Type: Thesis (PhD)
Interest-based Negotiation in Multi-Agent Systems.
PhD thesis, University of Melbourne.
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Software systems involving autonomous interacting software entities (or agents) present new challenges in computer science and software engineering. A particularly challenging problem is the engineering of various forms of interaction among agents. Interaction may be aimed at enabling agents to coordinate their activities, cooperate to reach common objectives, or exchange resources to better achieve their individual objectives. This thesis is concerned with negotiation: a process through which multiple self-interested agents can reach agreement over the exchange of scarce resources. In particular, I focus on settings where agents have limited or uncertain information, precluding them from making optimal individual decisions. I demonstrate that this form of bounded-rationality may lead agents to sub-optimal negotiation agreements. I argue that rational dialogue based on the exchange of arguments can enable agents to overcome this problem. Since agents make decisions based on particular underlying reasons, namely their interests, beliefs and planning knowledge, then rational dialogue over these reasons can enable agents to refine their individual decisions and consequently reach better agreements. I refer to this form of interaction as ``interested-based negotiation.''
The contributions of the thesis begin with a conceptual and formal framework for interest-based negotiation among computational agents. Then, an exploration of the differences between this approach and the more traditional bargaining-based approaches is presented. Strategic issues are then explored and a methodology for designing negotiation strategies is developed. Finally, the applicability of the framework is explored through a pilot application that makes use of interest-based negotiation in order to support cooperative activity among mobile users.
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