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Socially Adept Technologies


As a people finder. As a novel peer review system ... questions which will not go away, and which it is our responsibility to address ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Socially Adept Technologies

Socially Adept Technologies
Steve Marsh National Research Council
Canada http//www.stephenmarsh
.ca/ March 21st, 2002
  • An introduction to the field
  • Pointers to relevant work
  • Questions about suitability
  • Suggestions for future projects
  • A wake-up call
  • A call to arms
  • Propaganda -)

  • Introduction
  • What is Social Adeptness?
  • What is a Socially Adept Technology?
  • Examples of work in Social Adeptness
  • Questions
  • Problems
  • Answers?
  • Conclusions and more questions (from you? -)

Heres a thought...
When an individual enters the presence of others,
they commonly seek to acquire information about
him or bring into play information about him
already possessed ... Information about the
individual helps to define the situation,
enabling others to know in advance what he will
expect of them and what they may expect of
him. GOFFMAN, E., page 13, 1959 The
Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Penguin
So? What does this mean?
  • Humans have a sense of self (Mead) and through
    this they adapt to situations and decide how to
    interact with others (by trying to figure out the
    self of the other person)
  • Human-human interaction is social
  • It is also cultural
  • Our culture dictates what is and what is not
    acceptable in given situations
  • Novel situations are handled by prior similar
    situations if possible (cf scripts)
  • And there may be rules, implicit or explicit, we

Fair enough, but so what? Were AI (agents?!)
  • This ability to behave socially and culturally
    correctly towards people (or entities) with whom
    we are interacting is what we call social
  • Whats en entity?
  • People, animals, agents…
  • So what?
  • So, we argue that if this social adeptness works
    so well for humans, why shouldnt it work just as
    well for machines?
  • (and were not the only ones, as youll see)
  • So, in other words, human-human and human machine
    and machine-machine interactions are social

Social Adeptness
  • One sensible definition of social adeptness
    is The ability to behave correctly in any
    given situation according to the culture of the
    agents with whom one is interacting in any social
  • And correctly means sensibly, carefully, and in
    an expected manner (which is, granted, a slight

What is it, in a practical sense?
  • Social adeptness is an understanding of,
    reasoning about, and behaviour according to
    social norms such as
  • Ethics
  • Emotions
  • Morality
  • Trust
  • Personality
  • A sense of self
  • A sense of others
  • Cultural awareness
  • Social awareness (which is often the same
    thing) (Marsh, 1995)

Socially Adept Technologies (or Agents)?
  • A Socially Adept Technology is capable of
    reasoning with these norms in order to determine
    correct behaviour in any given interaction
  • The word interaction is important here…
  • Correct social behaviour may or may not be
    necessary in private (Remember the tree falling
    in an empty forest?)
  • But, interactions can be asynchronous (as with
  • Basically, the onus is on us to behave correctly
    toward those we are interacting with

  • It should be clear that, in order to allow
    technologies (agents, interfaces, etc.) to reason
    with these social norms, we need to have formal,
    or at least computationally tractable, models of
  • Obtaining these models is the goal of research in
    Social Adeptness…
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Wide ranging
  • And hard… -)

Actually, its quite easy to imagine...
  • Imagine
  • Cellphones that dont ring when youre at the
    theatre (or at a lecture…)
  • Robotic vacuum cleaners that dont vacuum when
    youre in the middle of a dinner party
  • … or a good movie…
  • Interfaces that can adapt to your mood
  • Tools that can help you interact with people from
    different cultures, in various situations
  • Agents that organise meetings according to your
    personal requirements
  • … and all without ever having to be told what is
  • All of these are Socially Adept Technologies...

… whilst quite hard to do
  • Work in the field is inherently
    multidisciplinary, ranging over topics such as
  • Philosophy
  • Sociology
  • Computer science
  • AI
  • Psychology
  • etc...

