What is a Software Agent

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What Is a Software Agent?;
This section summarizes the two definitions of an agent that have been attempted:

An intelligent agent is software that assists people and acts on their behalf. Intelligent agents work by allowing people to delegate work that they could have done to the agent software. Agents can, just as assistants can, automate repetitive tasks, remember things you forgot, intelligently summarize complex data, learn from you, and even make recommendations to you” (Gilbert 1997, p. 1). “An agent is a piece of software that performs a given task using information gleaned from its environment to act in a suitable manner so as to complete the task successfully. The software should be able to adapt itself based on changes occurring in its environment, so that a change in circumstances will still yield the intended result” (Hermans 1996, p. 14)
CHARACTERISTICS OF SOFTWARE AGENTS:

Reactivity: the ability to selectively sense and act • Autonomy: goal-directedness, proactive and self-starting behavior • Collaborative behavior: can work in concert with other agents to achieve a common goal • “Knowledge-level” (Newell 1982) communication ability: the ability to communicate with persons and other agents with language more resembling humanlike “speech acts” than typical symbol-level program-to-program protocols • Inferential capability: can act on abstract task specification using prior knowledge of general goals and preferred methods to achieve flexibility;

goes beyond the information given, and may have explicit models of self, user, situation, and/or other agents. • Temporal continuity: persistence of identity and state over long periods of time12 • Personality: the capability of manifesting the attributes of a “believable” character such as emotion • Adaptivity: being able to learn and improve with experience • Mobility: being able to migrate in a self-directed way from one host platform to another. CLASSIFICATION:
We identify three characteristics:autonomy, learning, and cooperation

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3.1 Interface Agents Interface agents perform tasks for their owners by emphasizing autonomy and learning. They support and provide assistance to a user learning to use a particular application such as a spreadsheet. The agent here observes the actions being carried out by the user and tries to learn new short cuts, then it will try to suggest better ways of doing the same task. Interface agents learn to better assist its users in four ways :  By observing and imitating the user  Through receiving positive and negative feedback from the user  By receiving explicit instructions from the user  By asking other agents for advice 3.2 Collaborative Agents

The goal of collaborative agents is to interconnect separately developed collaborative agents, thus enabling the ensemble to function beyond the capabilities of any of its members.
3.3 Information Agents The explosive growth of information on the Word-Wide Web has given a rise to information agents (also known as Internet agents) in the hope that these agents will be able to help us manage, manipulate, or collate information from many distributed resources.One distinction between interface and information agents, however, is that information agents are defined by what they do, in contrast to interface agents which are defined by what they are.Information agents are most useful on the Web where they can help us with mundane tasks. 3.4 Reactive Agents Reactive Agents act and respond in a stimulus-response manner to the present state of the environment in which they are embedded. P. Maes highlights the following three key ideas which underpin reactive agents. Emergent functionality: the dynamics of the interaction leads to the emergent complexity. Task decomposition: a reactive agent is viewed as a collection of modules which operate autonomously and responsible for specific tasks (e.g. sensing, computation, etc.). They tend to operate on representations that are close to raw sensor data. 3.5 Hybrid Agents Hybrid Agents refer to those agents whose constitution is a combination of two or more agent philosophies within a singular agent . These philosophies may be mobile, interface, information, collaborative, … etc. The goal of having hybrid agents is the notion that the benefits accrued from having the combination of philosophies within a single agent is greater than the gains obtained from the same agent based on a singular philosophy.
3.6 Mobile Agents

A software agent is a mobile software agent if it is able to migrate from host to host to work in a heterogeneous network environment. This means we must also consider the software environment in which mobile agents exist. This is called the mobile agent environment, which is a software system distributed over a network of heterogeneous computers and its primary task is to provide an environment in which mobile agents can run.

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