Distributed artificial intelligence

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Distributed Artificial Intelligence (DAI) also called Decentralized Artificial Intelligence [1] is a subfield of artificial intelligence research dedicated to the development of distributed solutions for problems. DAI is closely related to and a predecessor of the field of multi-agent systems.

In computer science, artificial intelligence (AI), sometimes called machine intelligence, is intelligence demonstrated by machines, in contrast to the natural intelligence displayed by humans. Colloquially, the term "artificial intelligence" is often used to describe machines that mimic "cognitive" functions that humans associate with the human mind, such as "learning" and "problem solving".

Multi-agent system

A multi-agent system is a computerized system composed of multiple interacting intelligent agents. Multi-agent systems can solve problems that are difficult or impossible for an individual agent or a monolithic system to solve. Intelligence may include methodic, functional, procedural approaches, algorithmic search or reinforcement learning.



Distributed Artificial Intelligence (DAI) is an approach to solving complex learning, planning, and decision making problems. It is embarrassingly parallel, thus able to exploit large scale computation and spatial distribution of computing resources. These properties allow it to solve problems that require the processing of very large data sets. DAI systems consist of autonomous learning processing nodes (agents), that are distributed, often at a very large scale. DAI nodes can act independently and partial solutions are integrated by communication between nodes, often asynchronously. By virtue of their scale, DAI systems are robust and elastic, and by necessity, loosely coupled. Furthermore, DAI systems are built to be adaptive to changes in the problem definition or underlying data sets due to the scale and difficulty in redeployment.

In parallel computing, an embarrassingly parallel workload or problem is one where little or no effort is needed to separate the problem into a number of parallel tasks. This is often the case where there is little or no dependency or need for communication between those parallel tasks, or for results between them.

Intelligent agent

In artificial intelligence, an intelligent agent (IA) refers to an autonomous entity which acts, directing its activity towards achieving goals, upon an environment using observation through sensors and consequent actuators. Intelligent agents may also learn or use knowledge to achieve their goals. They may be very simple or very complex. A reflex machine, such as a thermostat, is considered an example of an intelligent agent.

DAI systems do not require all the relevant data to be aggregated in a single location, in contrast to monolithic or centralized Artificial Intelligence systems which have tightly coupled and geographically close processing nodes. Therefore, DAI systems often operate on sub-samples or hashed impressions of very large datasets. In addition, the source dataset may change or be updated during the course of the execution of a DAI system.


The objectives of Distributed Artificial Intelligence are to solve the reasoning, planning, learning and perception problems of artificial intelligence, especially if they require large data, by distributing the problem to autonomous processing nodes (agents). To reach the objective, DAI requires:

Automated reasoning is an area of computer science, cognitive science, and mathematical logic dedicated to understanding different aspects of reasoning. The study of automated reasoning helps produce computer programs that allow computers to reason completely, or nearly completely, automatically. Although automated reasoning is considered a sub-field of artificial intelligence, it also has connections with theoretical computer science, and even philosophy.

Distributed computing is a field of computer science that studies distributed systems. A distributed system is a system whose components are located on different networked computers, which communicate and coordinate their actions by passing messages to one another. The components interact with one another in order to achieve a common goal. Three significant characteristics of distributed systems are: concurrency of components, lack of a global clock, and independent failure of components. Examples of distributed systems vary from SOA-based systems to massively multiplayer online games to peer-to-peer applications.

Online machine learning in computer science and statistics

In computer science, online machine learning is a method of machine learning in which data becomes available in a sequential order and is used to update our best predictor for future data at each step, as opposed to batch learning techniques which generate the best predictor by learning on the entire training data set at once. Online learning is a common technique used in areas of machine learning where it is computationally infeasible to train over the entire dataset, requiring the need of out-of-core algorithms. It is also used in situations where it is necessary for the algorithm to dynamically adapt to new patterns in the data, or when the data itself is generated as a function of time, e.g., stock price prediction. Online learning algorithms may be prone to catastrophic interference, a problem that can be addressed by incremental learning approaches.

There are many reasons for wanting to distribute intelligence or cope with multi-agent systems. Mainstream problems in DAI research include the following:

Abstraction in its main sense is a conceptual process where general rules and concepts are derived from the usage and classification of specific examples, literal signifiers, first principles, or other methods.

The microscopic scale is the scale of objects and events smaller than those that can easily be seen by the naked eye, requiring a lens or microscope to see them clearly. In physics, the microscopic scale is sometimes regarded as the scale between the macroscopic scale and the quantum scale. Microscopic units and measurements are used to classify and describe very small objects. One common microscopic length scale unit is the micrometre, which is one millionth of a metre.

Social simulation is a research field that applies computational methods to study issues in the social sciences. The issues explored include problems in computational law, psychology, organizational behavior, sociology, political science, economics, anthropology, geography, engineering, archaeology and linguistics.


In the 1975 distributed artificial intelligence emerged as a subfield of artificial intelligence that dealt with interaction of intelligent agents[2]. Distributed artificial intelligence systems were conceived as a group of intelligent entities, called agents, that interacted by cooperation, by coexistence or by competition. DAI is categorized into Multi-agent systems and distributed problem solving [1]. In Multi-agent systems the main focus is how agents coordinate their knowledge and activities. For distributed problem solving the major focus is how the problem is decomposed and the solutions are synthesized.


Multi-agent systems and distributed problem solving are the two main DAI approaches. There are numerous applications and tools.


Two types of DAI has emerged:

DAI can apply a bottom-up approach to AI, similar to the subsumption architecture as well as the traditional top-down approach of AI. In addition, DAI can also be a vehicle for emergence.


