Using cognitively inspired agents and information supply chains to anticipate and share information for decision making teams
September 11 and hurricane Katrina have shown that timely information is important not only for disaster prevention but especially valuable in effective disaster response. From the point of view of information and communication technologies, the challenge is how to coordinate information sharing effectively among members of a complex decision-making team (e.g. the first responders for a disaster). A common difficulty is to provide useful and time-sensitive information to team members quickly but at the same time not overwhelm them with irrelevant information. This problem has also been encountered in other application domains that require effective communication in a team environment: examples include military command and control, heath care, and global enterprise. Research in the area of team cognition suggests that anticipating information needs of other teammates is a key behavior for achieving highly efficient and effective teamwork. Guided by this finding, a framework of Information Supply Chain (ISC) is proposed and implemented in this thesis research. ISC contains three novel features. First, it anticipates information requirements using a cognitively inspired decision model. Second, it consolidates and prioritizes the information requirements using a novel planning algorithm. Third, it integrates inference, information seeking, and auction for satisfying the information requirements. The ISC framework is formalized using existing agent theories as well as implemented in an agent architecture called R-CAST. The efficiency and the formation of ISC are evaluated using an experiment in a simulated “information market”. This research has made two major contributions in addressing the challenges of information sharing among decision-making teams. First, more accurate information needs can be anticipated using a high-level cognitive model of decision-makers. This avoids “pushing” irrelevant information to a decision-maker, which often leads to information overload. Second, the cost associated with information seeking and distributing activities can be greatly reduced because these activities can now be well-coordinated within the ISC framework. In summary, the work presented in this thesis can help a human team to make better decisions under time pressure, especially in a distributed environment where an immense amount of information and knowledge are scattered among members of the team.