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					Università
di Modena
 e Reggio
  Emilia                   Challenges in Agent-oriented
                              Software Engineering
Agentlink
  TFG                                       Franco Zambonelli
 AOSE
                                          franco.zambonelli@unimore.it

                                    Agents and Pervasive Computing Group
  Agents and Pervasive




                                     Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia
  Computing Group




                                          www.agentgroup.unimore.it


                         Talk from the paper: F. Zambonelli, A. Omicini, “Challenges and Research
                         Directions in Agent-Oriented Software Engineering”, Journal of Autonomous
                         Agents and Multiagent Systems, 9(3), July 2004.
                                                   Outline
Università
di Modena
 e Reggio                 Current mainstream research themes in AOSE
  Emilia
                            – The usual stuff…

                          What does it means “engineering an agent system”?
                           – It is a matter of scale of observation…
Agentlink
  TFG
 AOSE                     Challenges and research directions
                            – At different observation levels…
  Agents and Pervasive




                          My main goal here:
  Computing Group




                            – Being provocative
                            – And stimulate discussion

                          In any case, mine is clearly a partial, incomplete, viewpoint
                            Mainstream AOSE Researches
Università
di Modena
 e Reggio                 Methodology
  Emilia                    – Dozens of methodologies proposed so far
                            – Mostly “pencil and papers” exercises (Gaia included) with no
                              confrontation with real world problems…

                          Meta-methodologies
Agentlink
                            – Interesting and worth to be explored, but
  TFG
                            – These would require much more research coordination and more
 AOSE                         feedback from real-world experiences

                          Models & Notations
  Agents and Pervasive




                            – Of great help to clarify on agent-oriented abstractions
  Computing Group




                            – Of little use for everyday software engineering practice

                          Infrastructures
                            – Very interesting models but…
                            – Frankly speaking, the pervasive computing community is two years
                               ahead of the agent community…
                                          Is This Enough?
Università
di Modena                 Let’s ask ourselves a simple basic question:
 e Reggio
  Emilia                    – What does it mean engineering a MASs?
                            – What is the actual subject of the engineering work?

                          What is a MASs in a world of:
                           – World-wide social and computational networks
Agentlink                  – Pervasive computing environments,
  TFG                      – Sensor networks and embedded computing
 AOSE
                          There is not a single answer:
                            – It depends on the observation level
  Agents and Pervasive
  Computing Group




                          In the physical world and in micro-electronics and MEMS
                            engineering
                             – Micro level of observation: dominated by quantum phenomena (and
                               and to be studied/engineered accordingly)
                             – Macro level of observation: dominated by classical physics
                             – Meso level of observation: quantum and classical phenomena both
                               appears (and have to be taken into account)
                               AOSE Observation Levels
                          Micro scale
Università
di Modena                   – Small- medium-size MASs
 e Reggio                   – Control over each component (limited complexity single stakeholder)
  Emilia
                            – This is the (only) focus of mainstream AOSE

           Macro scale
             – Very large scale distributed MASs
Agentlink    – No control over single components (decentralization, multiple
  TFG          stakeholders)
 AOSE        – The kingdom of “self-organization” people

                          Meso scale
  Agents and Pervasive




                            – Micro scale components deployed in a macro scale scenario
                            – My own system influence and is influenced by the whole
  Computing Group




                          Very rarely a fully fledged study can be limited to a single level of
                            observation
                             – Most MASs (even small scale) are open
                             – Deployed in some sort of macro scale system
                             – Dynamically evolving together with the system
                         Observation Levels: Example
Università
di Modena
 e Reggio
                          Agent marketplaces, e.g., distributed auction sites
  Emilia                    – I have to develop a MAS to perform distributed transactions on behalf
                              of some users/organizations

                          Micro level
                            – Engineer the behavior and interactions of a limited set of trader agents
Agentlink                     so that they can perform effectively the best commercial choices
  TFG
 AOSE                     Macro level
                            – Understand, predict and control the behavior of a world wide scale
                              agent economy
  Agents and Pervasive
  Computing Group




                          Meso level
                            – Will my system be cheated?
                            – How can I ensure I can trust its decisions?
                            – Where does my direct engineering influence ends and other forms of
                              indirect control have to be enforced?
                             Micro-Level Challenges (1)
Università
di Modena
                          Assessing AOSE Advantages
 e Reggio                   – AO has clear advantages. What about AOSE?
  Emilia
                            – Methodologies, methodologies, methodologies… ;-(
                                 • Qualitative work
                             – We need to show that AOSE
                                 • helps saving money and human resource
                                 • Leads to higher quality software products
Agentlink                    – Cf. Cossentino et al. 2003
  TFG                            • Quantitative comparison of AOSE vs. non-AOSE complex software
 AOSE                              development

