal transformation is necessary," says Jeremy Pitt, Professor of Intelligent and Self-Organising Systems at Imperial College London, UK, "But we need to ensure that the transformations that digital technologies will help bring about are indeed the societal transformations of the kind that we actually want. As computer scientists and software engineers, we have to think carefully about, and take responsibility for, the impact that our algorithms and systems will have on society. Although difficult and complex, the first principle is quite easy: primum non nocere—first, do no harm. Then, do good."
It is possible to engineer socio-technical systems which point to a "better" digital world, through the direct or indirect codification of algorithms which encapsulate the deep social knowledge of philosophy, political science, and economic science. This includes the Nobel prize winning theory of Elinor Ostrom on institutions for sustainable common pool resource management, Nicholas Rescher's theory of distributive justice for fair resource allocation, and Josiah Ober's theory of basic democracy as a platform for legitimate governance and civic dignity.
Prof Jeremy Pitt’s new book, Self-Organising Multi-Agent Systems: Algorithmic Foundations of Cyber-Anarcho-Socialism approaches the Digital Transformation through a different lens, offering a fresh perspective for educating students and researchers from both the information and social sciences. It shows how ''planned emergence''—the intentional appearance of global properties, such as qualitative values—can be a product of the local self-organisation of conventional rules by autonomous agents.
Self-Organising Multi-Agent Systems is the first volume to bring together ideas from computer science (self-organisation, distributed systems, and artificial intelligence) with ideas from the social sciences (philosophy, economics and politics). The book features an introduction to some concepts and technologies for multi-agent systems and self-organising systems, and then considers the problems of strategic interaction (individual decision-making under uncertainty) and social interaction (collective decision-making under uncertainty). The text covers topics as diverse as game theory, social choice theory and alternative dispute resolution, through to knowledge representation and algorithmic reasoning for electronic institutions, social construction of conceptual resources, and political engagement. Readers will be presented with algorithms for implementing interactional justice, which enable a set of individual subjective assessments on a qualitative matter, such as fairness, can be aggregated into a collective objective assessment, providing a basis for continuous systemic improvement; and will gain insights into the knowledge management processes of basic democracy, providing the basis for both self-determination (whereby those affected by a set of rules participate in their selection, modification and application) and the avoidance of tyranny in all its forms (autocracy, oligarchy and majoritarianism).
Self-Organising Multi-Agent Systems: Algorithmic Foundations of Cyber-Anarcho-Socialism retails for US$128 / £115 (hardcover) and is also available in electronic formats. To order or know more about the book, visit http://www.worldscientific.com/worldscibooks/10.1142/Q0307.
About the Author
Jeremy Pitt is Professor of Intelligent and Self-Organising Systems in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Imperial College London. He received a B.Sc. in Computer Science from the University of Manchester and a Ph.D. in Computing from Imperial College (University of London). He has been teaching and researching Artificial Intelligence and Human-Computer Interaction for over thirty years, where his research programme has used computational logic to specify algorithmic models of social processes, with applications in cyber-physical and socio-technical systems, especially for sustainable, fair and legitimate self-governance. He has collaborated on research projects extensively in Europe, but also in India and New Zealand, and has held visiting professorial positions in Italy, Japan and Poland. He has published more than 200 articles in journals, conferences and workshops, and this work has received several Best Paper awards. He is a trustee of AITT (the Association for Information Technology Trust), a Fellow of the BCS (British Computer Society) and of the IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology), and in 2018 was appointed as Editor-in-Chief of IEEE Technology & Society Magazine, renewed for three years in 2021.
About World Scientific Publishing Co.
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