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Conceptualization of a new generation of smart energy systems and the transition toward them using anticipatory systems


Emerging energy systems are inherently different from their conventional counter-parts. To address all issues of these systems, comprehensive approaches of transdisciplinary and post-normal sciences are needed. This article tries to re-conceptualize emerging energy systems using Robert Rosen’s theory of anticipatory system and introduces the concept of the anticipatory smart energy system (ASES). Three important features of an ASES are described and socio-technical considerations for realization of these features are discussed. The article also considers realization of such systems under society 5.0 paradigm and spime techno-culture. In ASESs, the identity of users evolves and new identities are created for energy users, based on the production, consumption, storage, and distributed management of energy. An Anticipatory energy system can manage a common pool of prosumaging.


In technical and social systems preparation for the future is conducted in various ways from forecasting to simulation, from planning to trend extrapolation, and from scenarios to anticipation [1]; some of these approaches have been used to investigate and harness the uncertainties associated with nascent energy systems [2,3,4]. Recently, anticipation and anticipatory systems have drawn attention “as a mediating process between knowledge and action” in socio-technical systems [5]. Underlying features of anticipatory systems can be utilized in any socio-technical sphere including energy, sustainable development, and public health [6]. In this article we have tried to apply anticipatory systems to re-conceptualize SESs and investigate transitions toward it.

Decentralization and the cyber-physical integration have shaped SESs. Amalgamation of energy consumption, production, distribution, global energy supply, and demand, various energy resources such as fossil fuels and their alternative fuels, RE resource, economic and environmental aspects [7] and the social impact of each one on human life and the dependence of governance on it, has transformed energy field to a complex area [8,9,10,11,12,13]. Essentially, these energy systems— as socio-technical systems— are “more than the sum of [their] elements” [14] and are under the effect of multiple drivers of change [15]. Therefore, energy research should be purposeful, systematic and problem-focused [16]. Disciplinary approaches single-handedly are not sufficient to study and theorize about SESs. Borrowing from Popper (1963), energy field scientists are not students of some subject matter, but students of problems. And problems cut right across the borders of any subject matter or discipline [17]. For this reason, some interdisciplinary [18] and multidisciplinary approaches [19, 20] have been proposed. For example, integration of social and technological aspects of SESs with help of information and communication sciences has created some interdisciplinary fields, namely, 1. Energy informatics [21,22,23]; 2. Social informatics [21, 24,25,26,27,28]; 3. Energy Social Sciences [21, 29, 30]; 4. Social energy informatics [21].

While interdisciplinarity and multidisciplinarity offer substantial added value in grappling with problems of SESs, transdisciplinary approaches which consider users as active participants across energy supply chain as opposed to passive consumers are the missing chain; therefore, interdisciplinarity and multidisciplinarity plus actors’ participation can solve real-world problems of energy systems [31]. In fact, actors’ participation is a key concept of post-normal science [32].

Anticipation as a transdisciplinary approach, is an active future sense-making and a way to include collective action and actors’ participation [33]. Studying social anticipatory capacity is not truly feasible without a model-based approach [34]. Rosen (1991), believes: “perception of anticipatory systems is crucial for planning-based decision making” [35].

This paper aims at providing insights on the SESs using an anticipatory system perspective to criticize and enhance top-down and disciplinary existing energy system approaches; it highlights the significance of bottom-up, transdisciplinary and post-normal approaches as the possible future complement/alternative of conventional approaches.

In this paper, we review the transdisciplinary problems of emerging energy systems with transdisciplinary solutions presented in the literature, then we introduce the concept of anticipatory systems and its three features. Subsequently, we describe its relevance and significance in management of SESs. In fact, we provide reconfiguration of SESs and their problems and solutions from the perspective of anticipatory system as a transdisciplinary lens. Juxtaposition of familiar and frequently-used concepts of SESs with those associated with anticipatory systems sheds light upon incipient energy systems.

