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What is an agent?


A very misused term. Today, an agent seems to mean a stand-alone piece of AI-ish software that scours across the internet doing something "intelligent." Russell and Norvig define it as "anything that can can be viewed a perceiving its environment through sensors and acting upon that environment through effectors." Several papers I've read treat it as 'any program that operates on behalf of a human,' similar to its use in the phrase 'travel agent'. Marvin Minsky has yet another definition in the book "Society of Mind." Minsky's hypothesis is that a large number of seemingly-mindless agents can work together in a society to create an intelligent society of mind. Minsky theorizes that not only will this be the basis of computer intelligence, but it is also an explaination of how human intelligence works. Andrew Moore at Carnegie Mellon University once remarked that "The only proper use of the word 'agent' is when preceded by the words 'travel', 'secret', or 'double'."

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