Thinking Swarms: Artificial Agency, Teaming, Emergence & Governance – Call for Abstracts


The synthesis of swarms has evolved over 30 years from simple rule-based ‘artificial life’ simulations to reports of increasingly complex, cognitive, and numerous small autonomous platforms. Despite this progress, technical challenges and fundamental questions remain. We propose to take stock of progress, and seek answers to questions such as: How is agency and risk traded for the individual and the collective?  How might swarms use higher-order symbolic and semantic reasoning? How might human operators govern such systems, and ensure behaviours are bounded and ‘controlled’? How might swarms, teams of robots and hybrid swarm-teams allocate and coordinate action, distribute labour, observe, and manifest hierarchies, and self-monitor global properties and goals? What ethical, legal and safety frameworks and governance should ‘thinking’ swarms comply with? There is an opportunity to progress answers to these questions through presentations at invited workshops and subsequent production of a peer reviewed edited book. 

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A set of virtual and/or physical workshops Q1 2022 led by Trusted Autonomous Systems and UNSW Canberra. Each workshop session will run for 60 minutes, 3 x 10 minutes presentation + 30 min panel Q&A. Presenters and workshop themes to be determined through an EOI process with a workshop program announced by Fri 26 Nov 2021. Workshop presentations will be invited to submit a chapter of a peer reviewed edited book. 


The aim of the workshops is to bring together a broad range of experts (including technical and engineering; cognitive science and artificial intelligence; ethical, legal, and safety) to consider technical challenges and fundamental questions about ‘thinking swarms’. 


The purpose of the workshops is to co-contribute content to shape an Academic book ‘Thinking Swarms: Agency, teaming, emergence and governance’ 


  1. Build a ‘Thinking Swarms’ Community of Practice 
  2. Develop a conceptual framework, themes, and topics to frame the Thinking Swarms edited book 
  3. Invite a set of authors to write chapters for the Thinking Swarms edited book 


  • Agency 
  • Artificial Intelligence 
  • Bi-directional cognitive awareness 
  • Contextual awareness 
  • Distributed Artificial Intelligence 
  • Emergence 
  • Ethics of AI 
  • Governance and control  
  • Verification  
  • Human Swarm Teaming 
  • Human performance 
  • Interpretability 
  • Legal Issues 
  • Machine education 
  • Maintainability 
  • Metrics 
  • Multi-agent systems 
  • Novelty 
  • Ontology 
  • Predictability 
  • Relationships 
  • Reliability 
  • Risks 
  • Safety 
  • Security 
  • Swarm Guidance 
  • Swarms 
  • Transparency 
  • Trust 
  • Viability 



If you are interested in presenting at the workshops, please email presentation title, 150 word abstract and 100-word bio to the organisers (now extended) to Friday 5 November:  

Kate Devitt,

Jason Scholz,

Simon Ng, 

Hussein Abbass,