Diagnostic Reasoning Based on Structure and Behavior

Unknown author (1984-06-01)

We describe a system that reasons from first principles, i.e., using knowledge of structure and behavior. The system has been implemented and tested on several examples in the domain of troubleshooting digital electronic circuits. We give an example of the system in operation, illustrating that this approach provides several advantages, including a significant degree of device independence, the ability to constrain the hypotheses it considers at the outset, yet deal with a progressively wider range of problems, and the ability to deal with situations that are novel in the sense that their outward manifestations may not have been encountered previously. As background we review our basic approach to describing structure and behavior, then explore some of the technologies used previously in troubleshooting. Difficulties encountered there lead us to a number of new contributions, four of which make up the central focus of this paper. We describe a technique we call constraint suspension that provides a powerful tool for troubleshooting. We point out the importance of making explicit the assumptions underlying reasoning and describe a technique that helps enumerate assumptions methodically. The result is an overall strategy for troubleshooting based on the progressive relaxation of underlying assumptions. The system can focus its efforts initially, yet will methodically expand its focus to include a broad range of faults. Finally, abstracting from our examples, we find that the concept of adjacency proves to be useful in understanding why some faults are especially difficult and why multiple different representations are useful.