“What to Bid and When to Stop” | Promotor 1: Prof.dr. C.M. Jonker (EWI), copromotor: Dr. K.V. Hindriks (UD-EWI)


Negotiation is an important activity in human society, and is studied by various
disciplines, ranging from economics and game theory, to electronic commerce, social
psychology, and artificial intelligence. Traditionally, negotiation is a necessary, but
also time-consuming and expensive activity. Therefore, in the last decades there has
been a large interest in the automation of negotiation, for example in the setting of
e-commerce. This interest is fueled by the promise of automated agents eventually
being able to negotiate on behalf of human negotiators.
Every year, automated negotiation agents are improving in various ways, and there
is now a large body of negotiation strategies available, all with their unique strengths
and weaknesses. For example, some agents are able to predict the opponent’s
preferences very well, while others focus more on having a sophisticated bidding
strategy. The problem however, is that there is little incremental improvement in
agent design, as the agents are tested in varying negotiation settings, using a diverse
set of performance measures. This makes it very difficult to meaningfully compare
the agents, let alone their underlying techniques. As a result, we lack a reliable way
to pinpoint the most effective components in a negotiating agent.
There are two major advantages of distinguishing between the different components
of a negotiating agent’s strategy: first, it allows the study of the behavior and
performance of the components in isolation. For example, it becomes possible to
compare the preference learning component of all agents, and to identify the best
among them. Second, we can proceed to mix and match different components to
create new negotiation strategies., e.g.: replacing the preference learning technique
of an agent and then examining whether this makes a difference. Such a procedure
enables us to combine the individual components to systematically explore the space
of possible negotiation strategies.