From Pixels to
Bridging the Gap from Sensor-Level
Data to Cognitive-Level Knowledge
Kathryn Blackmond Laskey
Department of Systems Engineering &
Operations Research
George Mason University
©Kathryn Blackmond Laskey
February 2005 - UKy
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This presentation is dedicated to the memory of
journalist Danny Pearl, murdered in Pakistan
in February 2002, and to the pioneering
research of his father Judea Pearl. Danny
Pearl’s spirit will live on in the work of those
who apply his father’s work to protect the open
society for which he gave his life.
The Daniel Pearl Foundation ( was formed in memory of
journalist Daniel Pearl to further the ideals that inspired Daniel's life and work.
©Kathryn Blackmond Laskey
February 2005 - UKy
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Representation: A Key Enabler
• Performance of intelligent system depends on good
representation of problem space
• Good representations for fusion must:
– Capture important regularities in the domain
– Capture how objects and processes give rise to observable
– Rest on a mathematically sound and scientifically
principled logical foundation
• The best and most efficient algorithm will produce
bad results if you are solving the wrong problem
– Type III error dwarfs Type I and Type II errors
“Everything is easy if you can find
the right representation”
Herbert A. Simon
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February 2005 - UKy
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Effective multi-source fusion
– Depends on good representations
– Requires integrating sensor
inputs with information from
other sources
– Depends heavily on background
knowledge and context
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February 2005 - UKy
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Models and Representations
• Models represent systems and processes
– We use models to answer questions about the real world
– Goal: Build “good enough” models
» “Good enough” depends on purpose for which model is used
» Simplifications and inaccuracies don’t matter if they don’t affect results
• Representations are approximations
– Restricted set of variables
– Unrealistic simplifications
– Untested assumptions
• Models are constructed from:
– Past data on system or related systems
– Judgment of subject matter experts
– Judgment of experienced model builders
©Kathryn Blackmond Laskey
February 2005 - UKy
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Real World
©Kathryn Blackmond Laskey
February 2005 - UKy
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©Kathryn Blackmond Laskey
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Representing Representation
Real world with real
created by real conscious
©Kathryn Blackmond Laskey
February 2005 - UKy
Artificial world with
simulated representation
created by simulated
conscious subsystem
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The Fusion Challenge
• Fusion is the process of incorporating information from
different sources into a single “fused” representation
• Why fusion is difficult:
Vast quantities of sensor information
Real-time processing requirements
Restrictions on weight, communication bandwidth
Need to integrate physical and geometrical models with
qualitative knowledge
– Noisy, unreliable, ambiguous data
– Active attempts at deception
– Requirement for robustness to new or little-known entities
• Why fusion is important:
– Features that are meaningless in isolation are definitive in
Data, data everywhere, and
not the time to think…
©Kathryn Blackmond Laskey
February 2005 - UKy
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Paradigm Shift in Computing
• Old paradigm: Algorithms running on Turing machines
– Deterministic steps transform inputs into outputs
– Result is either right or wrong
– Semantics based on Boolean logic
• New paradigm: Economy of SW agents running on physical symbol system
– Agents make decisions (deterministic or stochastic) to achieve objectives
– “Program” replaced by dynamic system improving solution quality over time
– Semantics based on decision theory / game theory / stochastic processes
• Hardware realizations of physical symbol systems
Physical systems minimize action
Decision theoretic systems maximize utility / minimize loss
Hardware realization of physical symbol system maps action to utility
Programming languages are replaced by specification / interaction languages
Software designer specifies goals, rewards and information flows
Unified theory spans sub-symbolic to cognitive levels
• Old paradigm is limiting case of new paradigm
©Kathryn Blackmond Laskey
February 2005 - UKy
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“No Computation Without
• “First figure out what you would do if computation
were not an issue, and then figure out how to
compute it.”**
– Good representation provides theoretical basis for
informed choices about computation
– Good representation provides statistical basis for
evaluating solution quality
– Bad representation leads to failures you don’t know are
failures and wouldn’t know how to fix if you did
* Tod Levitt
** Jay Kadane
©Kathryn Blackmond Laskey
February 2005 - UKy
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Elements of Computational
• Vocabulary
– Variables, constants, operators, punctuation
• Syntax
– Rules for composing legal expressions
– Organization into higher level structures or patterns
» Frames
» Objects
» Graphs
• Proof rules (operational semantics)
– Rules for deriving expressions from other expressions
– Corresponds to operational semantics of computer
• Semantics - characterizes meaning of expressions
– Ontology or theory of reference (denotational semantics)
– Theory of truth (axiomatic semantics)
©Kathryn Blackmond Laskey
February 2005 - UKy
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First-Order Logic
• Vocabulary:
– Constants (stand for particular named objects)
– Variables (stand for generic unnamed objects)
– Functions (allow objects to be referred to indirectly)
» Location(x)
» MotherOf(y)
– Predicates (represent hypotheses that can be true or false)
» Guilty(s)
» Near(John,GroceryStore32)
– Connectives
» Quantification, conjunction, disjunction, implication, negation, equality
• Syntax:
– Atomic sentences
– Composition rules for forming compound sentences from atomic sentences
• Semantics
– Tarski invented the standard semantics for first-order logic
– Compositional: meaning of sentence depends on meaning of parts
– Valid sentence is true in all interpretations of a language; unsatisfiable sentence cannot be
true in any interpretation
• Proof rules
– Natural deduction
– Resolution with refutation
©Kathryn Blackmond Laskey
February 2005 - UKy
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Privileged Status of FOL
• Has been proposed as unifying language for
– Defining extended logics
– Interchanging knowledge
• FOL “has enough expressive power to define all of
mathematics, every digital computer that has ever been built,
and the semantics of every version of logic, including itself.”
