Agent Environments

Multi-agent systems consist of agents and the environments where they operate. Agent environments can be categorized along various traits, but the most cited is probably the classification presented by Russell and Norvig.

They organize the environments according to the following properties:

Accessible vs. inaccessible – if it is possible to gather full and complete information about the environment in the moment, then the environment is accessible. Typically, only virtual environments can be accessible, because in reality, all sensors provide an input that is biased and incomplete up to some extent. There are so many potential percepts in the real world that it would be impossible to record and process them in real time (even if agent’s sensors were infinitely sensitive). In fully accessible environments, the agents do not need to create models of the world in their memories, because it can get any needed information from the environment at any time.

Deterministic vs. non-deterministic – if an action performed in the environment causes a definite effect, the environment is deterministic. Definite effect means that any action of the agent leads to the intended and expected results and there is no room for uncertainty. Of course, if the environment is inaccessible for the agent, it will be probably non-deterministic, at least from its point of view. Turn-based games are an example of a typical deterministic environment, whereas a room with a thermostat (where the thermostat is the agent) is an example of nondeterministic environment, because the action of the thermostat does not necessarily lead to the change of temperature (if, for instance, a window is open).

Static vs. dynamic – the environment is static when the agent is the only entity that changes the environment in the moment. If it changes during the agent’s action (i.e., the state of the environment is contingent on time), it is dynamic. Again, often real environments are dynamic (e.g., traffic in a city) and just some artificial environments are static (consider turn-based games like chess again).

Discrete vs. continuous – this depends on whether a number of possible actions in the environment are finite or infinite. If the agent just has a certain set of possible actions that it can do in the moment, then the environment is discrete. Otherwise, when the agent has theoretically an infinite number of options, the environment is continuous. Suppose that roulette is a discrete environment. The agent can place a wager on a certain, limited number of betting areas. On the other hand, the legal system is a continuous environment. People have theoretically an unlimited number of options how to, for example, close deals or defend themselves before a court.

Episodic vs. non-episodic – episodic environment is the environment where the agent operates in certain segments (episodes) that are independent of each other. The agent’s state in one episode has no impact on its state in another one. Human life exists in a non-episodic environment, because all of our past experiences influence our conduct in the future. An operating system, on the other hand, is an episodic environment, as we can reinstall it. Then programs-agents can be installed on a “clean system” with no conjunction with the same programs installed on the old system.

We can distinguish the environments also according to their spatial characteristics. It can be particularly useful in the case of agent-based models:

Dimensional vs. dimensionless – if spatial characteristics are important factors of the environment and the agent considers space in its decision making, then the environment is dimensional. If the agents do not take space into account, then the environment is dimensionless. Real environments are typically dimensional, as we naturally feel and count with spatial characteristics of our surroundings. In the virtual environments, such characteristics are not always important. For example, as stock markets are almost fully electronic today, it does not matter where somebody is present physically, since he or she can buy or sell shares on theoretically any market in the world. In such an environment, spatial characteristics have no influence on the agents’ decision making, and therefore it is dimensionless.

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Dysfunctional Environments: What Is A Dysfunctional Environment?

When it comes to describing a dysfunctional environment, it might help us to also look at what a functional environment might look like.

Functional Environment

A functional environment then; would be an area that is conducive to growth. Somewhere that not only supports and encourages an individual to be themselves, but also allows them to.

Here, one can express who they are and feel safe doing so. Positive feelings and thoughts are also more likely to occur in this environment.

Dysfunctional Environment

The dysfunctional environment on the other hand would be somewhere that doesn’t allow for the above to happen. Where the individual doesn’t feel supported or acknowledged in anyway, let alone in a way that honours who they are. This might be an environment that forces one to constantly compromise their values and themselves.

The word door mat comes to mind here; with boundaries being nonexistent in this environment. Feeling and thinking negatively is also something that might seem to just happen; coming on like a parasite, without reason or warning. Despair is also another common consequence from being in this type of environment.

