Congregation Formation in Information Economies

Christopher H. Brooks and Edmund H. Durfee

In a large-scale multiagent system, agents that need to interact with other agents are faced with a combinatorially explosive number of potential interactions. One way for agents to deal with this complexity is to form congregations. As in human society, congregations provide a common meeting-place for agents with compatible needs or preferences. We discuss two approaches to inducing congregations to form in a general multiagent system: external mechanisms and internal learning. We then examine a particular multiagent system, an information economy, in more detail, and discuss the relationship between bundling of information goods and the formation of congregations. By viewing the problem of determining the optimal bundling strategy as a problem of congregation formation, new techniques, such as ontological information about consumer preferences and goods, may be brought to bear. We also present some preliminary experimental results regarding both the conditions which lead to optimal congregation formation and the ability of a producer to learn some simple preferences of a congregation.

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