Generic Algorithms

Abstract mathematical structures usually have a large number of models. Algorithms based on operations and laws of such structures therefore have an identical form: they are generic. This means that for each particular instance of the structure, only the basic operations have to be adapted, whereas the overall algorithm remains the same. The simplest and typical problem is the one of sorting. It applies to totally ordered structures with an order relation ≤. Any sorting algorithm can be formulated in terms of the order relation ≤ and it can be adapted to any particular model of an order relation by specifying this relation; for example for integers, real numbers or for a lexicographical order relation of alphanumeric strings. In addition, many programming languages allow for generic programming, i.e. in their syntax they provide the means to formulate generic algorithms and to specialize them to particular instances. In this book, an abstract algebraic structure called valuation algebra is proposed. It provides the foundation to formulate an abstract inference problem, to construct a graphical data structure and a generic inference algorithm to solve the inference problem. Usually, one arrives at such general structures from concrete problems and algorithms by lifting them to their most abstract form. This also holds for the present case. In 1988, Lauritzen and Spiegelhalter (Lauritzen & Spiegelhalter, 1988) proposed an algorithm for solving the ...

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