This paper examines the concept of autonomy as it pertains to computer
systems. Two rather different strands of meaning are identified. The
first regards autonomy as self-government or self-motivation. This is
developed by reviewing some recent AI research on representing and
using goals, together with physiological, psychological, and
philosophical viewpoints on motivation and goal-seeking behavior. The
second concerns the biological independence of organisms which have the
ability to maintain their own organization in a capricious environment.
The advantages of such organisms have been realized recently in a number
of different computer contexts, and the examples of worm programs,
self-replicating Trojan horses and viruses are introduced and discussed.
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