Open Access

Towards a theory of delegation for agent-based systems (1998)


In this paper a theory of delegation is presented. There are at least three reasons for developing such a theory. First, one of the most relevant notions of "agent " is based on the notion of "task " and of "on behalf of". In order to found this notion a theory of delegation among agents is needed. Second, the notion of autonomy should be based on different kinds and levels of delegation. Third, the entire theory of cooperation and collaboration requires the definition of the two complementary attitudes of goal delegation and adoption linking collaborating agents. After motivating the necessity for a principled theory of delegation (and adoption) the paper presents a plan-based approach to this theory. We analyze several dimensions of the delegation/adoption (on the basis of the interaction between the agents, of the specification of the task, of the possibility to subdelegate, of the delegation of the control, of the help levels). The agent's autonomy and levels of agency are then deduced. We describe the modelling of the client from the contractor's point of view and viceversa, with their differences, and the notion of trust that directly derives from this modelling. Finally, a series of possible conflicts between client and contractor are considered: in particular collaborative conflicts, which stem from the contractor's intention to help the client beyond its request or delegation and to exploit its own knowledge and intelligence (reasoning, problem solving, planning, and decision skills) for the client itself. 1.