A Structure for Plans and Behavior. Sacerdoti, E. D. Ph.D. Thesis, Stanford University, 1975.
A Structure for Plans and Behavior [pdf]Dissertation  abstract   bibtex   2 downloads  
This report describes progress to date in the ability of a computer system to understand and reason about actions. A new method of representing actions within a computers memory has been developed, and this new representation, called the procedural net, has been employed in developing new strategies for solving problems and monitoring the execution of the resulting solutions.

A set of running computer programs, called the NOAH Nets Of Action Hierarchies system, embodies this representation. Its major goal is to provide a framework for storing expertise about the actions of a particular task domain, and to impart that expertise to a human in the cooperative achievement of nontrivial tasks.

A problem is presented to NOAH as a statement that is to be made true by applying a sequence of actions in an initial state of the world. The actions are drawn from a set of actions previously defined to the system. NOAH first creates a one-step solution to the problem, then it progressively expands the level of detail of the solution, filling in ever more detailed actions. All the individual actions, composed into plans at differing levels of detail, are stored in the procedural net. The system avoids imposing unnecessary constraints on the order of the actions in a plan. Thus, plans are represented as partial orderings of actions, rather than as linear sequences.

The same data structure is used to guide the human user through a task. Since the system has planned the task at varying levels of detail, it can issue requests for action to the user at varying levels of detail, depending on hisher competence and understanding of the higher level actions. If more detail is needed than was originally planned for, or if an unexpected event causes the plan to go awry, the system can continue to plan from any point during execution.

In essence, the structure of a plan of actions is as important for problem solving and execution monitoring as the nature of the actions themselves.

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