Soft Goals Can Be Compiled Away

E. Keyder and H. Geffner

Soft goals extend the classical model of planning with a simple model of preferences. The best plans are then not the ones with least cost but the ones with maximum utility, where the utility of a plan is the sum of the utilities of the soft goals achieved minus the plan cost. Finding plans with high utility appears to involve two linked problems: choosing a subset of soft goals to achieve and finding a low-cost plan to achieve them. New search algorithms and heuristics have been developed for planning with soft goals, and a new track has been introduced in the International Planning Competition (IPC) to test their performance. In this note, we show however that these extensions are not needed: soft goals do not increase the expressive power of the basic model of planning with action costs, as they can easily be compiled away. We apply this compilation to the problems of the net-benefit track of the most recent IPC, and show that optimal and satisficing cost-based planners do better on the compiled problems than optimal and satisficing net-benefit planners on the original problems with explicit soft goals. Furthermore, we show that penalties, or negative preferences expressing conditions to avoid, can also be compiled away using a similar idea.

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