The problems of energy systems in transition era

In the literature, a wide array of technical problems concerning the emerging energy systems have been reviewed and solutions have been presented [36,37,38,39,40,41,42,43,44,45,46,47,48,49,50,51,52]. At the heart of this approach, there is a top-down, disciplinary and merely technical essence trying to reduce problems and solutions to physical aspects and to SGs. Nonetheless, there is ample evidence that emerging energy systems are social grids and need to be embraced by post-normal, social, transdisciplinary and bottom-up approaches. The following table is a collection of problems and proposed solutions concerning the social grid and is the result of a systematic literature review. In the identification phase of the systematic review, a comprehensive analysis of the review papers related to SESs published in top 10 interdisciplinary journals of energy was conducted to provide an initial array of keywords. This array was then combined with our list to do the systematic review. Our key words included but were not limited to: smart energy systems, future of energy systems, interdisciplinary energy systems, trends of energy systems, emerging technologies of energy systems, social aspects of energy, barriers of smart energy systems and integrated energy systems. The database sources used were Scopus, Google Scholar, and IEEE. The period studied ranges from 2010 to 2020 and the search was carried out using the “Title/Abstract/Keyword” field of the databases. 284 papers were chosen. In the screening phase, non-English and conference papers as well as duplicates were removed giving us total of 153 articles. In the next step, the papers were scanned by two of the authors independently and two separate lists were created. The lists were compared and finally 31 papers were selected for full analysis. As for our exclusion/inclusion criteria, a substantial chunk of the literature focused on merely technical/hard aspects and problems of SESs (Fig. 1). Our focus, though, was on the inter/trandisciplinary side of theses system. In other words, based on our approach which is inherently inter/transdisciplinary, we focused on human/participatory/soft aspects of SESs. Therefore, Table 1 gives quite a comprehensive list of inter/transdisciplinary issues of SESs which have a social, economic, cultural or environmental dimension.

Table 1 Some problems of transitions era and their proposed solutions in SESs
Fig. 1
figure 1

The process of conceptual literature review

After introducing the concept of anticipatory systems, we will try to create a broader picture of some these problems and solution in the light of anticipatory systems.

Anticipatory systems: its definition and positioning in future research community

Anticipation is the ability to look forward to taking a future decision and action, or the visualization of a future event or state [34]. Forming the future of each system is associated with its anticipatory capacity [6]. The anticipatory capacity of the system is the capacity to continuously develop and apply the knowledge acquired to choose the best way for stakeholder needs [34].

Anticipation is the human “sense of context” that enables a system (biological, social, political) to adapt to change [82]. By accurately identifying our situation, we can “create different models of the future” and integrate change. Otherwise, change leads to shock, unpropitious reactions and system failure [83]. New generation of energy systems as a “common pool of prosumption” will face shocks of this nature such as frequent shut downs of the utility grid because of uncertainty in availability of RE sources as well as distributed and decentralized production. The speed and volatility of change in this system increases its complexity [83].

The theory of anticipatory systems was developed by Robert Rosen. He claims that the development of anticipatory systems theory would lay the foundations for what may be called an anticipatory paradigm [84] in contrast to reactive paradigm. So what is an anticipatory system? Robert Rosen (2012) defines the anticipatory system as follows:

“An anticipatory system is a system containing a predictive model of itself and/or its environment, which allows it to change state at an instant in accord with the model’s predictions pertaining to a later instant” [84].

Anticipatory systems can be an important step in responding to the challenge of unpredictability and its consequences [85,86,87]. Rosen (1974), notes that from anticipatory architecture, “different views on the nature of “planning”, “management”, and “policies” can be extracted” [88], and a “technology of policy generation” can be devised [89]. This new window to planning for the future of system refers to difference between prediction and anticipation. Anticipation considers a variety of future possibilities and thus the current state of an anticipatory system depends not only on a previous state, but also upon possible future states [82, 83]. It adjusts present behavior in order to address future problems [1], whilst, prediction talks about probabilities in future. Anticipatory systems involve predictive models and their environment, and these models are used to control current activities [82, 84]. Control is essential in conceptualizing the difference between reactive and anticipatory systems: reactive control (feedback controllers) corrects existing deviation, while anticipatory control (feed-forward controllers) depends on predicted deviation that monitors the system [1, 89, 90]. Therefore, an anticipatory system is a self-observing and self-referential system [1].

