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Understanding the Concept: What Is an Agent in AI?

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Trinh Nguyen

Jan 19, 2024

Understanding the Concept: What Is an Agent in AI?

Recently, Bill Gates made a shocking announcement at AI Forward 2023. He stated bluntly that developing the best artificial intelligence agent is the central focus of the ultimate technology competition.

“You’ll never go to a search site or Amazon again,” and “Whoever wins the personal agent, that’s a big thing,” he said.

Agents in AI are essentially systems that can sense their environment, make decisions, take actions, and accomplish specific tasks.

This article will take you through the definition, characteristics, and benefits of AI agents, as well as their structure and workflow.

What Is an Agent in AI?

Artificial intelligence is essentially the exploration of rational agents. A rational agent, which could be individuals, businesses, machines, or software, is an entity that makes decisions based on its perceptions of the past and present. An AI system consists of an agent and its environment, where the agent engages and may include other agents.

In AI, an agent perceives its environment via sensors and acts on that environment through actuators. It moves through the stages of perceiving, thinking, and acting. An intelligent agent can be:

  • Human-agent: A human agent has sensors such as eyes, ears, and other organs, as well as actuators like hands, legs, and vocal tract.
  • Robotic agent: An autonomous robot can come with cameras, infrared range finders, NLP sensors, and different motors for actuators.
  • Software agent: Software agents act upon inputs, like keystrokes and file contents, and display outcomes on the screen after processing them.

Before proceeding, it’s important to understand sensors, effectors, and actuators.

  • Sensor: An electronic device that picks up on changes in the environment and sends that information to other electronic devices. Through sensors, an agent can observe its surroundings.
  • Actuators: Parts of machines that turn energy into action. Actuators are limited to the AI system movement and control. Electric motors, gears, rails, and other mechanisms can all function as actuators.
  • Effectors: Devices that have an impact on the environment. Effectors include legs, wheels, arms, fingers, fins, wings, and display screens.

An intelligent agent is an autonomous entity that operates on its surroundings using sensors and actuators to achieve its objectives. It could also take advantage of environmental cues to help users accomplish their objectives.

An AI agent has 4 main rules, as follows:h

  • Rule 1: An AI agent must be able to perceive its environment.
  • Rule 2: Decisions must be based on observation.
  • Rule 3: A decision should be followed by an action.
  • Rule 4: An AI agent’s action must be reasonable.

Characteristics of an AI Agent

Intelligent agents in artificial intelligence have the following characteristics: environment, autonomy, flexibility, reactivity, proactiveness, and using response rules.

Environment

The intelligent agent is put within a particular environment.

Autonomy

The agent is capable of functioning independently of other software methods and direct human intervention. It manages its own operations and internal environment. It also determines autonomously which steps to execute to attain the best improvements. If the agent’s performance can be evaluated based on its experiences in learning and adapting, it reaches autonomy.

Flexibility

  • Reactive agents: Detect changes in their environment and respond accordingly.
  • Proactive: Take the initiative when necessary and execute an opportunistic, goal-directed performance.
  • Social: Work with humans and other agents through various means, such as text messaging, speech recognition, and natural language comprehension.

Reactivity

  • Reactive systems keep interacting with the environment and adapt to changes in it.
  • Most environments are dynamic so data can be inadequate, and things are always changing.

Proactiveness

Intelligent actively takes action to set goals and work toward them.

Using response rules

The agent’s objective is to perform actions for the user.

  • Mobility: Intelligent agents must be able to actuate around a system.
  • Veracity: If an intelligent agent’s information is inaccurate, it will not communicate.
  • Benevolence: Intelligent agents have no contradicting or conflicting goals. As a result, every agent will always attempt to perform what is requested.
  • Rationality: Intelligent agents try to achieve their goals, not to resist or obstruct them.
  • Learning: An agent must possess a learning element.

Advantages of Using AI Agents

Intelligent agents bring significant benefits in a variety of industries, including increased efficiency, cost savings, improved decision-making, and better customer experience.

