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Automated Negotiation and Argumentation

Autonomous agents are being increasingly used in a wide range of industrial and commercial domains. These agents have a high degree of self determination -- they decide for themselves what, when and under what conditions their actions should be performed. In most cases, such agents need to interact with other autonomous agents to achieve their objectives (either because they do not have sufficient capabilities or resources to complete their problem solving alone or because there are interdependencies between the agents). The objectives of these interactions are to make other agents undertake a particular course of action (e.g. perform a particular service), modify a planned course of action (e.g. delay or bring forward a particular action so that there is no longer a conflict), or come to an agreement on a common course of action. Since the agents have no direct control over one another, they must persuade their acquaintances to act in particular ways (they cannot simply instruct them). The paradigm case of persuasion is negotiation : a process by which agents come to a mutually acceptable decision on some matter

Given its ubiquity and importance in many different contexts, negotiation theory covers a broad range of phenomena and encompasses multifarious approaches (e.g. from AI, Social Psychology and Game Theory). Despite this variety, however, automated negotiation research can be considered to deal with three broad topics:

The relative importance of these three topics varies according to the negotiation and environmental context. Thus, in some circumstances the negotiation protocol is the dominant concern. For example, the system designer may determine that the negotiation is best organised using a particular form of auction (e.g. English, Dutch, Vickrey, First-Price Sealed Bid). This mechanism design choice constrains the types of operations that can be performed on the negotiation object (no counter-proposals or issue extensions) and prescribes the behaviour of the agents' decision making models (e.g. strategic behaviour is pointless and agents should simply bid up to their true reservation value). In other cases, however, the agent's decision making model is the dominant concern. Here, the protocol does not prescribe an agent's behaviour and there is scope for strategic reasoning to determine the best course of action. In such cases, the relative success of two agents is determined by the effectiveness of their reasoning model-the better the model, the greater the agent's reward.