Work in Social Adeptness
  • Several researchers are working in and around the
    topic. To name some (and discuss fewer)...
  • Socially Intelligent Agents
  • Dautenhahn (Hertfordshire, England)
  • Artificial Morality
  • Danielson (UBC)
  • Trust
  • Marsh, Dibben (St Andrews, Scotland), Davenport
    (Napier, Scotland), Esfandiari, Chdrasekharan
    (Carleton), Castelfranchi (NRC Italy)
  • Personality
  • Meech (AmikaNow!), Reeves Nass (Stanford)
  • Interface Agents
  • Extempo (Hayes-Roth), Microsoft

Socially Intelligent Agents
  • Prinicipally, this is Kerstin Dautenhahns work
  • Dautenhahn has organised several workshops in
    this field, and a book is forthcoming
  • See her web pages for details
  • The basic premise is similar to SATs
  • Make systems that can interact properly with
  • Robotics in fact play a large part in this work
  • Dautenhahns web pages can be found
    at http//

Artificial Morality
  • Peter Danielson, UBC (see his book Artificial
    Morality Virtuous Robots for Virtual Worlds,
    Routledge, 1992)
  • Danielson provides simple agents with an
    understanding of morality and its workings
  • He has extended his work in several very
    interesting areas (including ecology and the
    business world)
  • See his web pages at http//

  • (A topic dear to my heart…!)
  • Introduced for autonomous agents in 1991-2
  • Trust is the basis of sociability
  • Without trust, society would cease to exist (Bok)
  • Thus, an understanding of and concrete
    implementations of trust are vitally important to
    the study of Social Adeptness, acting as the
    keystone of a Socially Adept (or Intelligent)
    Technological thrust
  • As evidence of its importance, it has received
    more attention than most other SA attributes,
    especially recently (because of E-Commerce, which
    well come to sooner or later…)

Trust contd. - Other work
  • The past 3 years have had workshops on Deception,
    Fraud and Trust in Agent Societies organised at
    the Autonomous Agents conferences
  • The proceedings from these workshops are an
    invaluable aid to finding out more

  • An understanding of and subsequent representation
    of personality is an important part of any
  • This applies to human-technology interactions
    just as much as human-human
  • The most visible work in this area is that of
    Reeves and Nass from Stanford, reported in their
    book, The Media Equation
  • A significant result from this work was that
    people like to interact with systems that show
    the same personality as them
  • e.g., dominant with dominant, submissive with
    submissive, etc.

Personality contd. - Reeves and Nass
  • The Media Equation presents compelling evidence
    for this and other findings
  • Although subsequent work may have put this in
  • Quite simply however, people anthropomorphise
  • They ascribe personalities to technology
  • (do you talk to your car?)
  • … and because of this they find it easier to
    interact with (and put up with) the technology
  • This is powerful stuff - understanding it gives
    us a key to designing more acceptable systems and

Personality contd. - Meech
  • Meech, for his thesis, looks into the Media
    Equations results and takes them further into
    the design of human-computer interfaces
  • The conclusions drawn are similar - that people
    like to interact with like personalities
  • Such personalities can also be promoted, even in
    textual interfaces, with different wording,
    emphasis, etc.
  • We are using this work in a novel web site
    architecture, as youll see later

Time for a look back...
  • There are many more examples of work in Social
  • Too many to cover in this talk, including
  • Emergent behaviour (Artificial Life, studies of
  • Emotions (e.g. Roz Picards Affective Computing,
  • Attention-based systems (e.g. Roel Vertegaal,
    Queens U)
  • Narrative and communicative systems (Bickmore
    Cassel, MIT Mateas and Sengers, CMU)
  • Systems that make jokes… (Kim Binstead, Sony)
  • etc.
  • Bringing them together under a single moniker is
    worthwhile and informative

