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C4 - Economically Founded Multiagent Systems

Monday, PM

Tuomas Sandholm

In multiagent systems - e.g. for agent-mediated electronic commerce - computational agents find contracts on behalf of the real world parties that they represent. This automation saves human negotiation time, and computational agents are often better at finding beneficial deals in combinatorially and strategically complex settings. Applications include electronic trading, manufacturing planning and scheduling among companies, electricity markets, allocating and pricing bandwidth in multi-provider multi-consumer computer networks, digital libraries, vehicle routing among dispatch centers, and resource allocation in distributed operating systems, to name just a few.

A key research goal is to design open distributed systems in a principled way that leads to globally desirable outcomes even though every participating agent only considers its own good and may act insincerely. The tutorial covers relevant topics in AI, game theory, market mechanisms, voting, auctions (also combinatorial auctions), coalition formation, and contract nets. Emphasis is given to rigorous results and algorithms - both classic ones from microeconomics and recent ones from the distributed AI community - that have direct applications to computational agents. Effects of computational limitations, i.e. agents' bounded rationality, are discussed as a key feature that has not received adequate attention. Implementation experiences will be shared, and real world applications presented.

Prerequisite knowledge:
The tutorial is targeted to the builder of multiagent systems that consist of multiple self-interested agents. It also serves to familiarize newcomers and executive level participants with the issues in multiagent systems. No background is required in economics or multiagent systems.

Tuomas Sandholm is Assistant Professor of computer science at Washington University in St. Louis. He received the Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in computer science from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1996 and 1994. Prior to that he earned an M.S. (B.S. included) with distinction in Industrial Engineering and Management Science from the Helsinki University of Technology, Finland. He has nine years of experience building multiagent systems. He has also co-developed two fielded AI systems, and is Chief Scientist of an electronic commerce startup company. He has published over 65 technical papers, and received several academic awards.

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Last modified: Mar 13, 1999