Abstraction is one of the most promising approaches to improve the performance of problem solvers. Abstraction by dropping sentences of a domain description - as used in most hierarchical planners - is known to be very representation dependent. To overcome these drawbacks, we propose a more general view of abstraction involving the change of representation language. We have developed a new abstraction methodology and a related sound and complete learning algorithm that allows the complete change of representation language of planning cases from concrete to abstract.
Recently, the use of abstraction in case-based reasoning (CBR) is getting more and more popular. The basic idea is to supply a CBR system with cases at many different levels of abstraction. When a new problem must be solved, one (or several) 'appropriate' concrete or abstract case are retrieved from the case base and the solution that the case contains is reused to derive a solution for the current problem, e.g. by filling in the details that a retrieved case at some higher level of abstraction does not contain. A major problem that occurs when using this approach is, that for a given new problem, usually several cases, e.g., from different levels of abstraction could be reused to solve the new problem. Choosing a wrong abstract case can slow down the problem solving process or even prevents the problem from being solved.
Hierachical planning can be improved by explanation-based learning (EBL) of abstract plans from detailed, successfully solved planning problems. Abstract plans, expressed in well-established terms of the domain, serve as useful problem decompositions which can drastically reduce the planning complexity. The learned plan abstraction must be valid for a class of planning cases rather than for a single case, to ensure their successful application in a larger spectrum of new situations. A hierarchical organization of the newly learned knowledge must be archieved to overcome the utility problem in EBL. This paper presents a new formal model of shared plan abstraction and the closely related explanation-based procedure S-PABS. Unlike other apporaches to plan abstraction, our model allows a total different terminology to be introduced at the abstract level. Finally, an unsupervised incremental procedure for constructing a hierachy of shared abstract plans is proposed, as a kind of concept formation over explanations.