Abstract Behavior Constraints

Humans are autonomous agents, but that autonomy is informed and constrained by the environment and social context. Explicit expectations, general rules and laws, norms of behavior, and moral precepts govern our behavior.

Autonomous agents, especially ones that will act in environments where humans are present, also need to be aware of and conform to governing constraints. Today’s agent can usually follow explicit and specific constraints (“do not touch the oven,” “maintain speed at 55 MPH”). However, constraints in human environments are often underspecified and abstract (“keep refrigerated”). Further, how constraints should be applied depends on the agent’s specific context (“maintain a safe distance”).

Understanding the implications of constraints and interactions among them is generally impossible to anticipate in advance for any situation the agent may find itself in. However, reasoning thru these implications in the moment would in many cases take too much time and compromise task performance. We are researching general methods that will allow agents to reason efficiently about how these abstract constraints may apply in their situation (and not).