Electric Elves: Immersing an agent organization in a human organization


D. V. Pynadath, Milind Tambe, Y. Arens, and H. Chalupsky. 2000. “Electric Elves: Immersing an agent organization in a human organization .” In AAAI Fall Symposium on Socially Intelligent Agents --- the human in the loop.


Future large-scale human organizations will be highly agentized, with software agents supporting the traditional tasks of information gathering, planning, and execution monitoring, as well as having increased control of resources and devices (communication and otherwise). As these heterogeneous software agents take on more of these activities, they will face the additional tasks of interfacing with people and sometimes acting as their proxies. Dynamic teaming of such heterogeneous agents will enable organizations to act coherently, to robustly attain their mission goals, to react swiftly to crises, and to dynamically adapt to events. Advances in this agentization could potentially assist all organizations, including the military, civilian disaster response organizations, corporations, and universities and research institutions. Within an organization, we envision that agent-based technology will facilitate (and sometimes supervise) all collaborative activities. For a research institution, agentization may facilitate such activities as meeting organization, paper composition, software development, and deployment of people and equipment for out-of-town demonstrations. For a military organization, agentization may enable the teaming of military units and equipment for rapid deployment, the monitoring of the progress of such deployments, and the rapid response to any crises that may arise. To accomplish such goals, we envision the presence of agent proxies for each person within an organization. Thus, for instance, if an organizational crisis requires an urgent deployment of a team of people and equipment, then agent proxies could dynamically volunteer for team membership on behalf of the people or resources they represent, while also ensuring that the selected team collectively possesses sufficient resources and capabilities. The proxies must also manage efficient transportation of such resources, the monitoring of the progress of individual participants and of the mission as a whole, and the execution of corrective actions when goals appear to be endangered. The complexity inherent in human organizations complicates all of these tasks and provides a challenging research testbed for agent technology. First, there is the key research question of adjustable autonomy. In particular, agents acting as proxies for people must automatically adjust their own autonomy, e.g., avoiding critical errors, possibly by letting people make important decisions while autonomously making the more routine decisions. Second, human organizations operate continually over time, and the agents must operate continually as well. In fact, the agent systems must be up and running 24 hours a day 7 days a week (24/7). Third, people, as well as their associated tasks are very heterogeneous, having a wide and rich variety of capabilities, interests, preferences, etc. To enable teaming among such people for crisis response or other organizational tasks, agents acting as proxies must represent and reason with such capabilities and interests. We thus require powerful matchmaking capabilities to match two people with similar interests. Fourth, human organizations are often large, so providing proxies often means a big scale-up in the number of agents, as compared against typical multiagent systems in current operation. Our Electric Elves project is currently investigating the above research issues and the impact of agentization on human organizations in general, using our own Intelligent Systems Division of USC/ISI as a testbed. Within our research institution, we intend that our Electric Elves agent proxies automatically manage tasks such as: Select teams of researchers for giving a demonstration out of town, plan all of their travel arrangements and ship relevant equipment; also, resolve problems that come up during such a demonstration (e.g., a selected researcher becomes ill at the last minute) Determine the researchers interested in meeting with a visitor to our institute, and schedule meetings with the visitor Reschedule meetings if one or more users are absent or unable to arrive on time at a meeting Monitor the location of users and keep others informed (within privacy limits) about their whereabouts This short paper presents an overview of our project, as space limitations preclude a detailed discussion of the research issues and operation of the current system. We do have a working prototype of about 10 agent proxies running almost continuously, managing the schedules of one research group. In the following section, we first present an overview of the agent organization, which immerses several heterogeneous agents and sets of agents within the existing human organization of our division. Following that, we describe the current state of the system, and then conclude.
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