This definition is widely used in the AI/self-driving cars industry:
"The Level 5 autonomous application should make the decision based on its own intelligence and self-improve from the outcomes of the decisions that it made.
DAO is supposed to be full autonomous, which has Level 5 automation. No human created applications reach the "autonomous" level yet.
DApp does not mention the level of automation. All the examples it gave are the automated software since there is no autonomous software yet. All existing blockchains based DApps including Bitcoin just automate the pre-coded business logic. Vitalik mentioned the DAO as the holy grail since no one yet got there even some may have called themselves TheDAO".
In this sense we either:
Should remove the "autonomous" from the DAO acronym;
Should change the "autonomous" to something different, like "adaptive";
Should treat all "DAO" projects as DOs, but not DAOs (even "TheDAO");
Should use another acronym/term like "AI DAO".
Wiki: "Autonomous organizations are independent or self-governing". In this sense USA is an autonomous organization. This definition is too broad, so we are going to use a stronger definition:
Apple Inc. obeys rules of Legal system. But Legal system does not obey rules of Apple Inc.;
Apple Inc. obeys rules of Legal system and USA and United Nations.
The Mobile dept. obeys rules of Apple Inc. and Legal system and USA and World and United Nations. But Mobile dept. is NOT independent because it obeys rules of the Design dept. (same level) too;
The Design dept. obeys rules of Apple Inc. and Legal system and USA and World and United Nations. But Design dept. is NOT independent because it obeys rules of Tim Cook (higher level) too;
Tim Cook obeys rules of Apple Inc. and Legal system and USA and World and United Nations. But Tim Cook DOES NOT obey rules of a Design dept. and there is no one above him! That's why he is independent.
Autonomous to environment?
Organization registered in USA
Legal System (should file reports, pay taxes, etc)
ERC20 token contract deployed to the Ethereum mainnet
EVM bytecode deployed to Ethereum mainnet
(most decisions are made internally)
Seller on the market
Autonomous systems often have better decision making: easier, done faster and more verifiable and can better adapt to changes.