Intelligent Agents and Multi-Agent Systems

Intelligent Agents and Multi-Agent Systems

Zude Zhou (Wuhan University of Technology, China), Huaiqing Wang (City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong) and Ping Lou (Wuhan University of Technology, China)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-864-2.ch003
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Multi-Agent systems (MAS) are typical KBS and intelligent agents are viewed as extensions of KBS. Originating from the field of Distributed Artificial Intelligence (DAI), agent and Multi-Agent (MA) technology has been at the forefront of research in the last decade (Nilsson, 1998). Since the late 1980s, researchers have applied agent technology to perform tasks, and it is considered a promising paradigm for intelligent manufacturing (Shen & Norrie, 2001). In the 21st century especially, the manufacturing industry has become more and more competitive in a market that is frequently changing. Manufacturing systems should therefore move to support product innovation, global competitiveness and rapid market responsiveness. Recent new developments in agent and MA technology have brought new and interesting possibilities (Jennings & Wooldridge, 1998), researchers have been trying to develop and apply agent technology for supporting intelligent manufacturing, and there have been many projects in agent-based intelligent manufacturing. The basic theory and applications of agent and MAS are introduced in this chapter. The recent development of agent and MAS is reviewed, and the current research level of MAS is also summarized. Finally, the fundamentals of agent technology including communication and interaction, collaboration and behavior coordination, are presented.
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Intelligent Agents

‘Intelligent’ can be utilized as both a noun and an adjective. If considered as a noun, it refers to all the mental activities human beings are capable of, such as feeling, cognition, memorization, relating, calculating, reasoning, judging, decision-making, and summarization. If used as an adjective, it carries the meaning of being human-like, smart, flexible, self-learning, self-organizing, self-adaptive, and autonomous.

The research with regard to the theory of intelligence is divided into two aspects. The first is to conduct direct research for the forming and working mechanisms of intelligence, which is classified as natural “intelligent” theory and has mainly been researched by physiologists and psychologists. The second aspect is to explore methods to stimulate and expand intelligence artificially, which is classified as artificial “intelligent” theory and has mainly been used by engineers. In the first aspect, ‘intelligent’ is often used as a noun because it mainly explores the mechanisms of mental activity. ‘intelligent’ is used as an adjective in the second aspect because what we really care about is whether functions of AI are better than functions of natural intelligence.

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