Learning New Principles from Precedents and Exercises: The Details

Unknown author (1981-11-01)

Much Learning is done by way of studying precedents and exercises. A teacher supplies a story, gives a problem, and expects a student both to solve a problem and to discover a principle. The student must find the correspondence between the story and the problem, apply the knowledge in the story to solve the problem, generalize to form a principle, and index the principle so that it can be retrieved when appropriate. This sort of learning pervades Management, Political science, Economics, Law, and Medicine as well as the development of common-sense knowledge about life in general. This paper presents a theory of how it is possible to learn by precedents and exercises and describes an implemented system that exploits the theory. The theory holds that causal relations identify the regularities that can be exploited from past experience, given a satisfactory representation for situations. The representation used stresses actors and objects which are taken from English-like input and arranged into a kind of semantic network. Principles emerge in the form of production rules which are expressed in the same way situations are.