Daily Archives: July 29, 2013

Feeling the Heat?

While I cannot speak for my readers, the area I am in has been sweltering. The summer camp I am participating in has no air conditioning, and it’s always hot in the computer cluster. If only, I thought, we had a thermostat. Which brings me to my point: the difference between thermometers and thermostats.

Thermostats are able to take action on their surroundings and create change, such as by heating up or cooling down an area. Thermometers, on the other hand, can only note that it is hot and suffer silently (like me). The difference between thermostats and thermometers is a great analogy for the difference between agency and autonomy; if one has agency they are able to create change, whilst one with autonomy is not, but can make their own choices.

Computers, for example, have agency but little autonomy. The actions they perform are dictated by their software and by user input. Humans, on the other hand, have much more autonomy than computers. The amount of agency we have varies widely depending on the amount of clout we wield, but from the very moment we are born we are able to make our own choices.