The concept of anticipatory systems “has received attention as a part of a growing discourse on Anticipation” [5] and have been used as a theoretical perspective by the futures research community. The special issue of foresight journal [91] contends that Rosen’s anticipatory systems can help to improve the philosophical foundations of foresight. Roberto Poli (2010), traces the concept of anticipation in variety of disciplines and distinguishes between anticipation as an empirical phenomenon, on the one hand, and investigation of internal structure of anticipatory systems, on the other hand [1]. In another paper, Poli (2010) reviews some subtleties and complexities of Rosen’s work and states that anticipation as a capacity does not exclusively belong to humans as cognitive agents but is present in all types of realities [85]. As a student of Rosen, Louie (2010) states the predictive component of an anticipatory system can make future a constitutive component of the present and shift the focus from “what future is” to “how it should be used” [89]. Rossel’s paper (2010) directly addresses the question of how we can use anticipatory systems in tackling complex social dynamics. He propounds that the original mathematic-oriented theory of Rosen cannot be used for this purpose unless it is “reinforced by other theoretical considerations.” His suggestion is to use framing and meta-framing for reinforcement of the concept of anticipatory systems [92]. Fuller (2016), discusses scenario planning in the light of Rosenian anticipatory systems and suggests that epistemology of anticipatory systems combined with methodology of post-normal sciences can “be used to reduce Cartesian anxiety with respect to ontological insecurities of uncertain times” [5]. Cevolini (2016) boldly claims that “Social sciences are experiencing an anticipatory turn. He refers to self-referential dynamics— as Robert Rosen does— of an anticipatory detector between weak and strong signals [93]. In a similar vein, Poli (2014) speaks of turning human and social science upside down with the advent of anticipation [94]. Chiffi et al. (2020) argue that anticipation in science is value-dependent and values can be interpreted in epistemic and moral senses or from a social, political, and strategic aspects [95]. Kazakov and Kunc (2016) apply the concept of anticipatory systems to re-conceptualize the dynamics of strategy. They propose that “modeling and simulation can improve managers’ mental processes and help them to overcome cognitive limitations” [96]. Distinctions have also been made between implicit and explicit anticipation as well as strong and weak anticipations. Poli (2010) defined explicit anticipation as predictions and expectations which system is aware of. In contrast, implicit anticipation is a type of anticipation that the system is not aware of and is active within the system [1]. Dubios (2003) differentiates strong anticipation form weak one. Strong anticipation is built by system itself or embedded within it whereas weak anticipation is based on the model of external environment of the system and can be compared with predictions and expectations [97]. But, what are the constituent element of an anticipatory system?

The model of Rosen’s anticipatory systems begins with the S system, which may be an individual organism, an ecosystem, a social or economic system. The second system—M— is a model of S. The only prerequisite is that the dynamic evolution of M is faster than the dynamic evolution of S [88], and acts in real-time so that the overall system can predict changes to the environment [5]. A set of E effectors (E) allows M to operate on S or on environmental inputs to S to alter the dynamics of S. As Rosen mentioned, “M sees the future of S because M trajectories are faster than S trajectories” [98]. Figure 2, illustrates the logical links between S, M and E in a very simple way.

Fig. 2
figure 2

The internal structure of the simplest anticipatory system [99]

According to Rosen’s theory, the main features of this architecture are as follows:

  1. 1.

    M and S are coupled;

  2. 2.

    M is not unique;

  3. 3.

    The resultant signal from M triggers action in system S.

Rosen introduces the concept of anticipatory systems with a mathematical/hard system approach that deals with weak and explicit anticipatory model. If we want to use such a strong and implicit model to study future energy systems, it must be a combination of social and engineering systems. As Marien (2009), highlights “technopia” and technical solutions cannot single-handedly lead to anticipatory systems [100]. Rossel (2010) suggests using constructivist approaches and considers M as framing and meta-framing [92]; therefore, M cannot include only technical issues and must be developed as a socio-technical system. Caillol (2016), puts emphasis on decentralization and network-based organization. For him, M is essentially information. Fuller (2106), explains about uncertain environments in social systems, and the necessity to recognize multiplicity of modeling relations [5]. In his idea, M can be regarded as scenarios. In our paper, we have followed Rossel’s suggestion to combine the perspective of anticipatory systems with other theoretical considerations to re-conceptualize the complex SESs.

How can we create an ASES

So how can we develop M? In the case of energy systems, our question is: how can we create an anticipatory energy system? What we are trying to do is applying Rosen’s architecture to re-conceptualize socio-technical systems of energy. In this section, we are going to describe three above-mentioned features of the anticipatory system for SESs. Firstly, the nature of coupling of M and S and its significance will be discussed; The second questions is why M is not unique; and thirdly, we will discuss the most important output of an anticipatory system i.e. actions and how they can be mediated via effectors.

M and S are coupled

What makes an anticipatory system a practical reality is M (as the model of S) and S (the physical system under study) being thoroughly coupled. For SES, the anticipatory pre-requisite condition of that coupling is total integration of social and technical (socio-technical), social and physical i.e. closer social distance [55], real and virtual [101], technic and culture of prosumers (techno-culture) [102], production and consumption i.e. prosumption [103], physical and digital (phyigitalization) [104], time and space i.e. spime [102], present and future (enlarged present) [83], social and ecological (socio-ecological) [105], electricity prosumption and storage (prosumage) [106], control and prosumption (user-control) [55], prosumers and devices (Social Internet of Energy: SIoE) [107], energy user behavior and actions [108], information technology and power grid, and finally DG units in a cooperative MG [55].

