Understanding Evidential Reasoning
SRI INTERNATIONAL MENLO PARK CA ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE CENTER
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We address recent criticisms of evidential reasoning, an approach to the analysis of imprecise and uncertain information that is based on the Dempster-Shafer calculus of evidence. We show that evidential reasoning can be interpreted in terms of classical probability theory and that the Dempster-Shafer calculus of evidence may be considered to be a form of generalized probabilistic reasoning based on the representation of probabilistic ignorance by intervals of possible values. In particular, we emphasize that it is not necessary to resort to nonprobabilistic or subjectivist explanations to justify the validity of the approach. We answer conceptual criticisms of evidential reasoning primarily on the basis of the criticisms confusion between the current state of development of the theory mainly theoretical limitations in the treatment of conditional information and its potential usefulness in treating a wide variety of uncertainty-analysis problems. Similarly, we indicate that the supposed lack of decision-support schemes of generalized probability approaches is not a theoretical handicap but, rather, an indication of basic informational shortcomings that is a desirable asset of any formal approximate reasoning approach. We also point to potential shortcomings of the underlying representation scheme to treat general probabilistic reasoning problems.
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