In many application areas (such as concurrent engineering, software development, hospital scheduling, manufacturing scheduling, and military planning), individuals are responsible for an agenda of tasks and face choices about the best way to locally handle each task, in what order to do tasks, and when to do them. Such decisions are often hard tomake because of coordination problems: individual tasks are related to the tasks of others in complex ways, and there aremany sources of uncertainty (no one has a complete view of the task structure at arbitrary levels of detail, the situationmay be changing dynamically, and no one is entirely sure of the outcomes of all of their actions). The focus of this paper is the development of support tools for distributed, cooperative work by groups (collaborative teams) of human and computational agents. We will discuss the design of a set of distributed autonomous computer programs (“agents”) that assist people in coordinating their activities by helping them to manage their agendas. Our approach can also supply coordination and scheduling facilities to computational domain agents (such as autonomous design checkers or databases). We briefly describe an initial implementation of these ideas using only computational agents and abstract task environments.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/victor_lesser/4/