A unified framework for resource-bounded autonomous agents interacting with unknown environments
The aim of this thesis is to present a mathematical framework for conceptualizing and constructing adaptive autonomous systems under resource constraints. The first part of this thesis contains a concise presentation of the foundations of classical agency: namely the formalizations of decision making and learning. Decision making includes: (a) subjective expected utility (SEU) theory, the framework of decision making under uncertainty; (b) the maximum SEU principle to choose the optimal solution; and (c) its application to the design of autonomous systems, culminating in the Bellman optimality equations. Learning includes: (a) Bayesian probability theory, the theory for reasoning under uncertainty that extends logic; and (b) Bayes-Optimal agents, the application of Bayesian probability theory to the design of optimal adaptive agents. Then, two major problems of the maximum SEU principle are highlighted: (a) the prohibitive computational costs and (b) the need for the causal precedence of the choice of the policy. The second part of this thesis tackles the two aforementioned problems. First, an information-theoretic notion of resources in autonomous systems is established. Second, a framework for resource-bounded agency is introduced. This includes: (a) a maximum bounded SEU principle that is derived from a set of axioms of utility; (b) an axiomatic model of probabilistic causality, which is applied for the formalization of autonomous systems having uncertainty over their policy and environment; and (c) the Bayesian control rule, which is derived from the maximum bounded SEU principle and the model of causality, implementing a stochastic adaptive control law that deals with the case where autonomous agents are uncertain about their policy and environment.