Artificial Intelligence and Law

, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 241–270 | Cite as

The open agent society: retrospective and prospective views

  • Jeremy PittEmail author
  • Alexander Artikis


It is now more than ten years since the EU FET project ALFEBIITE finished, during which its researchers made original and distinctive contributions to (inter alia) formal models of trust, model-checking, and action logics. ALFEBIITE was also a highly inter-disciplinary project, with partners from computer science, philosophy, cognitive science and law. In this paper, we reflect on the interaction between computer scientists and information and IT lawyers on the idea of the ‘open agent society’. This inspired a programme of research whose investigation into conceptual challenges has carried it from the logical specification of agent societies and dynamic norm-governed systems to self-organising electronic institutions, while developing several technologies for agent-based modelling and complex event recognition. The outcomes of this inter-disciplinary collaboration have also influenced current research into using the open agent society as a platform for socio-technical systems, and other collective adaptive systems. We present a number of research challenges, including the ideas of computational justice and polycentric governance, and explore a number of ethical, legal and social implications. We contend that, in order to address these issues and challenges, the continued inter-disciplinary collaboration between computer science and IT lawyers is critical.


Computers and law Multi-agent systems Norm-governed systems Self-organising systems Event recognition  Ethical legal and social implications (ELSI) 



This paper is written in the honor and memory of Professor Jon Bing. Jon was one of the key senior personnel working on on the ALFEBIITE project at the University of Oslo, who were one of the original partners in the consortium. Jon in particular seemed able to resolve a tension that underlies a sort of Heisenberg’s Principle for computers and law: if one knows the direction in which a technology is heading, then one could not know what the law would decide; but if one asserted a legal decision, then the direction that the technology (or the use of technology) would take could not be known or predicted. Jon seemed to be able to recognize the entanglements and uniquely diagnose a disentanglement. In addition, Jon was a polymath whose knowledge and skill extended far beyond computers and law, but into the realms of music and science fiction, and oddly (but somehow characteristically) an affection for the pachyderm that was as steadfast and resolute as his belief in the proper and appropriate relationship between computer technology and law. But much more than this, Jon was a highly personable collaborator who kindly and strongly supported our faltering first steps in this research programme, and our interactions with him, especially as a result of a joint workshop that he kindly organised in Oslo, which heavily impacted our thinking and research directions (even if a dinner in Oslo had a correspondingly heavy impact on our bank accounts). His hand-written comments (in trademark purple ink) on a manuscript of the Open Agent Society paper is a much (personally) valued relic from the ALFEBIITE project. We would also like to acknowledge the many very helpful comments of the anonymous reviewers, and to acknowledge the contribution of Loretta Anania, the EU Project Officer responsible for the ALFEBIITE project.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Electrical and Electronic EngineeringImperial College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.University of PiraeusPiraeusGreece
  3. 3.Institute of Informatics & TelecommunicationsNCSR DemokritosAthensGreece

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