WhiteMech: White-box Self-Programming Mechanisms, ERC Advanced Grant
We are witnessing an increasing availability of mechanisms that operate in nondeterministic (uncertain) environments and offer some form of programmability. These include manufacturing devices, smart objects and spaces, intelligent robots, dynamic business process management systems, and many others. All these mechanisms are currently being revolutionized by advancements in sensing (vision, language understanding) and actuation components (autonomous mobile manipulators, automated storage and retrieval systems). However, such mechanisms are held back by the fact that their logic is still based on hard-wired rules encoded in hand-crafted programs. The ERC Advanced Grant WhiteMech (No. 834228) aims at developing the science and the tools for a new generation of mechanisms to emerge: mechanisms that are able to program themselves, automatically tailor their behavior so as to achieve desired goals, maintain themselves within safe boundaries in a changing environment, and follow regulations and conventions that evolve over time. Crucially, empowering mechanisms with self-programming carries significant risks and therefore we must be able to balance power with safety. For this reason WhiteMech intends to realize mechanisms that are white-box, that is, whose behavior is at any moment fully analyzable and comprehensible in human terms, and guarded by human oversight. Remarkable recent discoveries by the applicant in Reasoning about Action and Generalized Planning in Artificial Intelligence, and their connections to Verification and Synthesis in Formal Methods, and Data-Aware Processes in Databases, chart an unanticipated novel path to produce a breakthrough in realizing powerful self-programming mechanisms, while keeping them human- comprehensible and safe by design. WhiteMech will ground its scientific results upon three driving applications: smart manufacturing (Industry 4.0), smart spaces (IoT) and business process management systems (BPM).