Increased Productivity and Efficiency

One of the most significant benefits of using artificially intelligent agents is the ability to automate mundane operations. These agents help organizations run more efficiently by streamlining operations. Businesses can thus save time and money while increasing productivity by embracing AI technology. In addition, intelligent agents can easily take over repetitive and tedious tasks, enabling human resources to concentrate on more sophisticated and creative work.

Cost Savings

Using AI agents can result in considerable cost reductions for enterprises. Companies can improve operational efficiency by lowering labor expenses and optimizing resource allocation. Intelligent agents also reduce the possibility of human error, which can lead to huge financial losses. Manufacturing, logistics, and customer service have all seen considerable cost reductions as a result of the adoption of agents.

Improved Decision Making

Intelligent agents are capable of quickly processing and evaluating massive amounts of data. Hence, businesses can arrive at informed decisions based on reliable insights and patterns. AI agents can also detect trends, provide useful recommendations, and even anticipate outcomes, allowing firms to make more informed strategic decisions.

Enhance Customer Experience

Agents in artificial intelligence are also essential to improving the consumer experience. These agents can ensure that consumers receive round-the-clock help by offering personalized interactions and quick responses. Besides, they can comprehend and respond to consumer inquiries effectively by utilizing machine learning and natural language processing algorithms. This level of responsiveness and customized service ultimately leads to higher customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Structure of an AI Agent

There are different types of intelligent agents used in AI, including:

  • Simple reflex agents
  • Model-based reflex agents
  • Goal-based agents
  • Utility-based agents
  • Learning agents
  • Multi-agent systems
  • Hierarchical agents

Structure of an AI Agent

However, generally, AI agents follow this straightforward structural formula: Architecture + Agent Program = Agent

Below are the three key terms involved in the structure of an agent in artificial intelligence:

  • Architecture: Architecture is the hardware on which the agent executes. It’s a device with sensors and actuators, such as a robotic car, a camera, or a laptop.
  • Agent function: An agent function is a map connecting the percept sequence – the history of everything an agent has seen thus far – to an action.
  • Agent program: An agent program carries out the agent function and runs on its physical architecture.

The PEAS model is a framework used by multiple AI agents, which stands for Performance Measure, Environment, Actuators, and Sensors. In this case, the performance measure is the goal of an agent’s behavior success.

Take self-driving cars as an example. In this case, PEAS representation would look like this:

  • Performance: Legal drive, time, safety, and comfort
  • Environment: Roads, other vehicles, road signs, pedestrians
  • Actuators: Brake, horn, signal, accelerator, and steering
  • Sensors: Camera, GPS, speedometer, odometer, accelerometer, and sonar.

How Does an AI Agent Work?

How Does an AI Agent Work?

Now, discuss the basic workflow of autonomous agents, which mainly includes perceiving the environment, analyzing data, and functioning to accomplish particular objectives.

Step 1: Perceiving the environment

An autonomous AI bot must first collect its environmental data, accomplished by gathering data from different sources or by making use of sensors.

Step 2: Processing input data

After gathering all the data needed in Step 1, the agent gets it ready for processing. It puts data in order, builds a knowledge base, or develops internal representations that the agent can understand and work with.

Step 3: Making decisions

Here, the agent makes a decision based on its goals and knowledge base using reasoning techniques like statistical analysis or logic. Applying predetermined rules or machine learning algorithms may also be necessary for this.

Step 4: Planning and executing an action

Next up, to achieve its goals, the agent devises a strategy or a set of actions. This could entail developing a step-by-step plan, efficiently allocating resources, and taking into account various limitations and priorities. The agent will then follow through on every step in its strategy to get the intended outcome. Additionally, it can take in input from the environment and update its knowledge base or modify its course of action based on that information.

Step 5: Learning and improvement

Once the agent takes action, it can draw lessons from its new and informative experiences. Employing this feedback loop, the agent can enhance performance and adjust to novel conditions and environments.

