I Lied About the Trees, Or, Defaults and Definitions in Knowledge Representation

  • Ronald J. Brachman


Over the past few years, the notion of a "prototype" (e.g., TYPICAL-ELEPHANT) seems to have caught on securely in knowledge representation research. Along with a way to specify default properties for instances of a description, proto-representations allow overriding, or "canceling" of properties that don't apply in particular cases. This supposedly makes representing exceptions ( three-legged elephants and the like ) easy; but, alas, it makes one crucial type of representation impossible-that of composite descriptions whose meanings are functions of the structure and interrelation of their parts. This article explores this and other ramifications of the emphasis on default properties and "typical" objects.