An autonomous machine may rely on other things (e.g. power supply) but does not need external instruction at the ‘higher level’ for which it’s designed.

The idea of personal autonomy is popularly related to freedom, but it’s a bit more abstract. For example, in ordering himself to be tied to his ship’s mast to resist the call of the sirens, Odysseus fully exercised his autonomy to constrain his freedom.

Ulysses and the Sirens, Herbert James Draper, 1909

Autonomy may be described as:

a second-order capacity of persons to reflect critically upon their first-order preferences, desires, wishes and so forth and the capacity to accept or attempt to change these in light of higher-order preferences and values. By exercising such a capacity, persons define their nature, give meaning and coherence to their lives, and take responsibility for the kind of person they are. (Dworkin, G. 2015)

Autonomy may also be conceived collectively.

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