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Collective Intelligence, Data Routing and Braess' Paradox

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

We consider the problem of designing the the utility functions of the utility-maximizing agents in a multi-agent system so that they work synergistically to maximize a global utility. The particular problem domain we explore is the control of network routing by placing agents on all the routers in the network. Conventional approaches to this task have the agents all use the Ideal Shortest Path routing Algorithm (ISPA). We demonstrate that in many cases, due to the side-effects of one agent's actions on another agent's performance, having agents use ISPA's is suboptimal as far as global aggregate cost is concerned, even when they are only used to route infinitesimally small amounts of traffic. The utility functions of the individual agents are not "aligned" with the global utility, intuitively speaking. As a particular example of this we present an instance of Braess' paradox in which adding new links to a network whose agents all use the ISPA results in a decrease in overall throughput. We also demonstrate that load-balancing, in which the agents' decisions are collectively made to optimize the global cost incurred by all traffic currently being routed, is suboptimal as far as global cost averaged across time is concerned. This is also due to 'side-effects', in this case of current routing decision on future traffic. The mathematics of Collective Intelligence (COIN) is concerned precisely with the issue of avoiding such deleterious side-effects in multi-agent systems, both over time and space. We present key concepts from that mathematics and use them to derive an algorithm whose ideal version should have better performance than that of having all agents use the ISPA, even in the infinitesimal limit. We present experiments verifying this, and also showing that a machine-learning-based version of this COIN algorithm in which costs are only imprecisely estimated via empirical means (a version potentially applicable in the real world) also outperforms the ISPA, despite having access to less information than does the ISPA. In particular, this COIN algorithm almost always avoids Braess' paradox.




Planning by Rewriting

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Domain-independent planning is a hard combinatorial problem. Taking into account plan quality makes the task even more difficult. This article introduces Planning by Rewriting (PbR), a new paradigm for efficient high-quality domain-independent planning. PbR exploits declarative plan-rewriting rules and efficient local search techniques to transform an easy-to-generate, but possibly suboptimal, initial plan into a high-quality plan. In addition to addressing the issues of planning efficiency and plan quality, this framework offers a new anytime planning algorithm. We have implemented this planner and applied it to several existing domains. The experimental results show that the PbR approach provides significant savings in planning effort while generating high-quality plans.


Linking Search Space Structure, Run-Time Dynamics, and Problem Difficulty: A Step Toward Demystifying Tabu Search

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Tabu search is one of the most effective heuristics for locating high-quality solutions to a diverse array of NP-hard combinatorial optimization problems. Despite the widespread success of tabu search, researchers have a poor understanding of many key theoretical aspects of this algorithm, including models of the high-level run-time dynamics and identification of those search space features that influence problem difficulty. We consider these questions in the context of the job-shop scheduling problem (JSP), a domain where tabu search algorithms have been shown to be remarkably effective. Previously, we demonstrated that the mean distance between random local optima and the nearest optimal solution is highly correlated with problem difficulty for a well-known tabu search algorithm for the JSP introduced by Taillard. In this paper, we discuss various shortcomings of this measure and develop a new model of problem difficulty that corrects these deficiencies. We show that Taillards algorithm can be modeled with high fidelity as a simple variant of a straightforward random walk. The random walk model accounts for nearly all of the variability in the cost required to locate both optimal and sub-optimal solutions to random JSPs, and provides an explanation for differences in the difficulty of random versus structured JSPs. Finally, we discuss and empirically substantiate two novel predictions regarding tabu search algorithm behavior. First, the method for constructing the initial solution is highly unlikely to impact the performance of tabu search. Second, tabu tenure should be selected to be as small as possible while simultaneously avoiding search stagnation; values larger than necessary lead to significant degradations in performance.