New Publication on Limitations of Systems Autonomy

Published 15 November 2021

Dr Sadjad Soltanzadeh, Postdoctoral Researcher with the DILEMA Project, recently published a new article entitled ‘Strictly Human: Limitations of Autonomous Systems’. The article appears in Minds and Machines and available open access (


Can autonomous systems replace humans in the performance of their activities? How does the answer to this question inform the design of autonomous systems? The study of technical systems and their features should be preceded by the study of the activities in which they play roles. Each activity can be described by its overall goals, governing norms and the intermediate steps which are taken to achieve the goals and to follow the norms. This paper uses the activity realist approach to conceptualize autonomous systems in the context of human activities. By doing so, it first argues for epistemic and logical conditions that illustrate the limitations of autonomous systems in tasks which they can and cannot perform, and then, it discusses the ramifications of the limitations of system autonomy on the design of autonomous systems.