Agent-based systems technology has generated lots of excitement in recent years because of its promise as a new paradigm for conceptualizing, designing, and implementing software systems. This promise is particularly attractive for creating software that operates in environments that are distributed and open, such as the internet. Currently, the great majority of agent-based systems consist of a single agent. However, as the technology matures and addresses increasingly complex applications, the need for systems that consist of multiple agents that communicate in a peer-to-peer fashion is becoming apparent. Central to the design and effective operation of such multiagent systems (MASs) are a core set of issues and research questions that have been studied over the years by the distributed AI community. In this article, I present some of the critical notions in MASs and the research work that has addressed them. I organize these notions around the concept of problem-solving coherence, which I believe is one of the most critical overall characteristics that an MAS should exhibit.
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