Agent Based Models of Competition and Collaboration

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Swarm intelligence is a popular paradigm for algorithm design. Frequently drawing inspiration from natural systems, it assigns simple rules to a set of agents with the aim that, through local interactions, they collectively solve some global problem. Current variants of a popular swarm based optimization algorithm, particle swarm optimization (PSO), are investigated with a focus on premature convergence. A novel variant, dispersive PSO, is proposed to address this problem and is shown to lead to increased robustness and performance compared to current PSO algorithms. A nature inspired decentralised multi-agent algorithm is proposed to solve a constrained problem of distributed task allocation. Agents must collect and process the mail batches, without global knowledge of their environment or communication between agents. New rules for specialisation are proposed and are shown to exhibit improved eciency and exibility compared to existing ones. These new rules are compared with a market based approach to agent control. The eciency (average number of tasks performed), the exibility (ability to react to changes in the environment), and the sensitivity to load (ability to cope with differing demands) are investigated in both static and dynamic environments. A hybrid algorithm combining both approaches, is shown to exhibit improved eciency and robustness. Evolutionary algorithms are employed, both to optimize parameters and to allow the various rules to evolve and compete. We also observe extinction and speciation. In order to interpret algorithm performance we analyse the causes of eciency loss, derive theoretical upper bounds for the eciency, as well as a complete theoretical description of a non-trivial case, and compare these with the experimental results. Motivated by this work we introduce agent "memory" (the possibility for agents to develop preferences for certain cities) and show that not only does it lead to emergent cooperation between agents, but also to a signicant increase in efficiency.
    Date of AwardMar 2010
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorJort Van Mourik (Supervisor)


    • Evolutionary computation
    • optimization
    • swarm intelligence
    • task allocation

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