• Issues:
– Cannot express generalizations about sets, predicates, functions
– Cannot represent gradations of plausibility
– No built-in approaches to
Time and space
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• Categories of things that can exist in a domain
– Organized hierarchically into types / subtypes
– Objects of a given type have:
» Similar structure (part-whole composition)
» Similar behavior (processes)
» Similar associations
– Subtypes can inherit structure, behavior, association from
• Ontology describes
– Types of entities in the domain
– Attributes of entities
– Relationships they can participate in
• Ways to specify ontology
– Formal - types defined by logical rules (usually FOL)
– Informal - types specified via prototypical instances
©Kathryn Blackmond Laskey
February 2005 - UKy
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Requirements for New Paradigm
Computational Representation
Embrace uncertainty
Perform plausible reasoning
Learn from experience
Incorporate observation, historical data,
expert knowledge
• Explore multiple alternatives
• Replace rote procedure with focus on
attaining objectives
• Trade off multiple objectives
©Kathryn Blackmond Laskey
February 2005 - UKy
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Complementary Technologies
• Traditional Logic-Based Artificial Intelligence
+ Structured representations for symbolic knowledge
+ Efficient methods for searching complex problem spaces
- Rudimentary and atheoretical methods for reasoning under
• Traditional Probability
- Rudimentary and unstructured knowledge representation
- Assumes all hypotheses are known in advance
+ Theoretical justified and practically proven method for reasoning
under uncertainty
©Kathryn Blackmond Laskey
February 2005 - UKy
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Bayesian Networks
• Language for representing knowledge about uncertain
– Multiple hypotheses
– Cause and effect relationships between evidence & hypotheses
– Time evolution (dynamic Bayesian networks)
• Architecture for efficient computation
– Apply Bayes rule to incorporate evidence
©Kathryn Blackmond Laskey
February 2005 - UKy
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Probabilistic Knowledge
• Bayesian networks are insufficiently expressive for general
knowledge representation
• Requirements for a probabilistic representation
Represent classes having multiple similar but non-identical instances
Represent hierarchical structure of classes
Represent relationships between classes
Represent different types of uncertainty
Attribute-value uncertainty
Type uncertainty
Association uncertainty
Existence uncertainty
Model uncertainty (structure and parameters)
– Learn better representations (structure and parameters) as
observations accrue
©Kathryn Blackmond Laskey
February 2005 - UKy
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Emerging Directions in
Knowledge Representation
• Increasingly expressive languages for encoding probabilistic domain
• Probabilistic versions of historically successful representation frameworks
– Decision theoretic justification for why they work
– Extend to incorporate uncertainty
– Integrate with legacy systems
• Graphical model semantics provides principled theoretical foundation to
address key issues
– Multi-resolution modeling: High-level summary is (approximate) sufficient
statistic for relevant data from low-level sensor data
– Distributed M&S: elements pass (approximate) sufficient statistics across
communication pathways
– Learning uses (approximate) Bayesian inference to refine structure &
parameters as data accrue
– Probabilistic semantics for model interoperability
– Efficient exact and approximate computation
©Kathryn Blackmond Laskey
February 2005 - UKy
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Multi-Entity Bayesian
Network (MEBN) Logic
• Represent knowledge as collection of partial Bayesian networks
– Instantiate & compose into problem-specific models
– MEBN is to BN as algebra is to arithmetic
• Consistency constraints ensure existence of global probability
• Integrates classical first-order logic with probability
– Predicates  Boolean random variables
– Functions  Non-Boolean random variables
– Existence results
» MTheory implicitly represents coherent joint distribution on interpretations
of associated first-order theory
» Universal MTheory specifies joint distribution on satisfiable first-order
sentences & conditional distribution given any consistent finite set of axioms
• Provides logical basis for probabilistic databases (Probabilistic
Relational Models research @ Stanford)
©Kathryn Blackmond Laskey
February 2005 - UKy
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On the Fly
BN Constrution Example
©Kathryn Blackmond Laskey
February 2005 - UKy
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Illustrative Applications
• Identify & type groups of vehicles from individual reports
– BN construction module takes inputs from (simulated) tracker
– Ability to identify and type platoons is robust to
Missed tracks
Mis-association between closely spaced vehicles
Incorrect vehicle types or inability to type many vehicles
Spurious tracks
• Information architecture for missile defense
– Distributed Bayesian inference, value of information, optimal
interceptor allocation
– Slated for insertion into ‘06 build
• Translation of user requirements into SRS
– Proof of concept evaluated on HLA requirements document
– Found requirements humans had missed
©Kathryn Blackmond Laskey
February 2005 - UKy
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Advantages of MEBN Logic
• Modular, object-oriented representation
Compose complex probability models from manageable sub-units
Implicitly represent consistent domain theory over unbounded number of entities
Constructed SSN approximates implicit model
MEBN theory provides metrics for estimating quality of approximation
• Can balance fidelity to domain against
Knowledge engineering burden
Model construction resources
Inference resources
Learning ability
• Probability and decision theory provides unified modeling approach and
semantics spanning JDL Levels 0 through 4
• Combines logic & probability
• Application experience to date is promising
©Kathryn Blackmond Laskey
February 2005 - UKy
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SYST 201 Systems Modeling I