The University of Southampton

Agents which haggle and resolve conflict

Published: 21 May 2009

A new series of algorithms which enables computerised agents to haggle and to resolve conflict have been devised by a team led by Professor Nick Jennings.

Nick Jennings, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton's School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS), is lead author of a paper entitled 'Dialogue Games that agents play within a society' which has just been published in the June issue of 'Artificial Intelligence', the premier journal in its field.

In the paper, Professor Jennings and his co-authors describe how their work on developing autonomous computerised agents has progressed to a level where the agents can work autonomously through a mobile phone or a computer.

The new algorithms, which are the culmination of 10 years of research, will now make it possible for these software agents, which carry out tasks such as the organisation of a trip or social event, haggling or negotiating on eBay, to be developed to relate in real-life settings.

‘My view is that haggling will become very much the norm in all forms of on-line societies and that it is simply too costly and time-consuming to be done by humans,’ said Professor Jennings.

The academics have developed Argumentation-Based Negotiation (ABN) algorithms that provide agents with strategies to argue and resolve conflict in a multi-agent task allocation scenario. They also carried out experiments to ascertain the usefulness of argumentation for agents at various points in the negotiation process. ‘This work takes us much closer to having autonomous computerised agents which work on our behalf to plan social or business events,' said Professor Jennings. 'Through our earlier work we observed that when agents operate in a society with incomplete information and with diverse and conflicting influences, they may in certain cases lack the knowledge, motivation and/or capacity to abide by all their social influences. Our ABN system provides them with strategies to negotiate their social influences, thus enhancing their performance within a society.'

Co-authors of 'Dialogue Games that agents play within a society' are: Nishan Karunatillake, ECS, Dr Iyad Rahwan, British University in Dubai, Peter McBurney, University of Liverpool.

For further information contact Joyce Lewis; tel.+44(0)23 8059 5453

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