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Autonomous Economic Agents (AEAs)

What is an AEA?


An Autonomous Economic Agent (AEA) is an intelligent agent that acts on its owner's behalf, with limited or no interference, and whose goal is to generate economic value for its owner.

Let's break down the term Autonomous Economic Agent (AEA):

  • Agent: An AEA is first and foremost an agent, representing an individual, organisation or object (a.k.a. its "owner") in the digital world. An AEA looks after its owner's interests and has their preferences in mind when acting on their behalf.
  • Autonomous: AEAs operate independently of constant input from their owners and act autonomously to achieve their goals.
  • Economic: AEAs have a narrow and specific focus: creating economic value for their owner.

Some of the other characteristics AEAs typically have:

  • Proactive: AEAs are proactive; they take the initiative and perform actions that take them closer to their goals.
  • Reactive: AEAs are also reactive; they are aware of the environment they are in, perceive changes in the environment, and react to these changes in accordance to their goals.
  • Self-interested: An AEA primarily looks after its own interests (which is aligned with those of its owner) and not necessarily the interests of other agents or the larger system.

What is NOT an AEA?

  • Any agent: AEAs are NOT meant to address any needs their owners might have. They have a clear and well-defined focus, which is generating economic value for their owner and this is manifested in a variety of different ways in their design.
  • Digital twins: An AEA is NOT it's owner's twin in the digital world; i.e. mirroring their preferences, values, and priorities. An AEA can be given whatever preference, value, and priority its owner wants them to have.
  • APIs or Sensors: These do NOT have any agency, nor proactiveness. They just "sit there" and respond to requests or changes in the environment.
  • Smart contracts: Similar to APIs and sensors, smart contracts do NOT display any proactiveness; they are purely reactive to external requests (in their case, contract calls and transactions).
  • An agent with Artificial General Intelligence (AGI): AEAs have a well-defined, narrow, and goal directed focus that involves some economic gain.

Agents and AEAs

In the rest of the documentation, unless specified, we use the terms AEA and Agent interchangeably to mean AEA as defined above description.