As Mankoff (2013) says, the integration of humans and machine can solve sustainable development problems [109], caused by the rapid and radical changes in technological developments, especially in the energy industry, integrated energy systems have been created to cope with these changes [110]. Particularly, the SES concept, as an integrated energy system, represents a paradigm shift from single-sector thinking to a coherent energy systems understanding, i.e. from centralization to decentralization, and reflects the benefit of the integration of all energy sectors and infrastructures [111]. In fact, SESs offer benefits such as efficiency, effectiveness, cost, integrability, environment protection and reduction of greenhouse gases, resource use, sustainability, and commercial viability [112]. Lack of integration in the traditional analysis of energy systems has culminated in uncertainty [105]. Integration which is manifested in complete coupling of M and S is a necessary condition to make an ASES a viable option. Now, how can complete coupling and integration of S and M be achieved so that the whole system will benefit from anticipation as a disposition? The answer is via some key concepts creating integration in SESs, including but not limited to decentralization, VPP, MG, SG, SM, EI or IoE, and EBD, prosumption, spime, wranglers and society 5.0 which will subsequently be reviewed.

We suggest that spime and wrangler as the most important concepts to adequately describe socio-technical aspect of SESs and tackle a wide array of problems discussed in Table 1; We consider spime as an umbrella term for technical integration and wranglers for socio-technical integration. Also, wrangler and spime are constituent elements of society 5.0.


Spime, the integration of space and time, are artificial tools whose information support is vast and rich and can be referred to as the material representation of immaterial systems. They begin and end with data, they are designed on screens, made by digital tools, and tracked precisely through space and time [102]. Spime concept is intended to theorize the ongoing emergence of the very systems and infrastructures, used to trace it and is a theoretical image of future production, consumption and cultural practices [113]. The concept of spime leads to an IoT in its limited state, by transforming the physical world (S) into data (M), enabling foreboding and even future creation, but spime is inherently more “cyclical, ongoing and sustainable” than IoT products [114, 115]. It is as multidimensional and broader lens [114]. The closer distance of space and time leads the system to act in real-time. For example, being flexible in terms of energy usage means having the ability to shift energy usage in time and space. In this regard, flexibility capital is defined as the capacity to responsively change patterns of interaction with a system to support the operation of that system [116], or control physical processes at multiple time and space scales with pervasive and mobile networks at several sensors and actuator levels [19]. These are anticipatory capacities that let the system act in real-time.

Spime is considered as a tool to represent technical integration of the systems; it includes VPP, MG, SG, SM, EI, EBD and other modern technical concepts in socio-technical SESs. Nonetheless, spime is the emerging techno-culture and has social aspects as well.

From a socio-technical perspective, energy spimes are informationally-rich energy-based data and comprise two-way flow of energy and information produced by users in a wide variety of socially-driven activities in ASESs. Such activities encourage action-learning and social innovations. In order to review ESTs, let us begin with decentralization. Proliferation of RE resources precipitated a paradigm shift from centralized energy resources to decentralized ones [74]. Distributed production and consumption, created DG [55] and distributed energy system as an efficient, reliable and environmentally friendly alternative to the traditional energy system [117]. Decentralization is in essence a socio-technical integration which not only transformers the role of end users but alters the essential hierarchical architecture and top-down management of existing energy systems.

Energy spime tools

ESTs, as symbol of technical integration in our view, are a new category of space-time, location-aware, environment-aware, self-logging, self-documenting, uniquely identified energy devices that provide a lot of data about themselves and their environment [118] and are self-healing [21].

For example, VPP as an EST, is a cloud-based distributed power plant [119] and refers to the integration of diverse sources of DER which enables management of large-scale power grid flexible capacity [120]. VPPs are often ad-hoc prosumer groups that are connected through an electricity grid [65]. A community-based VPPs is as a novel model for energy provision [121].

Another EST is MG, a socio-technical small-scale power grid designed for a low voltage distributed system [122]. Technically, MGs increase resilience during major disturbances [123]. The actors who ‘decide’ to integrate their DG units in a cooperative MG constitute a community [55]. MGs can be considered as CPRs in Ostrom’s theory [124]. Integrated MGs build SG, a larger grid and socio-technical network of both information and energy flows, in order to control practices of production, consumption, storage and flexible demand [55], storing, communication system, and decision making in real-time [125,126,127]. In fact, SG is an electricity network that can intelligently integrate all the behavior and actions of all users connected to it [108]. The next generation of SG is the 5th generation SG based on Light Fidelity or Li-Fi technology that uses radiofrequency [128] and is creating a boom in the new EI. The function of 5G SG as an energy spime tool will make M and S more coupled resulting in a higher degree of integration in all previously discussed aspects of ASESs.

