Expert Systems and Artificial Intelligence

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Expert Systems
are computer programs that are derived from a branch of computer science research called Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI's scientific goal is to understand intelligence by building computer programs that exhibit intelligent behavior. It is concerned with the concepts and methods of symbolic inference, or reasoning, by a computer, and how the knowledge used to make those inferences will be represented inside the machine. Of course, the term intelligence covers many cognitive skills, including the ability to solve problems, learn, and understand language; AI addresses all of those. But most progress to date in AI has been made in the area of problem solving -- concepts and methods for building programs that reason about problems rather than calculate a solution. AI programs that achieve expert-level competence in solving problems in task areas by bringing to bear a body of knowledge about specific tasks are called knowledge-based or expert systems. Often, the term expert systems is reserved for programs whose knowledge base contains the knowledge used by human experts, in contrast to knowledge gathered from textbooks or non-experts. More often than not, the two terms, expert systems (ES) and knowledge-based systems (KBS), are used synonymously. Taken together, they represent the most widespread type of AI application. The area of human intellectual endeavor to be captured in an expert system is called the task domain. Task refers to some goal-oriented, problem-solving activity. Domain refers to the area within which the task is being performed. Typical tasks are diagnosis, planning, scheduling, configuration and design. An example of a task domain is aircraft crew scheduling, discussed in Chapter 2. Building an expert system is known as knowledge engineering and its practitioners are called knowledge engineers. The knowledge engineer must make sure that the computer has all the knowledge needed to solve a problem. The knowledge engineer must choose one or more forms in which to represent the required knowledge as symbol patterns in the memory of the computer -- that is, he (or she) must choose a knowledge representation. He must also ensure that the computer can use the knowledge efficiently by selecting from a handful of reasoning methods. The practice of knowledge engineering is described later. We first describe the components of expert systems. The Building Blocks of Expert Systems

Every expert system consists of two principal parts: the knowledge base; and the reasoning, or inference, engine. The knowledge base of expert systems contains both factual and heuristic knowledge. Factual knowledge is that knowledge of the task domain that is widely shared, typically found in textbooks or journals, and commonly agreed upon by those knowledgeable in the particular field. Heuristic knowledge is the less rigorous, more experiential, more judgmental knowledge of performance. In contrast to factual knowledge, heuristic knowledge is rarely discussed, and is largely individualistic. It is the knowledge of good practice, good judgment, and plausible reasoning in the field. It is the knowledge that underlies the "art of good guessing." Knowledge representation formalizes and organizes the knowledge. One widely used representation is the production rule, or simply rule. A rule consists of an IF part and a THEN part (also called a condition and an action). The IF part lists a set of conditions in some logical combination. The piece of knowledge represented by the production rule is relevant to the line of reasoning being developed if the IF part of the rule is satisfied; consequently, the THEN part can be concluded, or its problem-solving action taken. Expert systems whose knowledge is represented in rule form are called rule-based systems. Another widely used representation, called the unit (also known as frame, schema, or list structure) is based upon a more passive view of...
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