AAAI Publications, Thirteenth International Conference on the Principles of Knowledge Representation and Reasoning

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Abstracting Abstraction in Search with Applications to Planning
Christer Backstrom, Peter Jonsson

Last modified: 2012-05-17


Abstraction has been used in search and planning from the very beginning of AI. Many different methods and formalisms for abstraction have been proposed in the literature but they have been designed from various points of view and with varying purposes. Hence, these methods have been notoriously difficult to analyse and compare in a structured way. In order to improve upon this situation, we present a coherent and flexible framework for modelling abstraction (and abstraction-like) methods based on transformations on labelled graphs. Transformations can have certain method properties that are inherent in the abstraction methods and describe their fundamental modelling characteristics, and they can have certain instance properties that describe algorithmic and computational characteristics of problem instances. The usefulness of the framework is demonstrated by applying it to problems in both search and planning. First, we show that we can capture many search abstraction concepts (such as avoidance of backtracking between levels) and that we can put them into a broader context. We further model five different abstraction concepts from the planning literature. Analysing what method properties they have highlights their fundamental differences and similarities. Finally, we prove that method properties sometimes imply instance properties. Taking also those instance properties into account reveals important information about computational aspects of the five methods.

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