The next EST is SMs which are networks of energy flows and information which monitor, display and control energy demand and supply from various sources, account storage capacity and consider the patterns of loads of all equipment [55].

EBD is also an EST that unfolds historical precedents and future opportunities of user energy life style. EBD can optimize electricity generation, distribution, and operations in real-time for better planning [129] by accurately forecasting electricity demand and detecting electricity consumption patterns, detecting and repairing failures effectively, developing a dynamic pricing mechanism and enabling customers to have more control over their energy use [124]. Therefore, analyzing an EBD can be used to anticipate SESs future changes [125].

EI is a new energy spime, integrating RE, distributed power plants, storage technologies and EVs [130], modern electronic technology, new energy technology, and information technology to coordination [131]. The EI features are a combination of SG and IoT features [132, 133]. A future perspective for EI, on one hand, is its combination with block chain technology, which can act as an effective technical way to share information and update model in a decentralized operational framework with a cloud-based energy management system platform [134]. On the other hand, SIoE will integrate prosumers and devices via social relationships [56]. Community and SIoT, the combination of block chain technology with EI and SIoE are manifestations of future higher levels of integration. Figure 3 summarizes ESTs. In an ASES, some of these ESTs are absolutely essential in designing the technical signals for effectors.

Fig. 3
figure 3

Energy spime tools


Sterling (2005), points to the evolution of the human role in various techno-cultures in a chronological order: the techno-culture of artifacts, machines, products, gizmos, and spime. He calls human identity and role in each of these techno-cultures, respectively the “farmer and the hunter”, “the customer”, “the consumer”, “the end-user”, and “the wrangler”, and emphasizes that the evolution of these techno-cultures is linear and irreversible [102]. Wranglers are the people who interact with spime [102]; and experience the maximum integration between cyber and the physical as well as real and virtual spaces.

New energy identities: from consumer to prosumager

Along with Sterling’s point of view as a futurist, Ritzer (2009), dubbed coming century as the “age of the prosumers” [135]. Prosumer identity is created by integration of producer and consumer as Toffler explains [103]. ubiquity of the internet, it has gained popularity and significance in many areas [136,137,138,139]. Of course in SESs, the prosumer identity transforms identity of passive users of energy and personalizes the process of energy use [21, 140]. So, prosumers produce and consume RE,, store surplus energy for future use, or trade energy with other energy customers on their respective SG [141]. They are next generation of prosumers and are called prosumagersFootnote 1 [106, 142, 143]. who store their energy surplus in a distributed storage network [106].Therefore, a new identity is defined for prosumer in the future of energy systems which could potentially change energy management in SGs and shift it toward distributed management [144]. New relationships emerge: prosumager-prosumager, prosumager-utility, prosumager -grid manager, prosumager-partners in the MG, which all can be considered as different levels and layers of integration and coupling between M and S.

As far as the social macro-level is concerned, individual prosumer is too small to compete with traditional energy generators, and individual power supply is unpredictable due to weather conditions. These challenges in productivity and reliability have led to the emergence of PCGs, ICESs, and CECs [65], which hedge risks associated with decentralized energy systems through pooling people.

The PCG refers to “a network of prosumers who have relatively similar energy sharing behaviors” who strive to pursue a common. A group of prosumers that collectively sell energy to the grid and are more efficient and reliable in supplying a sustainable energy source than a prosumer operating as an individual entity or identity [144]. To address the shortcomings in existing prosumer groups”, the concept of Virtual Goal-oriented PCG has emerged which is created by virtual integration of prosumers from different locations, but with similar energy behaviors [65].

Also, ICESs have been created to cope with the rapid and radical changes in the energy industry caused by technological developments [110] and are a type of redesign of local energy systems, through DER and the participation of local communities [110, 145].

CECs are another form of prosumer group with purpose of cleaner energy production, consumption, supply, and distribution, that can be centralized, decentralized and dispersed and take many forms, including peer to peer, VPPs, and micro-networks [146].

These communities can create a dynamic ecosystem of prosumer engagement [147], and transform passive consumers into active prosumers, and enhance public engagement in ASESs, because of their micro-network form and internet connection and therefore increases anticipatory capacity of the ASESs.