Conscious And Unconscious Environments

With both of these examples we can see that one is an environment that could be classed as conscious and the other is an environment that is the complete opposite.

By this I mean that the dysfunctional environment is an environment where behaviour and the effects of that behaviour go unnoticed. The people in the environment have little, to, no awareness of their actions or to the damage, which is being carried out physically, emotionally or mentally.

Standing Up

Perhaps if one were to comment or mention how they felt to the person or persons in the environment, they might be dismissed or ignored. This of course all depends on how dysfunctional the environment is.

The Frog Metaphor

This is a story that is helpful in explaining the insidious nature of the dysfunctional environment.

It is about a frog that is put in a pan and is cooked so gradually that it doesn’t know or notice the difference in temperature. And after this slow rise, the frog dies. It was oblivious to what was happening and its imminent death. It became comfortable and numb to what it was experiencing.

So How Does This Relate To Dysfunctional Environments?

Within this environment one will notice at first that it is draining to them. However unless one takes the steps to break away or steps out of the environment so that it can be seen from another perspective, they might start to feel comfortable within this environment. With their original state of mind and aliveness; fast becoming a distant memory.

Now this could be because of a gradual drip feed approach or the slow cooking approach mentioned above. It might also be because it is an environment that feels comfortable and safe to them; as absurd as this sounds. It is reminding them of their history and what hasn’t been looked at.

Is This How It Is?

One might have never been in a functional environment. This makes it difficult in seeing contrast and in being able to compare it to other environments in their life. One might believe that this is how life is and that there is no such thing as a ‘functional environment’ or that it’s not possible for them.


We all have our own history, some parts that are likely to bring us feelings of happiness and other parts that might cause feelings of anger or resentment. This is history that won’t just disappear; it has to be faced in some way. That could be by directly facing something or by the assistance of a therapist for example.

Pulled To Our Past

We will naturally be drawn into environments that are mind unconsciously associates as being what is safe to us. These environments won’t always be places that empower or honour who we are. They will be environments that mirror the behaviours, feelings and thoughts of our childhood.


This is because of the nature of the mind and how it gets attached and creates attachments. What was experienced as a child becomes what is familiar and safe to the ego mind; regardless of if it is functional or not. If these associations are functional and beneficial, then what will subsequently happen is one will usually end up in environments that are at least moderately healthy and functional.

Unhealthy Associations

However if these are associations that are not so healthy or functional; one is likely to find that they are ending up in the same environments. Environments that are disempowering and don’t reflect what they consciously want or what their heart calls for. Where their energy is being taken and no energy is being returned.

The Childhood Environment

Above I have mentioned about our later environments mirroring the behaviours feelings and thoughts of our childhood environment if they have not been processed.

Common themes of those years will continue to appear and play out in our present day environments. These might be themes that our unique to us; challenges that just seem to appear over and over again.

A Recent Study

I recently read about a group of rat pups that were genetically predisposed to be more fearful than other strains of rats. If these rats were left with their biological mothers, they were likely to be fearful and stressed. However after placing these rat pups with other rat mothers that were not fearful; they grew up without fear.

The Power Of The Environment

Now these might be rats that were talking about here, but what this shows is the power of the environment in shaping how we see ourselves and in who we become.

There is always talk of nature vs. nurture and on the effect genetics have on life, however through the study of epigenetic’s genes have been found to require a trigger to be activated and that trigger is the environment. It is the environment that is making the difference.

Choosing Our Environments

Choosing our environments and therefore the people we have in our life and spend our time with is incredibly important to our own wellbeing and in achieving our dreams.

The natural tendency of our mind will be to return to what feels comfortable and to what is familiar.

Who We Are

What happened in or childhood or what has happened in our past doesn’t have to define our life or who we are. That is something we can do in each moment of our life.

My name is Oliver J R Cooper and I have been on a journey of self awareness for over nine years and for many years prior to that I had a natural curiosity.

For over two years, I have been writing articles. These cover psychology and communication. This has also lead to poetry.

One of my intentions is to be a catalyst to others, as oth

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