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# Introduction: Actions and other events

This article emphasizes the idea that an action by an agent is a particular kind of event. The idea of event is primary and an action is a special case. The treatment is simpler than those regarding events as natural actions.

The main features of our treatment are as follows.

1. There are the usual effect axioms involving the function Result(e,s), the situation that results when event e occurs in situation s.

2. There are occurrence axioms giving conditions for an event to occur. They have the form .

3. The theory distinguishes between external events for which occurrence axioms are not given and internal events governed by occurrence axioms. Older treatments of situation calculus often do not provide for internal events. Usually human actions are properly treated as external events, but if the theory contains assertions that a person will perform a certain action, then such an assertion can be given by an occurrence axiom, and the action is an internal event. We include an example of an elaboration of the theory of Ginsberg's stuffy room scenario [GS88] that uses an occurrence axiom to assert that a person will unblock a vent when the room becomes stuffy. Thus an action can be either an external or internal event. Elaborating the theory by giving an occurrence axiom for the action makes it an internal action in the elaborated theory.

4. Our theories are nonmonotonic and minimize certain predicates situation by situation. The approach is proposed only when information about the future is obtained only by projection from earlier situations. Thus it is not appropriate for the stolen car scenario.

We use internal events instead of state constraints in the stuffy room example. Thus we say that when the vents are blocked, the room becomes stuffy rather than regarding stuffiness as a state constraint. This is closer to human common sense reasoning and natural language usage, as well as being logically simpler.

We begin with formalizing a buzzer which has only internal events, continue with the stuffy room scenario which has both. Our third example is the blocks world.

After these examples, we discuss the nonmonotonic reasoning.

Then we offer a general viewpoint on the situation calculus and its applications to real world problems. It relates the formalism of [MH69] which regards a situation as a snapshot of the world to situation calculus theories involving only a few fluents.

Next: The situation calculus formalism Up: ACTIONS AND OTHER EVENTS Previous: ACTIONS AND OTHER EVENTS

John McCarthy
Fri Feb 8 17:29:20 PST 2002