Areas where DAI have been applied are:


Agents and Multi-agent systems

Notion of Agents: Agents can be described as distinct entities with standard boundaries and interfaces designed for problem solving.

Notion of Multi-Agents:Multi-Agent system is defined as a network of agents which are loosely coupled working as a single entity like society for problem solving that an individual agent cannot solve.

Software agents

The key concept used in DPS and MABS is the abstraction called software agents. An agent is a virtual (or physical) autonomous entity that has an understanding of its environment and acts upon it. An agent is usually able to communicate with other agents in the same system to achieve a common goal, that one agent alone could not achieve. This communication system uses an agent communication language.

A first classification that is useful is to divide agents into:

Well-recognized agent architectures that describe how an agent is internally structured are:


The challenges in Distributed AI are:

1.How to carry out communication and interaction of agents and which communication language or protocols should be used.

2.How to ensure the coherency of agents.

3.How to synthesise the results among 'intelligent agents' group by formulation, description, decomposition and allocation.

See also

Related Research Articles

In computer science, a software agent is a computer program that acts for a user or other program in a relationship of agency, which derives from the Latin agere : an agreement to act on one's behalf. Such "action on behalf of" implies the authority to decide which, if any, action is appropriate. Agents are colloquially known as bots, from robot. They may be embodied, as when execution is paired with a robot body, or as software such as a chatbot executing on a phone or other computing device. Software agents may be autonomous or work together with other agents or people. Software agents interacting with people may possess human-like qualities such as natural language understanding and speech, personality or embody humanoid form.

In computing cooperative distributed problem solving is a network of semi-autonomous processing nodes working together to solve a problem, typically in a multi-agent system. That is concerned with the investigation of problem subdivision, sub-problem distribution, results synthesis, optimisation of problem solver coherence and co-ordination. It is closely related to distributed constraint programming and distributed constraint optimization; see the links below.

Collaborative intelligence characterizes multi-agent, distributed systems where each agent, human, or machine is uniquely positioned with autonomy to contribute to a problem-solving network. Collaborative autonomy of organisms in their ecosystems makes evolution possible. Natural ecosystems, where each organism's unique signature is derived from its genetics, circumstances, behavior and position in its ecosystem, offer principles for design of next generation social networks to support collaborative intelligence, crowd-sourcing individual expertise, preferences, and unique contributions in a problem-solving process.

Soar is a cognitive architecture, originally created by John Laird, Allen Newell, and Paul Rosenbloom at Carnegie Mellon University. It is now maintained and developed by John Laird's research group at the University of Michigan.

A blackboard system is an artificial intelligence approach based on the blackboard architectural model, where a common knowledge base, the "blackboard", is iteratively updated by a diverse group of specialist knowledge sources, starting with a problem specification and ending with a solution. Each knowledge source updates the blackboard with a partial solution when its internal constraints match the blackboard state. In this way, the specialists work together to solve the problem. The blackboard model was originally designed as a way to handle complex, ill-defined problems, where the solution is the sum of its parts.

The expression computational intelligence (CI) usually refers to the ability of a computer to learn a specific task from data or experimental observation. Even though it is commonly considered a synonym of soft computing, there is still no commonly accepted definition of computational intelligence.

A cognitive architecture refers to both a theory about the structure of the human mind and to a computational instantiation of such a theory used in the fields of artificial intelligence (AI) and computational cognitive science. One of the main goals of a cognitive architecture is to summarize the various results of cognitive psychology in a comprehensive computer model. However, the results need to be formalized so far as they can be the basis of a computer program. The formalized models can be used to further refine a comprehensive theory of cognition, and more immediately, as a commercially usable model. Successful cognitive architectures include ACT-R and SOAR.

Cognitive robotics is concerned with endowing a robot with intelligent behavior by providing it with a processing architecture that will allow it to learn and reason about how to behave in response to complex goals in a complex world. Cognitive robotics may be considered the engineering branch of embodied cognitive science and embodied embedded cognition.

Action selection is a way of characterizing the most basic problem of intelligent systems: what to do next. In artificial intelligence and computational cognitive science, "the action selection problem" is typically associated with intelligent agents and animats—artificial systems that exhibit complex behaviour in an agent environment. The term is also sometimes used in ethology or animal behavior.

Norms can be considered from different perspectives in artificial intelligence to create computers and computer software that are capable of intelligent behaviour.

A hierarchical control system (HCS) is a form of control system in which a set of devices and governing software is arranged in a hierarchical tree. When the links in the tree are implemented by a computer network, then that hierarchical control system is also a form of networked control system.

Artificial intelligence, defined as intelligence exhibited by machines, has many applications in today's society. More specifically, it is Weak AI, the form of AI where programs are developed to perform specific tasks, that is being utilized for a wide range of activities including medical diagnosis, electronic trading platforms, robot control, and remote sensing. AI has been used to develop and advance numerous fields and industries, including finance, healthcare, education, transportation, and more.

In artificial intelligence research, the situated approach builds agents that are designed to behave effectively successfully in their environment. This requires designing AI "from the bottom-up" by focussing on the basic perceptual and motor skills required to survive. The situated approach gives a much lower priority to abstract reasoning or problem-solving skills.

Deliberative agent is a sort of software agent used mainly in multi-agent system simulations. According to Wooldridge's definition, a deliberative agent is "one that possesses an explicitly represented, symbolic model of the world, and in which decisions are made via symbolic reasoning".

LIONsolver is an integrated software for data mining, business intelligence, analytics, and modeling Learning and Intelligent OptimizatioN and reactive business intelligence approach. A non-profit version is available as LIONoso.

This glossary of artificial intelligence terms is about artificial intelligence, its sub-disciplines, and related fields.


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