Temporal Strategies in a Multi-Agent Contracting Protocol

J. Collins, S. Jamison, M. Gini and B. Mobasher

Much recent work in automated contracting in multiagent environments has focused on the design and analysis of protocols that encourage customers and suppliers to negotiate fairly, and that attempt to reduce unproductive strategic counterspeculation. Most of these studies focus on how the static structure of the protocol may result in strategic behavior on the part of the participants. In this paper, we show that the timing of various protocol elements can also encourage or curtail counterspeculation. We fzrst present a general and flexible negotiation protocol for a market domain in which a group of heterogeneous, self-interested agents formulate, or are given, goals to accomplish for which they may lack resources or capabilities. Therefore, they must enter into contracts with each other in order to accomplish these goals. We then show how selection of the timing elements within our protocol can affect the behaviors of the agents involved in the negotiation. We also show how placing limits on the values of some of these timing elements can reduce or eliminate some types of time-based counterspeculation.

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