Sunday, February 20, 2005


If you have to learn this stuff (and you do)

Just finished "Knowledge Representation: Logical, Philosophical, and Computational Foundations" by John Sowa. I know GA types aren't likely to be into logic-based representations, but this book offers a great persepctive on "neat" (rather than "scruffy") AI. The perspective is drawn from the wonderful (and sadly often overlooked) American philosopher C.S. Peirce.

I think Peirce (sometimes refered to as "The American Aristotle") is definately worth our looking into. He was saying things in the late 1800s that thinkers wouldn't revisit for 100 years. His concept of abduction as a third form of inference (in addition to the classical deduction and induction) is particularly interesting.

As Sowa describes Peircian abduction, it can consist of several iterated procedures, including:

"Reuse. Do an associative search for a predefined theory that can be resued for the current problem.
Revise. Find a theory that approximately matches the problem at hand and use belief revision techniques to tailor it for the current situation.
Combine. Search for scattered fragments of knowledge and perform repeated steps of belief revision to combine them into a complete theory."

I think this has some resonances for GAs and learning classifier systems.

Though Peirce saw abduction as a set of real inference procedures, he also noted (appropos to recent posts on random discovery):
""There is a more familiar name for it than abduction, for it is neither more nor less than guessing."

(Note that I will sometimes talk about Peirce on my blog, as will my friend Russell who writes tired fools. But, be warned, these are not strictly scientific or philosophical blogs, and some content may offend!)

Thanks for the note about Sowa. Back in my AI days, this was one of the books that was required reading ... mind you, we were never tested on any of the content ... but it was considered an important work for the 'neat' side of our world. I found it, in part, envigorating.
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