An intelligent agent is a component of an Artificial Intelligence (AI) application. In the simplest terms, it is an entity that does something. It can be an organism such as a rodent or human. It can also be something non-living like a thermostat or self-driving car. It may even be an entity such as society.
What Is Artificial Intelligence?
To put an intelligent agent in context, let’s consider the fields where they are used. Artificial Intelligence describes the study of how non-living devices or machines use intelligent behavior to achieve a defined goal. Accomplishing this purpose means that it possesses some characteristics of human behavior for decisions and problem-solving.
An intelligent agent operates by the creation of a stimulus and response chain of events. There can be multiple triggers or responses that imply some kind of choice. It may involve a simple action for a one-time event or continued monitoring of an environment.
Computational Intelligence (CI) uses a different approach that embraces more of the sophisticated reasoning capabilities of humans. In these applications, people are also intelligent agents of a more complex type. In either case, the purpose is to understand and optimize its behavior to meet a goal.
CI uses advanced technologies to meet these aims. It employs the principles of human reasoning such as fuzzy logic and probabilistic methods to adapt and learn. In some ways, they are working toward overcoming the foibles of logic and accelerating orchestrated human evolution with less reliance on fallacies and heuristics.
Characteristics of an Intelligent Agent
The concept of intelligence implies a capacity to learn and modify behavior accordingly. Pavlovian or classical conditioning provides an excellent example. It describes the association between a stimulus and a response. Either can be conditioned or unconditioned. That is, it is either automatic or learned.
Dogs acted as the intelligent agents in Ivan Pavlov’s experiments when they responded by salivating to the sound of a metronome that preceded feeding time. Likewise, a thermostat reacts similarly to the stimulus of an increase in the ambient temperature by turning on the air conditioning.
Artificial Intelligence expert, Nikola Kasabov, identified several traits of intelligent agents that are not unlike characteristics of human reasoning. They include the ability to learn from experience, to retain this knowledge, and to adapt. These are all components of the learning theory, a basic tenet of CI.
Artificial intelligence in whatever form it takes represents the means for an intelligent agent to act. It may involve simple responses to pre-defined goal-based actions. They may be controlled devices like a sensor or a self-driven unit such as an automaton—and everything in between.
The Goal of an Intelligent Agent
The ultimate goal of an intelligent agent depends on its application. For example, researchers may use a robot to explore inaccessible locations such as the ocean floor or cave. First responders may enable a robot to locate victims of a natural disaster. The purpose is to gain the knowledge of what a site holds while reducing costs of employing humans or risking their safety.
These uses can speed the pace of research, allowing for additional applications. They can facilitate the experimental phases of development. They may also create means for testing new technologies where cost and labor remain limiting factors.
They may also serve other humanitarian goals. A review by researchers at the Scripps Research Institute refer to the use of AI and intelligent agents as “high-definition medicine.” With advances in technology, doctors will take patient care and treatment to a whole new level.
CI, for example, offers the hope of cures for the over 1,000 brain and neurological disorders with a better understanding of brain function. But there are also less lofty applications of AI using intelligent agents than serving the greater good.
Smart devices represent a new area of research and development of AI. These products can serve a myriad of purposes from turning on lights at designated times to viewing the contents of your refrigerator while shopping. Many items that required manual operation are now coming under this umbrella.
There are smart sprinkling systems, thermostats, CO and smoke detectors, and even GPS-enabled collars to track your pet. You can even view what is happening in your home if you’re away. The development of these technologies has fostered new types of communication and interaction.
They have numerous applications in the home security industry. They can trigger alarms and alerts if there is an unauthorized entry on your property. The devices are programmed via a control center that controls responses and access. Many take intelligence to the next level with tamper alerts or detection of breaking glass.
Interaction with intelligent agents has also evolved. Today, you can control devices remotely using a smartphone application. These innovations have increased their usefulness and also opened up new avenues of research and development.
Intelligent agents have taken on numerous other roles in entertainment and lifestyle applications. For example, an entire industry has boomed with the development of responsive automatons and animatronics that have varying degrees of autonomy. Think of characters at a haunted house that jump out when they detect movement or features in an amusement park.
The Future of the Development of Intelligent Agents
The possibilities for the future development of intelligent agents are endless. Its recent history has shown that they are becoming more complex with more specific behaviors and actions. It has evolved from the simple mechanical banks of yesteryear to the sophistication of autonomous vacuum cleaners. The functions and purposes of them are likely to grow too.
All that is necessary is to ask the question or identify the need. The development of the intelligent agent will follow. More complicated devices stand on the horizon with continued research into CI. These machines will contain the most intricate technology to date as researchers delve further into the realm of mimicking human reasoning.
It’s safe to say that the future of intelligent agents is secure. The only uncertainties are the paths that the technology will follow. Imagination is the only limit to its purposes.