Hi. I’m Jack Shaw, the Business Technology Futurist. This is one in a series of brief videos in which I will discuss intelligent systems and how you, and your organization, can think strategically about how best to benefit from their remarkable capabilities.

Today, we’ll talk some more about one of the most advanced AI technologies, Intelligent Agents, such as that used to control Google’s Self-Driving Car. In another video, we describe how the Intelligent Agent uses Situation Assessment to decide whether it needs to revise its plans.

Intelligent Agents typically use a very flexible and powerful form of planning known as Partial Order Least Commitment Planning. Full Order planning means planning each specific step in detail from start to finish, but this only works well in simple, relatively static situations. When many steps are needed and the environment in highly dynamic, the odds are that before the first few steps are completed, unexpected events will have precluded complete execution of a full order plan.

One of the most famous sayings in the military is that “The first casualty of war is … the plan.” Partial order planning means keeping the end goal in mind; and then, based on the available information, planning only the first few steps in detail.

Least commitment planning means selecting a plan that moves you toward your goal but also lets you change plans if you have to without a great loss. For example, if during rush hour, you decide to get on the freeway, it may be an all or nothing proposition. If it’s flowing, great, but if it’s locked up, you’re stuck!

Staying on the surface streets may take longer on the average but gives you more flexibility as to your route. That’s the least commitment plan.

By using Partial Order Least Commitment Planning, Intelligent Agents are continually able to take advantage of new information as it becomes available while maintaining a very high likelihood of an acceptable, if not ideal, outcome.

The principles behind Intelligent Agents, such as the self-driving car, can be applied in many arenas, but they are just beginning to be used in business. In other videos, we’ll discuss ways they are starting to be used, and could be used in the near future.