Until its goal is achieved, the intelligent agent will continue repeating this process, obtaining further data and feedback without pausing.

So, to put it briefly, autonomous AI agents collect, analyze, and preprocess data before making decisions based on machine learning algorithms, acting upon them, and obtaining feedback.

To help you further understand the workflow of these agents, let’s take a closer look at how AutoGPT and BabyAGI, two of the most widely used AI agents, work.

How Does AutoGPT Work?

AutoGPT

AutoGPT functions similarly to a smart assistant capable of handling tasks on its own. It makes use of Large Language Models (LLMs) like GPT-4 and GPT-3.5 to execute tasks without constant instructions. Unlike previous models that depend on certain prompts available, AutoGPT creates its prompts to reach its goals. Surprisingly, in addition to the fed database, it can scan numerous web pages and other external sources for legitimate information.

Below is how the model works:

1. Give AutoGPT a name and a role: When AutoGPT first launches, give it a name and specify its tasks. This aids the system in comprehending the task and adjusting its decisions accordingly.

2. Training on the data provided: AutoGPT starts by learning from the data you provide. It analyzes the data to understand its patterns and details, improving its comprehension of the task.

3. Generating prompts: With its knowledge base in place, AutoGPT generates its prompts based on its objectives. These prompts form the foundation of its decision-making, navigating it through the tasks.

4. Collecting data independently: AutoGPT does not solely depend on the initial data. The system independently scours the internet and other sources, collecting additional data to enhance its comprehension and precision.

5. Evaluating and filtering data: The system analyzes the gathered data, verifying its credibility and relevance. It will eliminate any inaccurate or low-quality data, maintaining the reliability of its knowledge base.

6. Continuous improvement: AutoGPT firmly upholds the principle of continuous improvement. The system assimilates information from its generated outcomes and incorporates feedback to adjust and improve its next responses. This ongoing process enables the system to refine its strategies and progress.

7. Generating the output: Ultimately, AutoGPT provides its output after going through its reasoning process. By integrating acquired knowledge, filtered data, and contextual information, it produces an informed response to the assigned task.

How Does BabyAGI Work?

BabyAGI

BabyAGI is an interesting concept in the field of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). It centers on the replication of the cognitive capacities seen among young children and is built upon generative AI. As a sophisticated computer program with great autonomy, BabyAGI can function on its own, completing tasks without users’ direct instructions.

BabyAGI is a Python script that leverages OpenAI and Pinecone APIs alongside the LangChain framework to manage and perform tasks. During its process, tasks are generated according to the user’s predefined high-level objectives. Specifically, the BabyAGI system employs OpenAI’s NLP capabilities to create new tasks that are in line with the goals. After that, it stores task results in PineCone and makes decisions using the LangChain framework.

Here are the four steps that make up the system’s loop operation:

  1. Select the first task from the task list.
  2. Assign the task to the execution agent, which performs the task by using the OpenAI API.
  3. Archive the result for later review in Pinecone.
  4. Create and prioritize new tasks following the objective and result of the previous task.

This continuous loop guarantees that tasks are constantly executed, prioritized, and updated following the anticipated goal.

Final Words

Agents in the artificial intelligence industry are still in their infancy, and it’s difficult to fathom all of the possibilities and ramifications they will have in the future. There is, however, one certain thing: this process will bring about changes in both life and work. From intelligent personal assistants to autonomous robots and many more, AI agents are the future, and it’s not an overstatement that businesses that fail to adapt will be left behind.

At Neurond AI, we believe when human creativity and wisdom are combined with the speed and power of artificial intelligence, businesses can go further. In everything we do, we seek to elevate the value of your organization and provide exceptional experiences for your customers. We provide unparalleled expertise in a wide range of AI areas, from machine learning, natural language processing, and computer vision to chatbots, custom model building, and beyond.

So, ready to kickstart your AI adoption today? Contact us now!

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