On the social implications of collective adaptive systems

Antonio Bucchiarone*, Mirko D'Angelo, Danilo Pianini, Giacomo Cabri, Martina De Sanctis, Mirko Viroli, Roberto Casadei, Simon Dobson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


Many Collective Adaptive Systems (CASs) exist in nature: think of ant colonies, where large collectives of ants operate autonomously but interact with other ants and the environment to provide resilient global behaviors that sustain their colony. Following scientific studies that were aimed at understanding and predicting the evolution of these systems, and fueled by technological advances, research has started to investigate CAS engineering: the methods, tools, and techniques for building CASs. This naturally leads to a vision where collectives of humans and computational elements, situated both in the digital and physical worlds, collaborate to give rise to "intelligent" collective behavior supporting novel kinds of applications and services. Humans can be involved in two ways: both as users and as components of the CAS, in the sense that human behaviors and limitations are often integral to the system description. This has significant social implications that need to be considered by CAS researchers: in this paper, we share a discussion that took place between some experts thinking about CAS engineering, focusing on the social implication of CASs and related open research challenges. We hope that this provides a useful context for future research projects, research grant proposals, and research directions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-46
Number of pages11
JournalIEEE Technology and Society Magazine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sept 2020


  • Adaptive systems
  • Privacy
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Software engineering
  • Distributed computing
  • Cyber-physical systems
  • Robustness


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