On social machines for algorithmic regulation

Nello Cristianini, Teresa Scantamburlo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
281 Downloads (Pure)


Autonomous mechanisms have been proposed to regulate certain aspects of society and are already being used to regulate business organisations. We take seriously recent proposals for algorithmic regulation of society, and we identify the existing technologies that can be used to implement them, most of them originally introduced in business contexts. We build on the notion of ‘social machine’ and we connect it to various ongoing trends and ideas, including crowdsourced task-work, social compiler, mechanism design, reputation management systems, and social scoring. After showing how all the building blocks of algorithmic regulation are already well in place, we discuss the possible implications for human autonomy and social order. The main contribution of this paper is to identify convergent social and technical trends that are leading towards social regulation by algorithms, and to discuss the possible social, political, and ethical consequences of taking this path.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalAI and Society
Early online date8 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2019


  • algorithmic regulation
  • social machines
  • autonomous agents
  • artificial intelligence
  • social scoring
  • autonomy
  • democracy


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