Autonomous decentralised systems and society

Harrison, Colin and Johnson, Jeffrey (2018). Autonomous decentralised systems and society. In: Mori, Kinji and Kunifuji, Takashi eds. Autonomous Decentralized Systems and their Applications in Transport and Infrastructure. The Institution of Engineering and Technology, pp. 215–234.



The concepts of autonomous decentralised systems were developed for the control of large engineering systems such as high-speed trains with the goal of increasing their resilience where centralised control systems could not be trusted to be always operating and accessible. Historically, social organisations, both civic and commercial, were controlled or governed with a balance of centralised, top-down and decentralised, bottom-up mechanisms. We consider how the emergence of a `hyperconnected' world, together with advances in education, political, and management science, is changing this balance. We begin by considering the emergence of the management of large-scale enterprises during the Industrial Revolution and contrast this with the roles of complex systems in the emergence of autonomous social structures. We go on to examine how this changing balance is becoming manifest in public and private social structures and conclude with thoughts on its evolution.

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