Agency

For a long time, the world was divided up into those things with consciousness, and those things without. The first list was very small, the second list huge. A lot of fields are shifting how they think about this now though.

I think a much better concept to understand all of this is the notion of agency, which has become a hot topic of research. It doesn’t carry the same human baggage as consciousness. Everything has agency in some way - the capacity to act, to force other things to react in some way.
Take this sign as an example. Who is the sign talking to, and who is talking, in the sign? I’ve always thought a workplace with a lot of signs like this is probably a dysfunctional place, because nobody is quite sure how to solve a problem, so they delegate it to a sign. The sign has agency. It may or may not actually work, so its agency may be limited.

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