Modelling Social Action for AI Agents

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Cristiano Castelfranchi
Artificial Intelligence 103(1-2), pages 157-182
August 1998

In the new AI of the 90s an important stream is artificial social intelligence. In this work basic ontological categories for social action, structure, and mind are introduced. Sociality (social action, social structure) is let emerge from the action and intelligence of individual agents in a common world. Also some aspects of the way-down—how emergent collective phenomena shape the individual mind—are examined. First, interference and dependence are defined, and then different kinds of coordination (reactive versus anticipatory; unilateral versus bilateral; selfish versus collaborative) are characterised. “Weak social action”, based on beliefs about the mind of the other agents, and “strong social action”, based on goals about others' minds and their actions, are distinguished. Special attention is paid to Goal Delegation and Goal Adoption that are considered as the basic ingredients of social commitment and contract, and then of exchange, cooperation, group action, and organisation. Different levels of delegation and then of autonomy of the delegated agent are described; and different levels of goal-adoption are shown to characterise true collaboration. Social goals in the minds of the group members are argued to be the real glue of joint activity, and the notion of social commitment, as different from individual and from collective commitment, is underlined. The necessity for modelling social objective structures and constraints is emphasised and the “shared mind” view of groups and organisations is criticised. The spontaneous and unaware emergence of a dependence structure is explained, as well as its feedback on the participants' minds and behaviours. Critical observations are presented on current confusions such as that between “social” and “collective” action, or between communication and social action.

The main claims of the paper are the following: (a) The real foundation of all sociality (cooperation, competition, groups, organisation, etc.) is the individual social action and mind. One cannot reduce or connect action at the collective level to action at the individual level unless one passes through the social character of the individual action, (b) Important levels of coordination and cooperation necessarily require minds and cognitive agents (beliefs, desires, intentions, etc.). (c) However, cognition, communication and agreement are not enough for modelling and implementing cooperation: emergent pre-cognitive structures and constraints should be formalised, and emergent forms of cooperation are needed also among planning and deliberative agents, (d) We are going towards a synthetic paradigm in AI and Cognitive Science, reconciling situatedness and plans, reactivity and mental representations, cognition, emergence and self-organisation.

keywordsBDI, cooperation, dependence, emergence, social agent, social structures
journal or series
book Artificial Intelligence (AI)