The Myth of Modularity in Rule-Based Systems for Reasoning with Uncertainty

Reference: Heckerman, D. E. & Horvitz, E. J. The Myth of Modularity in Rule-Based Systems for Reasoning with Uncertainty. 1986.

Abstract: In this paper, we examine the concepts of modularity, an often cited advantage of the rule-based representation methodology. We argue that the notion of modularity consists of two distinct concepts which we call syntactic modularity and semantic modularity. We argue that when reasoning under certainty, it is reasonable to regard the rule-based approach as both syntactically and semantically modular. However, we argue that in the case of plausible reasoning, rules are syntactically modular but are rarely semantically modular. To illustrate this point, we examine a particular approach for managing uncertainty in rule-based systems called the MYCIN certainty factory model. We formally define the concept of semantic modularity with respect to the certainty factor model and discuss logical consequences of the definition. We show that the assumption of semantic modularity imposes strong restrictions on rules in a knowledge base. We argue that such restrictions are rarely valid in practical applications. Finally, we suggest how the concept of semantic modularity can be relaxed in a manner that makes it appropriate for plausible reasoning.

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