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Embedding expert systems in semi-formal domains : examining the boundaries of the knowledge base

This thesis examines the use of expert systems in semi-formal domains. The research identifies the main problems with semi-formal domains and proposes and evaluates a number of different solutions to them. The thesis considers the traditional approach to developing expert systems, which sees domains as being formal, and notes that it continuously faces problems that result from informal features of the problem domain. To circumvent these difficulties experience or other subjective qualities are often used but they are not supported by the traditional approach to design. The thesis examines the formal approach and compares it with a semiformal approach to designing expert systems which is heavily influenced by the socio-technical view of information systems. From this basis it examines a number of problems that limit the construction and use of knowledge bases in semi-formal domains. These limitations arise from the nature of the problem being tackled, in particular problems of natural language communication and tacit knowledge and also from the character of computer technology and the role it plays. The thesis explores the possible mismatch between a human user and the machine and models the various types of confusion that arise. The thesis describes a number of practical solutions to overcome the problems identified. These solutions are implemented in an expert system shell (PESYS), developed as part of the research. The resulting solutions, based on non-linear documents and other software tools that open up the reasoning of the system, support users of expert systems in examining the boundaries of the knowledge base to help them avoid and overcome any confusion that has arisen. In this way users are encouraged to use their own skills and experiences in conjunction with an expert system to successfully exploit this technology in semi-formal domains.
Date January 1990
CreatorsWhitley, Edgar A.
PublisherLondon School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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