In sum, looking at the evolution of the role and identity of people in the field of energy, it can be said that prosumager is considered a form of micromanagement that affects the macro-management of energy ASESs.

Society 5.0: integration of integrated society

Complete coupling of M and S and a very high level of integration between different elements of system will create a socio-technical architecture which is inherently different from its predecessors. The concept of society 5.0 developed by the Japanese government in 2016 can give us an image of what an ASES populated by wranglers might look like. Society 5.0, based on society 4.0 (information society), is a super-smart and human-centered society [148]. Society 5.0 is a system using digital transformations, network, IoT, EI, Artificial Intelligence, and Robotics which connects ‘People to Objects’ and the ‘Real to Cyber’ world [149]; Society 5.0 achieves a high degree of integration between virtual space and physical space. Unlike society 4.0 where big data in cyberspace is analyzed by a human, in society 5.0, it is analyzed by artificial intelligence [150]. These features will bring new social impacts [149] and enhance the quality of human life [151].

Society 5.0 as a CPSS [152] is born as a result of the paradigm shift from the Newtonian systems to the paradigm of the self-enforcing and self-fulfilling systems. Figure 4 gives a summary how coupling between M and S are achieved in ASESs:

Fig. 4
figure 4

Realization of coupling between M and S in ASESs

Structural coupling of M and S along with socio-technical integration of machine, information, and society (humans) as well as bidirectional flow of energy and information creates anticipation as a disposition in energy systems i.e. ASESs.

M is not unique

Technical solutions for energy system problems are insufficient. As far as dealing with ever-increasing environmental complexity is concerned, if M is considered to be a data-driven centralized commandant control system, it cannot grapple with unpredictable demands of nascent energy systems. As Ashby (1956) proposed, the only thing that can absorb variety is variety [153]. In his view, if the number of system responses is comparable to the complexity of the environment, such a system can counteract the complexity of its environment. Therefore, as dynamics of S change constantly, M cannot be singular and unique.

M is a predictive model, which interacts with ‘reality’ and intertwines, evolves and adapts in a continuous process of simulation [154]. Prediction in modeling and simulation is to achieve future estimations. On the one hand, prediction can be based on statistics, differential equations, neural networks, cross-impact analysis, and other methods used in hard sciences, and on the other hand, prediction can be done with the help of ‘crowdsourcing’ and integration of biological and non-biological computations. Simulation, based on crowdsourcing, can be represented by society [155].

In spime techno-culture, new forms of social connectivity and communication unfold and each wrangler functions as a node in a hyper-network over the EI [104] who are both the totality of the network and one of its elements. So perceptions of the wranglers and their responsiveness accelerate [104] leading to the creation of simulated WRCs.

Simulation based on this network of wranglers together with computational capacity of the computers is a kind of crowdsourcing simulation including all prosumagers. Therefore, the network of people in the crowdsourcing process acts like a computer— “network is the computer”. In this case, a wide variety of Ms. are created by combining people’s expectations in WRCs resulting in an emergent collective intelligence of a community of users who interact in a decentralized manner.

Wranglers as stakeholders of future energy systems, increasingly, have the option to become more self-sufficient by becoming co-prosumagers of electricity and of course controllers of that the system. So production, consumption, storage and control will be distributed and wrangler-oriented.

The resultant signal from M triggers action in the system

The challenges of any kind of man-made system are enhancing the connection to reality and improving the capacity to translate information into action [83]. Real-time actions in energy systems cannot be achieved by focusing on technical aspects and neglecting the social aspects. Technology and equipment are necessary but insufficient conditions for reliable system operation, human involvement is at least as equally important as technological solutions [77]. So, successful transition toward a fossil fuel-free future through SESs is pre-dominantly a socio-technical process. Nonetheless, lack of attention to the social and behavioral aspects of energy systems results in problems and barriers in developing them [74, 78, 156].

Socio-technical answers to these problems in Table 1, can play the role of effectors (E) in Fig. 2 for an ASES leading the system to act in real-time. These solutions revolve around human and social aspect of SESs, and are realized through bottom-up public participation. Hybrid computation with the integration of human and machine, helps decision-makers (top-down) or even the public (bottom-up) to participate in the process of shaping and modeling of M to make its dynamics faster than S. Active involvement of decision-makers and the general public means better coupling between M and S.

According to problems in Table 1, effectors must enhance social acceptance of SESs, build trust, attract public participation, make sense of justice, reduce risk and social uncertainties, and increase environmental awareness. In fact, effectors (E) should be intended to proactively change the wranglers’ behaviors via their participation to enhance anticipatory capacity of the system.

