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Bridge Maintenance, Safety, Management, Health Monitoring and Informatics Koh & Frangopol (eds) 2008 Taylor &

p; Francis Group, London, ISBN 978-0-415-46844-2

Artificial Intelligence: Historical Development and Applications in Civil Engineering Field

L. Sgambi
Ph.D., Department of Structural and Geotechnical Engineering, University of Rome La Sapienza

ABSTRACT: Since its initial development, the Artificial Intelligence has found large applicability in the filed of engineering. In particular, the so-called soft computing methods, have been shown to be very effective in the analysis and solution of ill-structured problems. This text examines the historical development of this discipline, with particular reference to the long span suspension bridges analysis.
1 INTRODUCTION The Artificial Intelligence field (AI) collects all studies regarding the understanding and construction of intelligent entities. Mixing up within another disciplines, the study of intelligence and artificial intelligence are at the same time, an ancient and modern science [Russel 1995]. Philosophers in the past (going back to Plato in 400 B.C.) made possible the very concept of artificial intelligence, considering the idea of the mind as somehow a machine that operates on the knowledge codificated by some internal language processes. Nevertheless only with the genesis of computers in the beginning of the fifties, transformed the wise philosophic reflections in a articulated theory and experimental discipline. A turning point of the matter happened with the famous article by Alan Turing on Mind review in 1950. In the article is given a clue about how to create a program to abilitate a computer in order to function in an intelligent manner. The birth of artificial intelligence has been fixed in 1956 when Mc Carthy, along with other researchers as Minsky, Shanno and Rochester, coined the definition in a historical convention at Dartmouth University. The research field of artificial intelligence soon resulted so vast that they couldnt manage to give an universally acceptable definition of the terminology of Artificial Intelligence. Therefore the studies of A.I. are divided in two fields: - The first, called Strong Artificial Intelligence, sustained by functionalists, retain that a computer correctly programmed can be capable of pure intelligence, non distinguished in any significant way from human intelligence. The basic idea of such theory springs from the concept expressed by English empiric philosopher Thomas Hobbes, whom affirmed that reasoning is nothing else but a calculation: hence the human mind should be the result of complexes calculations performed by the brains. - The second, so called Weak Artificial Intelligence, sustain that a computer couldnt ever be capable to equal human mind, but can only level up to simulate some human cognitive processes but never reproducing then in their total complexity. The early seventies see the development of production systems, or programs that exploit a set of knowledge in database, through the application of rules of production, to obtain answers to


precise questions. The Expert Systems substituted the production systems because of the difficulties encountered by the latter, with particular reference to the demand to initially convey knowledge in explicit form and the lack of flexibility of production rules. These systems show the wide possibilities offered for an efficient exploitation of (relatively) few bases of knowledge for programs capable of taking decisions or give advice in many different areas. Practically the data analysis has been rationalized and generalized. Recently many authors suggested various definitions, that can be collected in the following four categories [Russel 1995]: - Systems that think like human beings [Haugeland 1985]. - Systems that operate like human beings [Rich 1991]. - Systems that rationally think [Charniak 1985]. - Systems that rationally perform [Luger 1993]. The AI as currently is being studied, focus on the individuation of models (proper description of a problem to solve) and algorithms (effective procedure to solve the model). Each one of the two aspects (modelization or algorithm) has major or minor importance and variation along a wide spectrum. The activities and capacities of I.A. comprehend: - Automatic learning (machine learning) - The representation of knowledge and automatic reasoning in the same level to the human mind. - Planning - The collaboration between intelligent agents, in software as hardware (robot) - The elaboration of natural language (Natural Language Processing) - The simulation of the vision and interpretation of images, as in OCR case. 2 SOFT-COMPUTING METHODS The concept of soft-computing was introduced by Zadeh in 1994: exploit the tolerance for imprecision, uncertainty and partial truth to achieve tractability, robustness and low solution costs The principal components are fuzzy-logic, neurocomputing and probability reasoning. The reference model for soft-computing is the human mind.

