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Conclusions

  We have introduced conversation protocols CPs as the methodological way to conceptualize, model, and implement conversations in agent-based systems. CPs allow to impose a set of constraints on the communicative acts uttered by the agents holding a conversation. We have also introduced interagents as autonomous software agents that mediate the interaction between each agent and the agent society wherein this is situated. Based on CPs and interagents we have proposed an infrastructure for easing the development of agent-based systems that takes charge of the complex, time-consuming interaction issues inherent to the construction of this type of systems. In this way, the overhead related to the management of the interaction tasks needed by an agent is shifted to its interagent. Interagents employ CPs for mediating conversations among agents, and so the management of CPs is identified as their main task. Two major benefits are achieved by deploying our infrastructure from the point of view of the agent developer: on the one hand, their agents can reason about communication at higher levels of abstraction, and on the other hand they are released from dealing with interaction issues, and so they can concentrate on the design of the agents' logics. We have also introduced JIM, a general-purpose interagent. JIM is currently being used to coordinate the activities of the market intermediaries composing the Fishmarket system[20, 7] and the interaction between the market as a whole and the participating buyers and sellers (see Figure 1). Additionally, JIM is being successfully employed by other ongoing research projects: the SMASH project[41], that addresses the construction of prototype multi-agent systems with learning capabilities that cooperate in the solution of complex problems in hospital environments; and in the multi-agent learning framework Plural[42] which tackles the problem of sharing knowledge and experience among cognitive agents that co-operate within a distributed case-based reasoning framework.


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Wed Mar 10 11:44:57 MET 1999