Geospatial Agents

Okay so, I think Sengupta & Sieber (2007)’s  lit review and discussion of artificial intelligence research within GIScience has been the most thought-provoking article we’ve had to read so far and I’m not just saying that to suck up to the profs. The subject material is current and very relevant to one of my fields of interest in GIS, which is programming geospatial applications.

Anyways, they mention the four properties necessary for a software to be considered an intelligent agent:

(1) autonomous behavior; (2) the ability to sense its environment and other agents; (3) the ability to act upon its environment alone or in collaboration with others; and (4) possession of rational behavior

I’m pretty sceptical when it comes to artificial intelligence. Obviously a system that possesses these four qualities can be considered more “intelligent” than most software, but I think that whether or not a software actually qualifies as an “intelligent agent” depends on one’s interpretation of what each of the four properties entails.

Similar to ClaireM, I question what “autonomy” actually entails, because this could either mean the ability for a software to run and maintain itself free of human prompts (that means, it recognizes on its own when it is supposed to run, instead of needing to be “started” to perform a task), or it could mean the much simpler concept of being able to be “started” and then left to run until its completion. In my opinion the latter does not count as full autonomy and as such should be considered less “intelligent”. The types of programs referred to in this paper all seem to be of this kind.

While these systems may be able to sense their environment, they cannot do so without being first given an environment within which to operate. The paper also doesn’t really touch upon the notion of sensing and interacting with other agents, which most geospatial software systems would not do on their own since they run separate from one another. Finally, all computer programs created as tools are designed to use algorithms to evaluate situations and make decisions, so I think any software system can be said to possess rational behaviour.

I feel like the four qualifications for software to be considered “intelligent” are not defined well enough in this article to actually establish a clear dividing line between intelligent and non-intelligent software. I don’t think this is really all that important though because it doesn’t affect its usefulness, and it’s undeniable that geospatial software systems can be intelligent agents.



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