Toward inquiry-based education through interacting software agents

The University of Michigan Digital Library (UMDL) project is creating an infrastructure for rendering library services over a digital network. When fully developed, the UMDL will provide a wealth of information sources and library services to students, researchers, and educators. Tasks are distributed among numerous specialized modules called agents. The three classes of agents are user interface agents, mediator agents, and collection interface agents. Complex tasks are accomplished by teams of specialized agents working together-for example, by interleaving various types of search. The UMDL is being deployed in three arenas: secondary-school science classrooms, the University of Michigan library, and space-science laboratories. The development team expects the scale and diversity of the project to test their technical ideas about distributed agents, interoperability, mediation, and economical resource allocation.

Toward a Market Model for Bayesian Inference

We present a methodology for representing probabilistic relationships in a general-equilibrium economic model. Specifically, we define a precise mapping from a Bayesian network with binary nodes to a market price system where consumers and producers trade in uncertain propositions. We demonstrate the correspondence between the equilibrium prices of goods in this economy and the probabilities represented by the Bayesian network. A computational market model such as this may provide a useful framework for investigations of belief aggregation, distributed probabilistic inference, resource allocation under uncertainty, and other problems of decentralized uncertainty.

Optimal Factory Scheduling using Stochastic Dominance A*

We examine a standard factory scheduling problem with stochastic processing and setup times, minimizing the expectation of the weighted number of tardy jobs. Because the costs of operators in the schedule are stochastic and sequence dependent, standard dynamic programming algorithms such as A* may fail to find the optimal schedule. The SDA* (Stochastic Dominance A*) algorithm remedies this difficulty by relaxing the pruning condition. We present an improved state-space search formulation for these problems and discuss the conditions under which stochastic scheduling problems can be solved optimally using SDA*. In empirical testing on randomly generated problems, we found that in 70%, the expected cost of the optimal stochastic solution is lower than that of the solution derived using a deterministic approximation, with comparable search effort.

Market-Oriented Programming: Some Early Lessons

As the other chapters in this volume attest, the market-based approach offers a useful way to conceptualize and analyze distributed control problems, as well as to design and implement actual distributed control systems. For the past few years, I have been exploring this approach not only as a methodology for solving particular distributed control problems, but also as a generic programming paradigm for the development of distributed systems based on these methods. By a programming paradigm, I mean that the exercise of defining a computational market leads to the specification of a procedural solution to the underlying allocation problem facing that market. I call this approach "market-oriented programming".

A market-based approach to allocating QoS for multimedia applications

Allocating quality of service (QoS) has been a focus of recent work on distributed multimedia systems and networks. This paper explores a decentralized approach that allocates QoS through a dynamic market. In our approach, each agent makes decisions according to its local knowledge and interests, and prices adjust to clear the market in each resource. Dynamic changes in agent needs and network status cause the agents to revise their decisions continually. The market prices reflect system-wide values, inducing agents to produce and consume appropriate amounts of the various resources. We describe a market model for allocating bandwidth in an actual networked meeting environment called FreeWalk. Experiments reveal the responsiveness of the market-based approach to dynamic conditions in allocating QoS for multimedia network applications.