Agents read all the interactive multimedia television programs; with thousands of channels available, it is impossible for the unassisted human brain to search the hundreds of pages of daily programming in entertainment, education, information, games, at-home shopping, sports, and financial transactions. Connected to the cable networks and the electronic highway, agents go directly to the source and extract the relevant information according to the interest profiles of their bosses, even adding some of their own suggestions. They thus help their bosses deal with information overload and infopollution.
This reminds me of an anecdote. A few years ago, I went to great lengths to receive a personalized newspaper on my computer that was automatically printed every morning at breakfast time. All that was required was an initial connection to the various services available - news service, stock market index, weather forecast, etc. - and to link them together into the different sections of my newspaper. Each item of information was saved in a file and then printed. When I described this to a technophobic friend, he said he had the same service every morning, but with a human touch that was important to him. When I pressed him with questions about his hardware, his modem, his programs, he answered simply, "I have a chauffeur. Every morning when I get in the car, he gives me the information I need, with a little humor and personal judgment thrown in." This is a good lesson in pragmatism, but also a demonstration of the importance of personalization.
Agents can interact with each other to negotiate contracts, make appointments, and establish prices. Knowing their bosses' preferences and even some of their psychological characteristics, they search in cyberspace for partners for various types of activities. Agents that specialize in communications display photographs, documents, transparencies, or video clips on one or more screens simultaneously in a teleconference; the agent organizes them in time and space as requested. Instead of traditional, linear, communication (X speaks, the others listen; Y speaks; and so on), communication takes place simultaneously, with the participants displaying their messages in spaces that can be consulted in real time in an order managed by the agents, as with the use of posters in the presentation of scientific papers.
An extract from "Symbiotic Man" (Seuil, 1995)
With the author's agreement.