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Autonomous, intelligent tools are reshaping all sorts of work practices, including innovative design work. These tools generate outcomes with little or no user intervention and produce designs of unprecedented complexity and originality, ushering profound changes to how organizations will design and innovate in future. In this paper, we formulate conceptual foundations to analyze the impact of autonomous design tools on design work. We proceed in two steps. First, we conceptualize autonomous design tools as ‘rational’ agents which will participate in the design process. We show that such agency can be realized through two separate approaches of information processing: symbolic and connectionist. Second, we adopt control theory to unpack the relationships between the autonomous design tools, human actors involved in the design, and the environment in which the tools operate. The proposed conceptual framework lays a foundation for studying the new kind of material agency of autonomous design tools in organizational contexts. We illustrate the analytical value of the proposed framework by drawing on two examples from the development of Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon Wildlands video game, which relied on such tools. We conclude this essay by constructing a tentative research agenda for the research into autonomous design tools and design work.
Metahuman systems are new, emergent, sociotechnical systems where machines that learn join human learning and create original systemic capabilities. Metahuman systems will change many facets of the way we think about organizations and work. They will push information systems research in new directions that may involve a revision of the field’s research goals, methods and theorizing. Information systems researchers can look beyond the capabilities and constraints of human learning toward hybrid human/machine learning systems that exhibit major differences in scale, scope and speed. We review how these changes influence organization design and goals. We identify four organizational level generic functions critical to organize metahuman systems properly: delegating, monitoring, cultivating, and reflecting. We show how each function raises new research questions for the field. We conclude by noting that improved understanding of metahuman systems will primarily come from learning-by-doing as information systems scholars try out new forms of hybrid learning in multiple settings to generate novel, generalizable, impactful designs. Such trials will result in improved understanding of metahuman systems. This need for large-scale experimentation will push many scholars out from their comfort zone, because it calls for the revitalization of action research programs that informed the first wave of socio-technical researchmore »