Foundations of Envisioning

Johan de Kleer, John Seely Brown

This paper explores a particular kind of qualitative reasoning, called envisioning, that is capable of producing causal explanations for device behavior. It has been implemented in a computer program, ENVISION, which can analyze a wide variety of thermal, fluid, electrical, translational and rotational devices. Rather than present the technical details of the envisioning process, this paper examines the theoretical foundations upon which it is built. Many of these considerations are ones that any builder of qualitative reasoning systems must pay attention to. Two such considerations are explanation and robustness: What notion of causality is adequate for causal explanations of device behavior? How can there be any confidence in the analysis of a novel device?

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