Approximate Reasoning

Functional Approximation Randomized Search

Probabilistic Models

Fuzzy Logics

Neural Networks

Evolutionary Algorithms

Figure 1.soft-computing methods.


Such analysis scheme is hence adapt for resolving problems to which there is no exact solution, or if does exists isnt much complex. The soft-computing techniques are particularly useful to introduce flexibility is artificial systems increasing their intelligence quotient. Currently the main constituents of soft-computing are: Neural networks Evolutive algorithms Learning methods Probability reasoning Fuzzy-logic

The soft-computing cannot be approached as a mix of methods but rather as a partnership where the different members give contribute with different methodologies in order to solve the same problems. The complementarity of different methods has important consequences: often a problem can be solved in much more efficient way using a combination of such methods quoted rather than separated methods. 1.1 Neural Networks The extraordinary diffusion of this method of soft-computing is justifiable if we consider some common characteristics in all net typologies: - The solidity: a neural net is resistant to noise. The answer of a neural net it will still work correctly even if some connections are eliminated or the initial access signal is disturbed. Stronger is the noise, less accurate the answer will be. - The flexibility: a neural net can be employed for a wide number of different goals: it doesnt need to get direct knowledge about the application because it learns from experience itself. The user however must know in detail the solutions which characterize the problem under exam in order to be able to evaluate which neural model results much more appropriated. - The generalization: a neural net, trained on a limited number of examples is able to produce an adequate answer to new access data that presents any similitude to examples treated during the training phase. For such characteristics the neural nets have been employed in several fields: Computer science, Control systems, Financial analysis, Medicine, Neuroscience, Psychology. In the last years the neural net has been applied successfully also in civil engineering and projects ([Garret 1994], [Cauvin 1998], [Issa 2002], [Safi 2004]). In [Arangio 2005] is remarked how neural networks are a very efficient method to solve reverse problems, useful in structural identification field. 1.2 Genetic Algorithms Since their introduction the electronic calculators has been employed not only as machines to speed up calculations but also to build up models which could explain and reproduce the biological characteristics of nature and evolution. If the electronic reproduction of brain behaviour and its way of learning originated neural nets, the simulation of biological evolution gave origin to what nowadays is defined evolutional computation. The first studies on evolutive computer systems have been performed in the fifties and sixties with the purpose of individuating proper mechanisms of biological evolution that could useful as instruments for engineering problems optimization.


The term evolutive strategies was introduced by Rechemberg to indicate the method he employed for the optimization of some aerodynamics structural parameters. Subsequently the field of evolutive strategies considered the interest of other researchers such as Schwefel, Fogel, Atmar, and become a research area with specialized congresses. The genetic algorithms have been introduced and developed by Holland in the sixties with the aim of studying the adaptation phenomena of natural systems and of translating these characteristics within informatics systems. The Hollands genetic algorithm was an abstraction of biological evolution, wherein a chromosome population composed of strings (genes) of allele (value 0 or 1) was evolved in a new population through the intervention of some genetic operators, such as selection, crossover and mutation. The genetic algorithms are by their own nature very flexible and at the same time robust. Such characteristics has allowed their employment in several fields: one of many is of course the optimization of complexes numeric functions. In many cases the genetic algorithms proved to be much more effective than other techniques as for example that of gradient, because the continuous genes mixing through crossover and mutation prevent its stopping in a maximum or minimum local point. Because of their characteristics of flexibility and solidity, the genetic algorithms have been employed in many fields: - Image processing: have been employed to align images of the same area taken in different times or to created an identikit of suspicious persons based on the description of a witness (in such case are generated at first casual faces, and those that much more resemble get to be mixed up till obtain a description, a sketch as much as possible coincident). - Combinatorial optimization: have been effectively employed in all those problems wherein is necessary to get the optimal sequential disposition of a range of objects. - Bin Packing: have been employed in research matters regarding the optimal allocation of limited resources for the best utilization in performance and production. - Machine learning: in I.A. field, the genetic algorithms are often used to instruct the machines on certain problems. - Work Planning: implementing a mix of combinatorial optimization and function optimization the genetic algorithms has been employed also in the project field. Operating without bias, can often prove and find things a human designer couldnt think manage to. In the last years were developed many applications also in civil engineering field. Particularly the genetic algorithms are employed in the field of structural optimization ([Yang 1997], [Biondini 2000]), in the allocation of resources for building problems [Senouci 2004] and in the optimization of road infrastructure and water channel nets [Tolson 2004], [Prasad 2004]. In the field of analysis and planning of long suspension bridges, the genetic algorithms can be employed, other than structural optimization also for better define load scenarios and structural performances [Sgambi et al. 2004].


