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2. Intelligent Agents

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Agents and Environments

PEAS (Performance measure, Environment, Actuators,
Environment Types
Agent Types

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Agents and Environment

Agent – Anything that can be viewed as perceiving its

environment through sensors and acting upon that
environment through actuators.
Agent Sensors



Percept – Agent’s perceptual inputs at any given instant.

Percept Sequence – complete history of everything the
agent has ever perceived.
Agent function – maps any given percept sequence to
action, description of agent’s behaviour.
Agent program – implementation of agent’s function.
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Simple Agent – An Example

Vacuum cleaner world – with only two location A and B.

perceive which square it is in, and whether it is dirty or not.

Percept : Location and Content, e.g. [A, Clean]

Actions: Left, Right, Suck, NoOp.

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A vacuum-cleaner agent

Agent function:

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Rational Agent: one that does the right thing.
Rational Agent: For each possible percept sequence, a
rational agent should select an action that is expected to
maximize its performance measure, given the evidence
provided by the percept sequence and whatever built-in
knowledge the agent has.
Performance measure: criterion for success of an agent’s
behaviour, e.g. Vacuum cleaner example – the amount of
dirt cleaned up.
A rational agent should do:
Exploration – information gathering in a unknown
Learning – when agent gains experience, should be able to
modify its action accordingly.
Autonomy – agent not only relies on prior knowledge, but
also its own percept.
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Task Environment – PEAS

To design a rational agent, we must specify the task

Task environment described by PEAS
Performance Measure
Example: Automated Taxi

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PEAS description for other agents

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Properties of Task Environment I

Observable – when sensors give it access to the complete

state of the environment at each point in time.
Not fully observable – e.g. poker game (you cannot see
the cards of your opponents).
Single vs MultiAgents – Is Taxi an agent? Competitive
multiagent (chess) vs Cooperative multiagent (taxi).
Deterministic vs Stochastic – deterministic: the next state
is fully determined by the current state and the agent’s
action. Uncertain: if environment not fully observable or
deterministic. Stochastic: Random. If the environment is
deterministic except for the action of other agents,
environment is strategic

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Properties of Task Environment II

Episodic vs Sequential – Episodic: the agent’s experience

is divided into atomic episodes, each consists of agent
perceiving and then performing an action. Classification is
a episodic, depending on the current observation only.
Sequential: current decision could affect all future
decisions, e.g. chess.
Static vs Dynamic – Dynamic: Environment changes while
an agent is deliberating. Agent need not keep looking at
the world for static environment, e.g. crossword puzzle.
Taxi driving is dynamic. If environment does not change
with time, but agent’s performance score does,
semidynamic, e.g. chess playing with a clock.
Discrete vs Continuous – e.g. Chess has a discrete set of
percepts and actions. Taxi driving is continuous.

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Properties of Task Environment III

Known vs Unknown – agent’s state of knowledge about the

“laws of physics” of the environment. Known environment:
outcomes (or outcome probabilities) of all actions are
given. Unknown environment: have to learn how the
environment reacts.

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Example of Task Environment

The hardest case: partially observable, stochastic, sequential,

dynamic, continuous and multiagent.

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Structure of Agents

There are 4 basic kinds of agents (of increasing generality):

Simple Reflex Agents
Model-based Reflex Agents
Goal-based Agents
Utility-based Agents
These agents can be converted into Learning Agents.

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Simple Reflex Agent

Agent Sensors

What the world

is like now

Condition-action rules What action I
should do now


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Model-based Reflex Agent
handle partial observability – keep track of the part of the
world it can’t see now.
maintain some sort of internal state that depends on the
percept history.
Model of the world – e.g. predict position of other cars
when changing lane.

How the world evolves What the world
is like now

What my actions do

Condition-action rules What action I

should do now

Agent Actuators

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Goal-based Agent
action depends on final goal, e.g. destination of the taxi
may need complex search and planning to achieve the goal
goal-based agent is less efficient but more flexible, as
knowledge that support the decision is represented
explicitly and can be modified.
e.g. can update the effectiveness of brake if it starts to rain.


What the world
How the world evolves is like now

What it will be like
What my actions do if I do action A

What action I
Goals should do now

Agent Actuators

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Utility-based Agent

Goal may not be enough, some kind of utility may be

For example, the cost to the destination, rather than just
A utility function maps a state (or a sequence of states) to
a numerical value.
Useful when:
Conflicting goals – e.g. speed vs safety, use some kind of
utility function for trade off.
May have multiple goals but with uncertainty. Utility provide
a likelihood of success.
Rational Agent – possess an explicit utility function so that
it can make rational decision, an agent that has highest
performance in terms of the utility function.

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Utility-based Agent

What the world
How the world evolves is like now

What it will be like
What my actions do if I do action A

Utility How happy I will be

in such a state

What action I
should do now

Agent Actuators

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Learning Agent

Learning element – responsible for making improvement

Performance element – selecting external actions.
Previously this is the entire agent (without learning), taking
percepts and decide on actions.
Critics – feedback on how the agent is doing, and
determines how the performance element should be
modified to do better in the future.
The percept provide no indication on the success of the
Problem Generator – suggesting actions that will lead to
new and informative experiences, e.g. introducing new
ways (which may be sup-optimal in the short run, but may
produce good result eventually) e.g. Mutation in Evolution.

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Learning Agent

Performance standard

Critic Sensors


Learning Performance
element element



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