…and forward, and ...
  • Given what we have seen so far in the area, its
    time to think about the ultimate goal (implicit
    or explicit, worked towards or not) of this
    combined research The creation of (potentially
    physically) embodied social agents capable of
    existing in the real human social world,
    behaving correctly according to the norms of
    society and culture.
  • Such agents may not be artificially intelligent,
    but they will undoubtedly be socially intelligent
  • But were a way away from that yet

… sideways
  • Given the theoretical work, whats being done
    practically? (Now we come to the promotional
  • My work at NRC is specifically concerned with
    Socially Adept Technology, its uses and how to
    apply it to different avenues of work
  • This will proceed in a new lab, with the code
    name Project Mole Rat -)
  • Ill discuss some of the relevant work here

A Prolegomenon for all Future Social Technologies
  • (with apologies fo Immanuel Kant)
  • I believe (and youre free to disagree…)
  • Technology should be seen as a social actor (cf.
    Reeves and Nass)
  • Incorporation of social norms into technology can
    result in increased user comfort and efficiency
    (no second guessing)
  • Social norms can be incorporated both in the
    interface between human and technology, but also
  • Within the technology itself
  • In the interface between technologies
  • Many of these beliefs stem from my focus on
    Multi-Agent Systems (in itself a European

Trust, contd. - Marsh
  • My own work in trust was devoted towards
  • Better understanding how cooperative trust worked
  • Developing a computationally tractable
    formalisation of Trust
  • Allowing for trust reasoning agents
  • Allowing for social science studies involving
    formal models of trust
  • Implementing and testing the model
  • For in-depth details, see the website

Formalising Trust?
  • Some basic terminology
  • Trusting entities have 3 kinds of trust
  • Basic Tx
  • The amount of trust you might have in the world
  • General Tx(y)
  • Trust you have in a specific person in general
  • Situational Tx(y,a)
  • Trust you have in a specific person in a specific
  • Trust values are in the range -1,1) (now, is
    that odd?)

Formalising Trust?
  • Formal models can be used to model trust through
  • Tx(y,a) Ux(a) Ix(a)
  • Cooperation threshold
  • C_Tx(y,a) (Rx(a) / Cx(y, a))
  • Marsh(1994) see http//

  • The models arent perfect
  • They were never meant to be
  • But they are simple
  • And they do work (even with humans (Dibben,
  • Were applying them to E-Commerce, as youll see

Portions of this work were carried out in
collaboration with researchers at University of
New Brunswicks Faculty of Computer Science…
Thanks to Profs Ali Ghorbani and Virendra
Bhavsar in particular, who have taken ACORN from
its humble beginnings to new heights… Students
and programmers that have worked on this project
are Youssef Masrour, Hui Yu, Leigh Wetmore, and
Jonathan Carter.
ACORN - Introduction and Motivation
  • ACORN is a tool-based SAT, whose relevance
    becomes clearer with some thought
  • ACORN is a peer to peer multi-mobile-agent
    architecture based on community-oriented
    communication paths in human society - Stanley
    Milgrams Small World Problem
  • (how many buzzwords do you need in a sentence…?)
  • ACORN was conceived as a replacement for static
    information systems such as bog standard email
    and static web servers
  • We see information in this sense as a dynamic
    entity which has to work to exist in the world…
  • ACORN is one of those acronyms Agent-based
    Community Oriented Routing Network

ACORN - Basics
  • In ACORN, every piece of information is
    (potentially represented by) an autonomous mobile
    agent - the InfoAgent
  • sounds, images, movies, frames, documents and
    parts of documents, files, links, and so on…
  • Note - anything you can send via email, you can
    send in ACORN too
  • Every InfoAgent carries with it
  • metadada for and a link to its information (not
    necessarily the information itself)
  • owner information (it is given)
  • community information (it learns and can be
  • community paths (it builds itself and can be

Uses of ACORN
  • As an email replacement - email with attitude…
  • As community building and enhancing technology
  • As a people finder
  • As a novel peer review system
  • As a personalised directed information
  • (directed ads, anyone...?)
  • B2B and B2C applications