Roadway vertical load

Railway vertical load

Acceleration - Deceleration load

Wind load

First Generation

Last Generation





1 1 0 Nondimensional Position

1 0

1 Nondimensional Position

Figure 2. Graphical representation of some variables considered and convergence of the railway position variable.

Defined the load scenario through a certain number of variables, and a random population of load scenario, the genetic evolution algorithms selects the worst scenario related to a certain structural performance. In Figure 2 for example is presented the evolution of individuals representing the position of railway load between the first and the last generation. 1.3 Fuzzy Logic The Fuzzy Logic grant the possibility of reproducing the approximate reasoning of human mind. In the traditional computational techniques, decisions are taken based on the results precision therefore on certainty. In soft-computing are considered instead error tolerance and uncertainty. The term fuzzy logic has been introduced by Zadeh in his work in 1965 [Zadeh 1965], but the idea of a third logic state set against the dual-purpose logic (true or false) of Aristotle trace the origin up to the Greek philosopher Plato or in modern times to the philosopher Lukasiewcz.


To the third logic state was given the name possible and, if what is true generally is given the value 1 whether at what is false is given value 0, to what is possible has been assigned a numeric value between 0 and 1. The fuzzy logic grant an opportunity to shape conditions of uncertainty and supply techniques of approximate reasoning. In an interview to Computer Design, Zadeh declared that when he proposed the fuzzy logic in 1965 he expected that the main applications would interest linguistic(philology) and social disciplines. The capacity of treating linguistic variables (like high a and low) and making uncertain reasoning, enable such instrument applicable in all fields of humanistic sciences. In fact the first applications of fuzzy logic happened in engineering field of control systems ( thanks to researchers from Asiatic countries) to afterwards extend to decisional support systems, natural language, recognition of shapes and other several areas. Also in the civil engineering field the fuzzy logic find remarkable applications in such areas as the demand of analysis in presence of uncertainties like control tecniques [Colla 2003], structural reliability ([Chiang 2000], [Biondini 2000], [Migliacci 2000], [Savoia 2002]) and handling uncertainty in materials ([Ferrari 1997], [Provenzano 2000]). Remarkable is the research work and scientific diffusion made by the staff of Prof. Moller from Dresden Civil Engineering University [Moller].

0.02 0.01

Displacement (m)
Output membership function

Time (sec)
0 53 -0.01 -0.02
Envelope curves











-0.03 -0.04

Deterministic analysis Fuzzy analysis

Figure 3. Group of the seismic responses and Qualitative image of the fuzzy response construction.


In the analysis and in the design of long suspension bridges, fuzzy methods can effectively be applied in any study where is present uncertainty. In [Sgambi 2004] is considered a fuzzy seismic action and studied the dynamic response of the structure. The Figure 3 shows the whole spectrum of possible seismic responses and the comparison of a deterministic response and the fuzzy response deduced with the centre of gravity method.

Transversal displacement


Time (sec)
0.00 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65


Deterministic analysis

Fuzzy analysis


Figure 4. Comparison between the fuzzy response and the deterministic response.


This paper considers the analysis and design problem of complex structures as long suspension bridge. In particular one presents the applicability of the soft-computing method to improve the reliability of the analyses. Neural networks, genetic algorithms, fuzzy analyses can be performed to handling the uncertainties involved in the problem and to get a more exhaustive knowledge about the structural behaviour. REFERENCES
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