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What are agents in Artificial Intelligence?

Arooj Fatima

In AI, an intelligent agent (IA) is an independent entity which observes and operates upon an environment and directs its activity towards accomplishing goals.

In short, an intelligent agent is an entity that interacts with its surroundings via:

  • perception through sensors.
  • actions through effectors or actuators.

Function of AI agent

Intelligent agents continuously perform the following functions.

  • perception of dynamic conditions in the environment.
  • action to affect conditions in the environment.
  • reasoning to interpret perceptions.
  • solve problems.
  • draw inferences.
  • determine actions.


The following are some examples of agents that will help you understand this concept better.

Human agent

  • eyes, ears, skin, taste buds, etc., for sensors.
  • hands, fingers, legs, mouth, etc., for actuators.

Robot agent

  • camera, infrared, bumper, etc., for sensors.
  • grippers, wheels, lights, speakers, etc., for actuators.

Software agent

Functions as sensors:

  • Data given as input to functions in the structure of encoded bit strings or symbols.

Functions as actuators:

  • Results deliver the output.


An AI agent has the following properties.


  • Situated in some environments.


  • It can operate without direct interference from humans or other software methods, and controls its own activities and internal environment.

  • An agent is autonomous if its performance is defined by its own experience regarding its capability to learn and adapt.

  • Autonomous agent decides independently which steps to take in the current condition to maximize improvement towards the purpose.


  • Responsive (reactive): Agents should recognize their surroundings and react to changes that occur in it.

  • Proactive: Agents should not only act in response to their surroundings, but they should also be able to manifest opportunistic, goal-directed performance and take the initiative when suitable.

  • Social: Agents are to cooperate with humans or other artificial agents.


  • A reactive system is one that maintains ongoing interaction with its environment and responds to changes that occur in it (in time for the response to be useful).
  • A program’s environment can be guaranteed. It doesn’t have to be worried about its own success or failure. An example of a guaranteed environment is compilers.
  • Most environments are dynamic, in which things change, and information is incomplete.
  • It is hard to build software for dynamic domains.
  • Programs must take into account the probability of failure.


Pro-activeness is to take the initiative to generate and attempt the goals.

  • Reacting to an environment is easy.

Using response rules

  • But generally, we want the agents to do things for us.
  • The goal is directed behavior.

Other than the properties mentioned above, an agent has:

  • Mobility

    • The capacity of an agent to actuate around a system.
  • Veracity

    • An agent will not communicate when it has false information.
  • Benevolence

    • Agents do not have conflicting goals, and every agent will therefore always try to do what is asked for.
  • Rationality

    • The agent will perform to accomplish its goals and will not work in such a fashion as to block its goals.
  • Learning

    • An agent must be able to learn.



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