As we mentioned earlier, M and S are distributed decentralized systems, so the effectors (E) will be distributed decentralized systems, too. Some of the effectors are technical and some socio-technical. As for technical effectors, a combination of factors such as ESTs, complete integration between M and S, maximal translation of physical elements of the system (S) into data (M)— datafication — wrangler energy communities and network acting as computer creates feed-forward signals which can be used as effectors to control ASESs. We will focus on some socio-technical effectors which are important in the process of transition toward ASESs. Once an ASES is formed, some of these effectors can be considered as the social component of system’s anticipatory capacity. To find socio-technical effectors in the literature, we seek solutions that emphasize wranglers’ collaboration in all sections of the energy system, such as co-creation, co-production, communing, and bottom-up energy-(self) production.

To achieve social acceptance, the first kind of effectors are clear and transparent communication with the general public, imaging ‘bigger picture’ of SESs application, presenting knowledge and awareness of the ‘future and long term vision’ regarding SGs and optimizing public appeal through both the individual and societal benefits of adopting SGs [54] leading to future-oriented actions. Also, in order to build trust and goodwill, collaborative processes in planning and energy policymaking consistent with theories on building ‘social capital’ and increasing social opportunities for meaningful deliberation in decision-making [55] have been proposed.

Another kind of effectors highlight democratic processes and public participation such as revitalizing “civic culture” through democracy relying on a step-change in participatory processes in the “energy community”. Energy community comes to existence through network communities of wrangler’s gathering around energy projects [74]. Another way to generate reliable effectors is via energy democracy which is an emergent social movement, democratically restructuring energy regimes [75, 157] and shaping “civic engagement” for a democratic transition to the SES [158]. It is defined as ensuring access to energy, production and consumption of it for all [159]. These kinds of voluntary social movements are distributed and decentralized participation of Wranglers empowering process for “civic engagement” and civic initiative thereby ensuring the anticipatory capacity of the energy system.

Next effector can be exploring ‘socio-technical imaginaries’ [12, 160,161,162,163,164,165,166,167] and dreams, utopias or dystopias” about SESs [71]; That means exploring hidden social dimensions of energy systems and cultural resources of shaping social responses [168, 169] which explain past developments and illuminate prospects for future global cooperation [169]. Exploring the notion of “fantasy” as well as psychological and cultural needs within energy futures, through the development of optimistic, pervasive, but sometimes irrational visions of technological progress and its prospects [162] are other SES effectors. Figure 5 summarizes ASES effectors.

Fig. 5
figure 5

Some socio-technical effectors of ASES

These effectors as “collective social facts” [160] in the distributed wrangler communities increase distributed anticipatory capacity since they trigger and form common conceptions of the desired future. Socio-technical imaginaries are transformation in the “knowing and doing” [167] in future energy systems and are made real by the actions made to achieve collective visions, especially when considering the emergence of multiple visions of the desirable future [170]. Socio-technical imaginaries “connect creativity and innovation” to attain desirable futures which are “collectively held, institutionally stabilized, and publicly performed” [171].

The other set of effectors can be “social innovations” in the energy realm, with high potential to meet complexity [78]. Social innovation is any novel and useful solution to a social need or problem which enhances society’s capacity to act [172]. For example, “Community energy” projects are described as social innovation. This social movement [68, 78] is “creative reconfiguration of social relations” around energy-innovation in forms of actor relationships [173] which raises awareness of sustainable energy issues, improves public receptivity to RE installations, increases engagement in behavior change initiatives and shifts role from consumer to prosumer in SESs [68, 78]. Community energy projects emphasize wrangler’s participation in the common issue of energy [173].

‘Green nudges’ are another kind of social innovations, aimed at encouraging people to voluntarily contribute to a common source; they are ‘new social configurations’ to build social networks supportive of RE. They subtly change wrangler’s behavior and decision context and gently move them toward sustainable choices without changing monetary incentives [78, 79]. The nudge can also be embedded in simulation, since simulation becomes an integral part of processes of social change [154] as a platform to experience possible futures of socio-technical systems. As an illustrative example, “Gamification” or “serious games” raise awareness and change behavior in SESs [80] and “simulation games” help public understand the socio-technical complexity of energy transition [81].

Also, using stories about ‘energy utopia’ to engage groups and individuals to imagine possible futures, especially for marginal people of society [61] is another kind of effector. Back-casting [161], back casting historical narrative and visioning [174] are co-creation of narratives which motivate communities [74] about public desired future of SESs; motivate society to make the transition toward sustainable energy systems.

