Friday, February 11, 2005

Understanding Fuzzy Logic

One project I am currently working on is trying to bring more sophistication to the training of people who engage in running safety boats for sailboat races. I am offering to help the National Training Coordinator of U S Sailing to develop better course materials. To give you some insight into the process, I think we should compare standard “relay logic” to “fuzzy logic”. Relay logic forms the basis for all binary digital devices (i.e. digital computers). That means a decision making process based on a series of picking one of two alternatives. The basic form is yes-no, either-or, neither-nor etc. Using such a rudimentary system, it is possible to do many magical things. But there are limitations. Such logic doesn’t handle nuance or experience very well. It tends to create blunt, brute force solutions.
So “fuzzy logic” was invented. It assigns weighted values to the decisions. This is an in-between, “maybe” style choice. For illustration, let’s examine a typical question. Should I wear a life jacket on the boat? The relay logic choices are yes and no. But ask any boater and he’ll tell you it “depends”. That is where fuzzy logic comes in! What does it depend on? Well if it’s a nice sunny day with no wind or waves, wearing a life jacket is too oppressive and hot and the threat of drowning is almost non-existent. Therefore, by our fuzzy logic we say no, you don’t have to wear your life jacket today. If the wind is howling and there are breaking waves, we say yes, wear your life jacket. Fuzzy logic in action! But implementing this into a codified law? That is beyond the ken of traditionalist thinkers such as lawyers! To them the world is black or white with no shades of gray! So don’t let lawyers dictate your decisions!


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