What Are Routines Good For?

Henry H. Hexmoor

Routines are patterns of interaction between an agent and its world. Getting in or out of a car, changing lane, and flipping pages of a book can be routines for an agent if the agent consistently engages in these activities in a similar way. I.e., a task for an agent is a routine if the agent that has choices about how to accomplish that task, nevertheless does it in the same way. Consistently putting on the left leg of pants before putting on the right leg would be a routine for an agent. A routine is either imposed upon the agent (a plan at the conscious level to be followed), in which case it need not be discovered, or performed by the agent automatically, i.e., unconsciously. The latter may or may not ever be discovered, i.e., noticed and made conscious. However, the existence of such a routine may guide the agents actions. If it remains unconscious, it aids in choosing among competing actions unconsciously as an unexplained tendency or a preference. If it is noticed and made conscious, it can also be used as a concept and used in reasoning about actions and planning. We show how agents with routines a) use them to guide their everyday activity, b) use them to enrich their abstract concepts about acts.

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