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A Weak Notion of Agency

Perhaps the most general way in which the term agent is used is to denote a hardware or (more usually) software-based computer system that enjoys the following properties:

A simple way of conceptualising an agent is thus as a kind of UNIX-like software process, that exhibits the properties listed above. This weak notion of agency has found currency with a surprisingly wide range of researchers. For example, in mainstream computer science, the notion of an agent as a self-contained, concurrently executing software process, that encapsulates some state and is able to communicate with other agents via message passing, is seen as a natural development of the object-based concurrent programming paradigm [Agha et al., 1993][Agha, 1986].

This weak notion of agency is also that used in the emerging discipline of agent-based software engineering:

`[Agents] communicate with their peers by exchanging messages in an expressive agent communication language. While agents can be as simple as subroutines, typically they are larger entities with some sort of persistent control.' [Genesereth and Ketchpel, 1994]
A softbot (software robot) is a kind of agent:

`A softbot is an agent that interacts with a software environment by issuing commands and interpreting the environment's feedback. A softbot's effectors are commands (e.g., UNIX shell commands such as mv or compress) meant to change the external environment's state. A softbot's sensors are commands (e.g., pwd or ls in UNIX) meant to provide ... information.' [Etzioni et al., 1994]

Next: A Stronger Notion Up: What is an Previous: What is an
Fri Nov 4 16:03:55 GMT 1994