Summary
A hierarchical control system (HCS) is a form of control system in which a set of devices and governing software is arranged in a hierarchical tree. When the links in the tree are implemented by a computer network, then that hierarchical control system is also a form of networked control system. A human-built system with complex behavior is often organized as a hierarchy. For example, a command hierarchy has among its notable features the organizational chart of superiors, subordinates, and lines of organizational communication. Hierarchical control systems are organized similarly to divide the decision making responsibility. Each element of the hierarchy is a linked node in the tree. Commands, tasks and goals to be achieved flow down the tree from superior nodes to subordinate nodes, whereas sensations and command results flow up the tree from subordinate to superior nodes. Nodes may also exchange messages with their siblings. The two distinguishing features of a hierarchical control system are related to its layers. Each higher layer of the tree operates with a longer interval of planning and execution time than its immediately lower layer. The lower layers have local tasks, goals, and sensations, and their activities are planned and coordinated by higher layers which do not generally override their decisions. The layers form a hybrid intelligent system in which the lowest, reactive layers are sub-symbolic. The higher layers, having relaxed time constraints, are capable of reasoning from an abstract world model and performing planning. A hierarchical task network is a good fit for planning in a hierarchical control system. Besides artificial systems, an animal's control systems are proposed to be organized as a hierarchy. In perceptual control theory, which postulates that an organism's behavior is a means of controlling its perceptions, the organism's control systems are suggested to be organized in a hierarchical pattern as their perceptions are constructed so.
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