Current Status
  • ACORN is fully implemented in Java (uses JSP)
  • There will be a port to C this summer
  • Development is ongoing in privacy, anonymity, and
    thin InfoAgents
  • Integration of summarisation and additional
    search technologies are also ongoing

Socially Adept Web Sites
  • An application of SAT to adaptive web site
    technology, this project aims to show how some
    simple rules can be applied to already existing
    technology in order to facilitate its better
    usage and integration in society
  • Its also an approach to answering Etzionis
    (1997) call for adaptive webs
  • Finally, although it is applied presently to
    eCommerce and web interfaces, we believe some at
    least of what weve learned can be applied to
    other interfaces.
  • This work was carried out jointly with John
    Meech. Our thanks also goes to Alaa Dabbour for
    a first implementation of the prototype site

Static Trust Factors in E-Commerce
  • Seals of Approval
  • Brand
  • Navigation
  • Fulfillment
  • Presentation
  • Technology
  • Studio Archetype/Sapient

Web Site As Agent
  • Web site acts as an intelligent, adaptive
    interface - can be viewed as an agent
  • Constructs a user profile from interactions,
    history and other data
  • Uses models of trust, personality and context to
    evaluate user behaviour
  • Adapts web page content/structure accordingly
  • A prototype site has been developed for this

Web Site Architecture
  • SociAware is Socially Aware technology - a
    simple means of thinking realistically about SATs
    in general.
  • It was first introduced at MICON in August 2001
  • The most basic aspect of SociAware is the
    extension of the trust model in simple ways to
    enable social trust reasoning (that is, to allow
    society to reason about how it trusts things
    such as information.

SociAware Applications infoDNA
  • A standard of Trust in information agents,
    implemented as an extension to the ACORN
  • Problem agents judging information in ACORN…
  • i.e., which pieces of information to forward to
    owner, and which to discard
  • Solution each piece of information is socially
  • Then each agent can use these ratings in decision
  • Note that this solution is not perfect
  • Societies can be fooled into believing things
    that are not true…

ACORN and infoDNA
  • Each piece of information carries with it
    additional infoDNA
  • Originator and signature
  • Set of reader ratings and signatures
  • Ratings in our system are -1,1) but any
    suitable representation would work
  • Agents can judge information based on these
    societal rankings
  • Naturally, much more information is also
  • Owner of information
  • Metadata
  • This is a simple application but worthwhile, also
    it gives us a set of results to work with when
    implementing more complex approaches

Social Web Technology
  • Socially Adept Web Site adapts to User
    personality, trust
  • However, initial stages of adaptation are
  • Unknown user, unknown requirements
  • Site strange to user
  • Potential privacy concerns with adaptation, user
  • Using SociAware technology, we will be addressing
    these concerns

Social Web Technology
  • User represented by SociAware Agent
  • This maintains user profile
  • Site represented by Site Agent
  • At first visit, negotiations between user and
    site agents result in pre-built user profile with
    no identifying capacity (except through user
    agent, which reveals only what is necessary)
  • In addition, because SociAware, user agent can
    query society (e.g. via SociAware server) for
    views on site policies, etc.
  • SociaAware server maintains data. Also becomes
    indispensable in browsing new unknown sites
  • Other value added - negotiation via SociAware
    server preserves even more privacy/control

Table Manners - a physical SAT
  • For this implementation of the SAT concept, we
    wanted to take some physical aspect of
    collaborative technology and use it as a base
    toolset with which to experiment on various
  • Group formation in distributed settings
  • The detection and facilitation of group dynamics
    in local and distributed settings
  • The locus of command in a collaborative
  • Remote control and tele-haptic technologies
  • Computer Supported Collaborative Play
  • For this, we chose to implement two HI-Space
    tables over two sites in Ottawa (CRCs Virtual
    Classroom and NRCs MoleRat lab), with an option
    to network further tables
  • The umbrella name of this technology toolset is
    Table Manners (thanks to Monica…)
  • Were still building the tables - they will be
    online by June

(No Transcript)
  • Table Manners will use agents to represent
    individual users
  • Each user will then have a model the agent can
    use to predict behaviour, analyse the same, and
    come up with worthwhile group building/reinforcing
    structures amongst the other users and their
  • This raises interesting questions of privacy,
    sensing, avatar potential, etc.

