When does my Program do this? Learning Circumstances of Software Behavior

Kampmann, Alexander and Havrikov, Nikolas and Ezekiel, Soremekun and Zeller, Andreas
(2020) When does my Program do this? Learning Circumstances of Software Behavior.
In: ESEC/FSE 2020.
Conference: ESEC/FSE - European Software Engineering Conference and the ACM SIGSOFT Symposium on the Foundations of Software Engineering (duplicate was listed as ESEC, removed from DB)
(In Press)

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Abstract

We introduce Alhazen—an approach that automatically determines the circumstances under which a particular program behavior, such as a failure, takes place. Alhazen starts with a run that exhibits this behavior and automatically determines _input features_ associated with the behavior in question: (1) We use a _grammar_ to parse the input into individual elements. (2) We determine _features_ from the elements such as existence, length, or numerical values. (3) We use a decision tree learner to _observe_ and _learn_ which input features are associated with the behavior in question. (4) We use the grammar to _generate additional inputs_ to further strengthen or refute hypotheses as learned associations. (5) By repeating steps 2 to 4, we obtain a _theory_ that explains and predicts the given behavior. In our evaluation using inputs for find, grep, NetHack, and a JavaScript transpiler, the theories produced by Alhazen predict and produce failures with high accuracy and allow developers to focus on a small set of input features: “grep fails whenever the --fixed-strings option is used in conjunction with an empty search string.”

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