Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems

, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 288–331 | Cite as

Aborting, suspending, and resuming goals and plans in BDI agents

  • James Harland
  • David N. Morley
  • John Thangarajah
  • Neil Yorke-Smith


Intelligent agents designed to work in complex, dynamic environments such as e-commerce must respond robustly and flexibly to environmental and circumstantial changes, including the actions of other agents. An agent must have the capability to deliberate about appropriate courses of action, which may include reprioritising tasks—whether goals or associated plans—aborting or suspending tasks, or scheduling tasks in a particular order. In this article we study mechanisms to enable principled suspend, resuming, and aborting of goals and plans within a Belief-Desire-Intention (BDI) agent architecture. We give a formal and combined operational semantics for these actions in an abstract agent language (CAN), thus providing a general mechanism that can be incorporated into several BDI-based agent platforms. The abilities enabled by our semantics provides an agent designer greater flexibility to direct agent operation, offering a generic means to manage the status of goals. We demonstrate the reasoning abilities enabled on a document workflow scenario.


Intelligent agents Goal reasoning Belief-Desire-Intention BDI agents 



This material is based upon work supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) under Contract No. FA8750-07-D-0185/0004. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of DARPA, or the Air Force Research Laboratory. The authors thank the JAAMAS reviewers, and the reviewers of the AAMAS 2007 and 2008 conferences at which preliminary parts of this work were presented. NYS thanks the Operations group at the Cambridge Judge Business School and the fellowship at St Edmund’s College, Cambridge, where this work was performed.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • James Harland
    • 1
  • David N. Morley
    • 2
    • 3
  • John Thangarajah
    • 1
  • Neil Yorke-Smith
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.RMIT UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.SRI InternationalMenlo ParkUSA
  3. 3.Google, Inc.Mountain ViewUSA
  4. 4.American University of BeirutBeirutLebanon
  5. 5.University of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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