Table Manners continued
  • We will have
  • 2 networked tables over a dedicated research
    fibre for high bandwidth
  • 2 large plasma displays for video conferencing
  • Palm pilot control and personalisation of table
    and associated information
  • Wireless Haptic capabilities (prototypes based on
    MindStorms stuff, with more to come)
  • Several potential projects to implement and
  • (and Im very excited about the potentials!)

Potential Table Research Approaches
  • Remote control of robotics
  • Agent based user modeling - truly socially adept
  • Avatars
  • Advanced video conferencing
  • Active environments
  • Collaborative gaming
  • Privacy and trust
  • Ubiquitous individual information handling

The Wacky Idea File
  • Wouldnt it be nice if…
  • Your PDA could guide you in real time about the
    customs and social expectations of the new
    country youve just arrived in…
  • Your PDA could link with an active environment
    and show you how what you see now relates to what
    you saw (perhaps in another country) last week
  • Wireless was so ubiquitous you really were always
    wired, and your machines were always contextually
    and socially aware
  • Your machines really were invisible, really
    were personal and really did know what do do
    at any given time
  • We really could trust our technology to do the
    right thing
  • Technology simply faded away when you didnt need

  • Work on Socially Adept Technologies raises its
    own questions
  • Ironically, of ethics and morality amongst others
  • Some of them I mention briefly here, others may
    be plain to you
  • Is this a good thing to do?
  • Are we hurting people by deceiving them?
  • Is anthropomorphising technology good for people?
  • Can bad people use this in naughty ways? How?
  • What does this give us regular AI (or even dumb)
    technologies dont?
  • Do we need Artificial Intelligence if we have
    Social Intelligence?
  • Where is all this going?

  • The main concern with all of this work is that it
    may indeed not be possible
  • Is it, for example, possible to provide a good
    enough representation of Trust for artificial
    agents? What about emotion?
  • And given this, does the agent really trust or
    emote, for example?
  • All of which raises interesting philosophical
    questions, if nothing else
  • And which I leave in your capable hands… but...

Some Answers?
  • The obvious answer to the questions and problems
    raised is to ignore them and hope they go away
  • (This is not a particularly scientific, or moral,
  • The most powerful answer is that, by researching
    these topics and by asking these questions at the
    same time, we are doing two very powerful things
  • Attempting to use what we find to achieve some
  • Asking the questions (another tautology?!)
  • As scientists, we have a responsibility for
    asking these questions before others do the work
    without asking them, and who knows, we might just
    find some answers...

  • Socially Adept Technologies relates to two
    distinct things
  • Technologies capable of behaving properly in the
    social world
  • A collection of research topics relating to the
    concept of social behaviour
  • There are several other parts of the puzzle out
  • Socially Adept Technologies can provide for
    novel, worthwhile, and above all, satisfying
    models of user-machine interaction
  • In addition, understanding and modeling social
    behaviour may lead to a better understanding of
    and support systems for human societal behaviour
    (cf. Dibben, 1998)
  • Finally, looking at this topic raises interesting
    moral and ethical questions which will not go
    away, and which it is our responsibility to

A final word
  • Without systems being able to sense that the user
    is there, who they are, what theyre doing or
    need, and lots of other physical and mental
    things, this stuff is doomed to ultimate failure
  • (consider the average traffic light)
  • The human in the loop is the key to Social

Thanks for listening…
  • Any questions?