DC Parkes and MP Wellman

Science, 17 July 2015. Vol. 349 no. 6245 pp. 267-272.

Abstract

The field of artificial intelligence (AI) strives to build rational agents capable of perceiving the world around them and taking actions to advance specified goals. Put another way, AI researchers aim to construct a synthetic homo economicus, the mythical perfectly rational agent of neoclassical economics. We review progress toward creating this new species of machine, machina economica, and discuss some challenges in designing AIs that can reason effectively in economic contexts. Supposing that AI succeeds in this quest, or at least comes close enough that it is useful to think about AIs in rationalistic terms, we ask how to design the rules of interaction in multi-agent systems that come to represent an economy of AIs. Theories of normative design from economics may prove more relevant for artificial agents than human agents, with AIs that better respect idealized assumptions of rationality than people, interacting through novel rules and incentive systems quite distinct from those tailored for people.

Erratum

The published article includes the Latin coinage: machina economicus (“economic machine”), which is grammatically incorrect: the noun and modifying adjective disagree in gender. The appropriate term is machina economica, as corrected in the abstract above. Mea culpa.

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