This next generation of computing which involves a degree of agency on the behalf of computers.

With machine learning, computers have the capacity to take in large amounts of information, make decisions of some sort and act on that; this is called agency

Autonomous systems use information gathered from sensors to make independent decisions and then act on them

A very simple example could be

“A thermostat is an example of a very simple autonomous agent in that it senses the environment and acts to change the heater.”

An autonomous agent has the capacity to process information within a restricted domain giving it autonomy and then take an action based upon the rules it has been given or learned

Monitoring-and-surveillance (predictive) agents

Monitoring and Surveillance Agents are used to observe and report on equipment, usually computer systems. The agents may keep track of company inventory levels, observe competitors’ prices and relay them back to the company, watch stock manipulation by insider trading and rumors, etc.

User agents (personal agents)

User agents, or personal agents, are intelligent agents that take action on your behalf. In this category belong those intelligent agents that already perform, or will shortly perform, the following tasks:

  • Check your e-mail, sort it according to the user’s order of preference, and alert you when important emails arrive.
  • Play computer games as your opponent or patrol game areas for you.
  • Assemble customized news reports for you. There are several versions of these, including CNN.
  • Find information for you on the subject of your choice.
  • Fill out forms on the Web automatically for you, storing your information for future reference
  • Scan Web pages looking for and highlighting text that constitutes the “important” part of the information there
  • Discuss topics with you ranging from your deepest fears to sports
  • Facilitate with online job search duties by scanning known job boards and sending the resume to opportunities who meet the desired criteria
  • Profile synchronization across heterogeneous social networks

Features of Autonomous Agents

Reactive behavior;

autonomous agent senses the environment and reacts;


autonomous agent activates alone for a task / is not invoked for a task / selects the task itself / operates without human supervision;


autonomous agent is a programmed device and the software describing an agent runs continuously;


autonomous agent can interact with other agents through communication / it can work in coordination and cooperation with other agents;.

AA in Space

Autonomous agents may help in both manned and unmanned space missions.

Control, coordination of satellites is something that must be monitored all year round 24 hours a day 365 day a year.

2 to 3 people were needed to watch a satellite and as the number of satellites increased so did the people and therefore the cost to finance this.

Also in manned missions there is a large amount of time monitoring equipment/stats.

This can be very boring and without concentration can lead to problems.

Most mistakes in manned missions are mistakes made by humans  that let something go possibly to tiredness.

Autonomous agents can be responsible for monitoring this equipment easing the burden form a human and allowing them to focus on other areas.

AA in transportation

The idea of driverless cars has been around for many years and has featured in some of Hollywood’s big movies however, only recently has it really started to become real.

Agents use a variety of sensors (sensor fusion) to read and understand the vehicles states.

By doing so it can process and act upon the information based on it results.

How do machines learn?