To summarize, based on the extensive literature of this area, we classify two types of effectors for the ASES. The first type is common and collective images of the future of energy systems, technology-backed social imaginations, stories and back casting historical narrative. The second type of effectors are social innovation in the form of social movements such as energy community, community energy, energy democracy that pursue new social networks. Green nudges are between these two categories and can act as a medium and trigger of change. Both types of effects emphasize the engagement and interaction of wranglers, but the latter are more proactive in nature. The second type actually shapes a new configuration of social relations and interaction between wranglers. Both types try to create a big picture of SESs and, all these attempts to understand, imagine, and benefit from the future can be seen as modes of anticipation, a constant feature of human behavior [175].

Anticipatory smart energy systems

According to Ostrom’s definition, renewable natural resources and MGs in SESs as man-made system are CPR [124],. Now, we have a question like Wolsink’s, but with difference response: “How would such a common good be managed properly? [55].

Our proposal for the management of this CPR is using ASESs based on spime tools, principles of society 5.0 and high levels of integration between real and virtual, information and action and present and future. In this system, the network itself is the computer. A simple diagram of an ASES is shown in Fig. 6. The management in this system is conceptually different and decentralized; it is the management of a common pool of prosumption via creating an emergent anticipatory capacity and triggering action via effectors. The nature of this management is based on wrangler networking, closer social distance, collaborative and collective decision-making, and finally, high wrangler involvement in ASES management.

Fig. 6
figure 6

Visual Sample of ASES: two-way arrows designate information flows

Also, as this system follows a maximal dataification approach to create the predictive model of the system protection of privacy sensitive information, security attacks on assets, data, network and application, and big data security threats in IoT are of great importance because they can damage the trust of the users threaten the reliability and stability of the ASES. Therefore, protocols similar to General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of European Union [176] are a pre-requisite in transition toward ASES.

Large scale ASES are not available yet but projects are being conducted to study features of such systems using anthropological approaches. SECURE project [177], for instance, intends to study the high levels of integration between cyber- physical, and social worlds. According to SECURE, presumption is the first and the most obvious form of this integration. The project is a “Techno-Anthropological investigation of how developers and future users relate to social and ethical issues of data sharing, privacy and trust”. We do believe that the description and the conceptual model presented in this paper can be beneficial in thinking about the future of energy systems, its challenges and solutions as well as designing research project like SECURE to delve further into the specifications of ASES.


In this paper, we presented a reconfiguration of SESs and their problems and solutions using an anticipatory system lens through juxtaposition of Rosenian concepts of anticipatory system and SESs. Anticipatory system framework of energy is ambitiously intended to offer a common ground for a transdisciplinary, post-normal discussion with, bottom-up approach that should disentangle the complexity of energy systems.

According to Rosen’s claim, the theory of the anticipatory system can be the foundation of the anticipatory paradigm as the future system paradigm including emerging energy systems; When the knowledge is the action, the future is experienced in the present, and in other words, the future is integrated into the extended present. Networked communities are connected and the crowdsourcing process acts like a computer. The maximum degree of integration of machine and human happens and society 5.0 is formed.

The crowdsourcing and participation of wranglers and ESTs create the maximum anticipatory capacity for the system. Because of the networked communities, the anticipatory capacity will be distributed, and the anticipatory behavior will become the constant feature in wrangler’s behavior if and when three prerequisite conditions of the anticipatory system are materialized. In this paradigm, CPRs are common pool of prosumaging, and there will be no concern about the tragedy of common, because of crowdsourcing of the management of common resources. In this configuration, the ESTs and technical issues matter, but wranglers’ behavior is of great importance and will be the basis of the energy system resilience. This is a paradigm shift from a smart and information-based society 4.0 to a super smart and human-centered society 5.0, in which the maximum degree of integration of machines and humans occurs.

Availability of data and materials

Not applicable.


  1. A coinage for an energy prosumer who produces, consumes and stores.



Anticipatory smart energy system


Smart energy systems


Virtual power plant


Micro grid


Smart grid


Smart meters

EI/ IoE:

Energy internet/ internet of energy


Energy big data


Smart transmission


Renewable energy


Electric vehicle


Energy spime tools


Distributed generation


Distributed energy resource


Social internet of energy


Social internet of things


Prosumer community group


Integrated community energy system


Clean energy community


Cyber-physical-social system


Wrangler community


Common pool resource


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Darani, Z.H., Taheri Demne, M., Zanjirani, D.M. et al. Conceptualization of a new generation of smart energy systems and the transition toward them using anticipatory systems. Eur J Futures Res 9, 15 (2021).

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