                          Pay Attention to the Software Process
  Agents and Pervasive




                            – Most methodologies assume a “waterfall” modell
  Computing Group




                                 • Either implicitly or explicitly
                                 • With no counterpart in industrial software development
                             – Need for:
                                 • Agile processes
                                 • Agent-specific flexible processes
                             – Cf. Knublauch 2002 “Extreme programming for MAS”, Cossentino 2004:
                               “Agile PASSI”
                             – Can meta-models be of help in that direction?
                             Micro-Level Challenges (2)
Università
di Modena                 Agent-specific notations
 e Reggio                   – AUML is Ok to spread acceptance but…
  Emilia
                                 • Is it really suited for MASs?
                                 • And for complex systems in general?
                                 • Even the mainstream SE community doubts about that…
                             – Do more suitable notations exists?
                                 • Agent-specific ones to be invented
Agentlink                        • Other non-UML approaches
  TFG                        – Cf. Sturm et al. 2003: OPM/MAS
 AOSE

                          Intelligence engineering
  Agents and Pervasive




                            – Selling AI has always been difficult
                                 • Lack of engineering flavor…
  Computing Group




                             – Agents can help with this regard
                                 • Embodied, modular, intelligence
                                 • Observable rationality
                             – Our role should be that of:
                                 • Exploiting scientific results from the AI-oriented MAS community
                                 • Turn them into usable engineered products
                            Macro-Level Challenges (1)
Università
di Modena
 e Reggio                 The macro level deals with complex collective behavior in large
  Emilia
                            scale MASs
                             – Some say this is not AOSE…
                                 • Scientific activity
                                 • Observing and reproducing biology
                             – But it must become an engineering activity
Agentlink                        • Challenging indeed
  TFG
 AOSE
                          Universality in MASs
                            – Can general laws underlying the behavior of complex MASs be
  Agents and Pervasive




                              identified?
                                 • As they are starting being identified in the “complex systems” research
  Computing Group




                                   community
                                 • Phase transitions, edges of chaos, etc.
                             – Letting us study and engineer complex MAS
                                 • Abstracting from the specific characteristics of agents (from ants to
                                   rational BDI agents)
                                 • Abstracting from the specific content of their interactions
                             – Cf. Van Parunak 2004: “Universality in MAS”
                            Macro-Level Challenges (2)
Università
di Modena
                          Measuring Complex MASs
 e Reggio                   – How can we characterize the behavior of large-scale MASs?
  Emilia
                                 • When we cannot characterize the behavior of single components
                             – Macro-level measures must be identified
                                 • To concisely express properties of a system
                                 • Cf. Entropy, Macro-properties of complex network, etc
                             – And tools must be provided to actually measure systems
Agentlink                    – But measuring must be finalized
  TFG
 AOSE
                          Controlling Complex MASs
                            – Given a measurable property of a MASs
  Agents and Pervasive




                            – Software engineers must be able to direct the evolution of a system,
                              i.e., to tune the value of the measurable property
  Computing Group




                                 • In a fully decentralized way
                                 • And with the possibility of enforcing control over a limited portion of the MAS
                             – Software engineering will become strictly related to control systems
                               engineering

                          Emergent behaviors, physics, biology, etc
                            – Cf. The activity of the “SELF ORGANIZATION” group
                             Meso-Level Challenges (1)
Università
di Modena                 It is a problem of deployment
 e Reggio
  Emilia                     – Engineering issues related to
                             – Deployment a MAS (typically engineered at a micro level of
                                observation)
                             – Into a large scale system (to be studied at a macro-level of
                                observation
Agentlink
  TFG                     Impact Analysis
 AOSE                       – How will my system behave when it will deployed in an existing
                              open – possibly large scale – networked system
                            – How I will influence the existing system?
  Agents and Pervasive




                            – Micro-scale aspects:
                                 • Tolerance to unpredictable environmental dynamics on my system
  Computing Group




                                 • Internal handlings
                             – Macro-scale aspect:
                                 • Can my “small” MAS change the overall behavior of the global system?
                                 • “butterfly effect”?
                              Meso-Level Challenges (2)
Università                Identifying the Boundaries
di Modena                   – How can I clearly identify what is part of my system and what is not?
 e Reggio
  Emilia                    – I should identify
                                 • potential inter-agent and environmental interactions
                                 • Shape the environment (i.e., via agentification)
                                 • Engineer the interactions across the environment
                             – In sum: engineering the boundaries of the system
Agentlink
  TFG                     Trust
 AOSE                       – I can (provably) trust a “small” system of rational agents
                            – I can (probabilistically) trust a very large-scale MASs
                            – What I can actually say about the small system deployed in the large-
  Agents and Pervasive




                              scale one
                                 • How can I measure the “degree of trust”?
  Computing Group




                          Infrastructures for Open Systems
                            – Are configurable context-dependent coordination infrastructure the
                               correct answer?
                            – Are normative approaches the correct ones?
                                 • We know what we gain but we do not know what we lose
                             – Cf. Incentives in social and P2P networks
                                               Conclusions
Università                There’s not a single AOSE
di Modena                   – Depends on the scale of observation…
 e Reggio
  Emilia
                          The micro scale
                            – Overwhelmed by research
                            – Often neglecting very basic questions…

Agentlink                 The macro scale
  TFG
                            – Some would say this is not AOSE
 AOSE
                            – But it must become indeed…
  Agents and Pervasive




                          The meso scale
                            – Fascinating…
  Computing Group




                            – Very difficult to be tackled with engineering approaches…

                          What else?
                           – There’s so much to engineer around…
                           – Emotional agents, mixed human-agent organizations, interactions with
                             the physical world…

				
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