Expected Utility Distributions for Flexible, Contingent Execution

John L. Bresina and Richard Washington

This paper presents a method for using expected utility distributions in the execution of flexible, contingent plans. A utility distribution maps the possible start times of an action to the expected utility of the plan suffix starting with that action. The contingent plan encodes a tree of possible courses of action and includes flexible temporal constraints and resource constraints. When execution reaches a branch point, the eligible option with the highest expected utility at that point in time is selected. The utility distributions make this selection sensitive to the runtime context, yet still efficient. Our approach uses predictions of action duration uncertainty as well as expectations of resource usage and availability to determine when an action can execute and with what probability. Execution windows and probabilities inevitably change as execution proceeds, but such changes do not invalidate the cached utility distributions; thus, dynamic updating of utility information is minimized.

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