Interference and Volatility in Evolutionary Agent-Based Systems

  • Chloe May Barnes

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Agents that exist and pursue individual goals in shared environments can indirectly affect one another in unanticipated ways, such that the actions of others in the environment can interfere with the ability to achieve goals. Despite this, the impact that these unintended interactions and interference can have on agents is not currently well understood. This is problematic as these goal-oriented agents are increasingly situated in complex sociotechnical systems, that are composed of many actors that are heterogeneous in nature.
The primary aim of this thesis is to explore the effect that indirect interference from others has on evolution and goal-achieving behaviour in agent-based systems. More specifically, this is investigated in the context of agents that do not possess the ability to perceive or learn about others within the environment, as information about others may not be readily available at runtime, or there may be a distinct lack of capacity to obtain such information. By conducting three experimental studies, it is established that evolutionary volatility is a consequence of indirect interactions between goal-oriented agents in a shared environment, and that these consequences can be mitigated by designing more socially-sensitive agents. Specifically, agents that employ social action are demonstrated to reduce the evolutionary volatility experienced by goal-oriented agents, without aecting the tness received. Additionally, behavioural plasticity achieved via neuromodulation is shown to allow coexisting agents to achieve their goals more often with less evolutionary volatility in highly variable environments. While sufficient approaches to mitigate interference include learning about or modelling others, or for agents to be explicitly designed to identify interference to mitigate its consequences, this thesis demonstrates that these are not necessary. Instead, more socially-sensitive agents are shown to be capable of achieving their goals and mitigating interference without this knowledge of others, simply by shifting the focus from goal-oriented actions to more socially-oriented behaviour.
Date of AwardAug 2021
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorAniko Ekárt (Supervisor)

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