Friday, May 08, 2009

Second edition of An Introduction to MultiAgent Systems by Michael Wooldridge coming soon

Professor Michael Wooldridge of the University of Liverpool is about to come out with the Second edition of An Introduction to MultiAgent Systems.

It is listed on Amazon, but as "This title has not yet been released. You may pre-order it now and we will deliver it to you when it arrives." with a suggested release date of July 7, 2009. It is also listed on Wiley's web site. I would love to leaf through the book, but I am not going to pay $60 for a book.

The description from Wiley:

The study of multi-agent systems (MAS) focuses on systems in which many intelligent agents interact with each other.  These agents are considered to be autonomous entities such as software programs or robots.  Their interactions can either be cooperative (for example as in an ant colony) or selfish (as in a free market economy).  This book assumes only basic knowledge of algorithms and discrete maths, both of which are taught as standard in the first or second year of computer science degree programmes.  A basic knowledge of artificial intelligence would useful to help understand some of the issues, but is not essential.

The book's main aims are:

  • To introduce the student to the concept of agents and multi-agent systems, and the main applications for which they are appropriate
  • To introduce the main issues surrounding the design of intelligent agents
  • To introduce the main issues surrounding the design of a multi-agent society
  • To introduce a number of typical applications for agent technology

Michael has emailed out a blurb for the book (also available on his web page) that introduces it as follows:

Multiagent systems are an important paradigm for understanding and building distributed systems, where it is assumed that the computational components are autonomous: able to control their own behaviour in the furtherance of their own goals.  The first edition of An Introduction to Multiagent Systems was the first contemporary textbook in the area, and became the standard undergraduate reference work for the field. This second edition has been extended with substantial new material on recent developments in the field, and has been revised and updated throughout. It provides a comprehensive, coherent, and readable introduction to the theory and practice of multiagent systems, while presenting a wealth of discussion topics and pointers into more advanced issues for those wanting to dig deeper.

The blurb notes some key new features:

  • dedicated new chapters on recent research directions and results:
    • ontologies
    • computational social choice/voting
    • coalition formation
    • auctions
    • bargaining
    • argumentation;
  • "mind maps" for every chapter, to illustrate key concepts and ideas
    • an essential study and revision aid
  • 590 literature references, revised, updated, and extended to reflect the state of the art in agent research and development;
  • extensive glossary of terms.

I took a brief look at the table of contents and arrived at the following tentative conclusions:

  1. There has been a lot of progress in the past seven years.
  2. Software agent technology has still not matured to the stage where it is ready for prime time general use. I continue to believe that much of the technologies need to be transparently embedded in the underlying infrastructure to simplify development of much more robust large-scale applications.
  3. Open multi-agent systems are still an unresolved challenge.
  4. Although Semantic Web technologies are covered to some extent in Chapter 6 ("Understanding Each Other") on ontologies (XML, RDF, OWL, etc.), the centrality of the world-wide Semantic Web and Linked Data to the longer-term future of software agent technology not elaborated in any great detail and is still much further out in the future. The Semantic Web needs to evolve as well.

The main sections of the book are:

  • Part I Setting the Scene
    • Chapter 1 Introduction
  • Part II Intelligent Autonomous Agents
    • Chapter 2 Intelligent Agents
    • Chapter 3 Deductive Reasoning Agents
    • Chapter 4 Practical Reasoning Agents
    • Chapter 5 Reactive and Hybrid Agents
  • Part III Communication and Cooperation
    • Chapter 6 Understanding Each Other
    • Chapter 7 Communicating
    • Chapter 8 Working Together
    • Chapter 9 Methodologies
    • Chapter 10 Applications
  • Part IV Multiagent Decision Making
    • Chapter 11 Multiagent Interactions
    • Chapter 12 Making Group Decisions
    • Chapter 13 Forming Coalitions
    • Chapter 14 Allocating Scarce Resources
    • Chapter 15 Bargaining
    • Chapter 16 Arguing
    • Chapter 17 Logical Foundations
  • Coda
  • Appendix A -- A History Lesson
  • Appendix B -- Afterword 

The blurb tells us that the book is:

Designed and written specifically for computing undergraduates, the book comes with a rich repository of online teaching materials, including lecture slides.

Overall, the book is a great introduction to the current state of the art of software agent technology, both in theory and practice.

Need to go check out those lecture slides!

-- Jack Krupansky