Intelligent software agents have been used in many applications because they provide useful integrated features that are not available in “traditional” types of software (e.g., abilities to sense the environment, reason, and interact with other agents). Although the usefulness of agents is in having such capabilities, methods and tools for developing them have focused on practical physical representation rather than accurate conceptualizations of these functions. However, intelligent agents should closely mimic aspects of the environment in which they operate. In the physical sciences, a conceptual model of a problem can lead to better theories and explanations about the area. Therefore, we ask, can an intelligent agent conceptual framework, properly defined, be used to model complex interactions in various social science disciplines? The constructs used in the implementation of intelligent agents may not be appropriate at the conceptual level, as they refer to software concepts rather than to application domain concepts. We propose to use a combina- tion of the systems approach and Bunge’s ontology as adapted to information systems, to guide us in defining intelligent agent concepts. The systems approach will be used to define the components of the intelligent agents and ontology will be used to understand the configurations and interrelationships between the components. We will then provide a graphical representation of these concepts for modeling purposes. As a proof of concept for the proposed conceptual model, we applied it to a marketing problem and imple- mented it in an agent-based programming environment. Using the conceptual model, the user was able to quickly visualize the complex interactions of the agents. The use of the conceptual representation even sparked an investigation of previously neglected causal factors which led to a better understanding of the problem. Therefore, our intelligent agent framework can graphically model phenomena in the social sciences. This work also provides a theoretically driven concept of intelligent agent components and a definition of the inter- relationships between these concepts. Further research avenues are also discussed.
Monu, Kafui and Woo, Carson, "Intelligent Agents as a Modeling Paradigm" (2005). ICIS 2005 Proceedings. 15.