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What are Conceptual Structures?

1. What are Conceptual Structures?

Conceptual Structures (e.g. Conceptual Graphs) are a set of techniques for representing knowledge in a computer. They can be used to capture knowledge as humans understand it - as information about humans playing roles in events; as knowledge about a process or method; as a means of capturing the implicit consequences of an action or event; or as reasoning about objects in the real world. Conceptual graphs for instance are based on a field of mathematics called graph theory, so they can be proven to derive correct conclusions from given premises whilst being easily converted to software.

2. But hasn't Artificial Intelligence already been around for a long time?

Yes, but one of the major problems for A.I. has been connecting the understanding of the computer to what's happening in the real world. Also, capturing the sense of human knowledge inside a computer's data structures has been a difficult problem. CSs help to overcome these problems by capturing the true semantics of the data by expressing all information in terms of basic concepts. These concepts can be aggregated to form more complex concepts and knowledge. Then, CSs express the relationship among all these concepts to capture the essence of the knowledge. These relationships can include simple ideas like "above" or "sister-of" or very complex relationships like "causes to fail" or "depends on" or "this process must precede that process". CSs therefore add value to data.

3. This is based on graph theory, so is it all just mathematics?

Yes and no. It is based on graph theory, so we can prove that the software derived from our CSs will work and produce the correct answer. Besides, all software is just a form of executable mathematics anyway. The point is that CSs are a field where mathematics and software join with human knowledge to produce a new kind of reasoning system. Using CSs, we can capture all of the ideas, events, objects and actions in a domain (like steel manufacturing or building a house) and then employ that knowledge in a way similar to what humans do.