Sunday, May 22, 2016

Fuzzy Logic: A Primer

Fuzzy logic is a form of many-valued logic in which the truth values of variables may be any real number between 0 and 1, considered to be "fuzzy". By contrast, in Boolean logic, the truth values of variables may only be 0 or 1, often called "crisp" values. Fuzzy logic has been employed to handle the concept of partial truth, where the truth value may range between completely true and completely false.  Furthermore, when linguistic variables are used, these degrees may be managed by specific (membership) functions.

The term fuzzy logic was introduced with the 1965 proposal of fuzzy set theory by Lotfi Zadeh.  Fuzzy logic had however been studied since the 1920s, as infinite-valued logic—notably by Ɓukasiewicz and Tarski.

Fuzzy logic has been applied to many fields, from control theory to artificial intelligence.


Classical logic only permits conclusions which are either true or false. For example, the notion that 1+1=2 is a fundamental mathematical truth. However, there are also propositions with variable answers, such as one might find when asking a group of people to identify a colour. In such instances, the truth appears as the result of reasoning from inexact or partial knowledge in which the sampled answers are mapped on a spectrum.

Humans and animals often operate using fuzzy evaluations in many everyday situations. In the case where someone is tossing an object into a container from a distance, the person does not compute exact values for the object weight, density, distance, direction, container height and width, and air resistance to determine the force and angle to toss the object. Instead the person instinctively applies quick “fuzzy” estimates, based upon previous experience, to determine what output values of force, direction and vertical angle to use to make the toss.

Both degrees of truth and probabilities range between 0 and 1 and hence may seem similar at first. For example, let a 100 ml glass contain 30 ml of water. Then we may consider two concepts: empty and full. The meaning of each of them can be represented by a certain fuzzy set. Then one might define the glass as being 0.7 empty and 0.3 full. Note that the concept of emptiness would be subjective and thus would depend on the observer or designer. Another designer might, equally well, design a set membership function where the glass would be considered full for all values down to 50 ml. It is essential to realize that fuzzy logic uses degrees of truth as a mathematical model of vagueness, while probability is a mathematical model of ignorance.

Comparison to Probability

Fuzzy logic and probability address different forms of uncertainty. While both fuzzy logic and probability theory can represent degrees of certain kinds of subjective belief, fuzzy set theory uses the concept of fuzzy set membership, i.e., how much a variable is in a set (there is not necessarily any uncertainty about this degree), and probability theory uses the concept of subjective probability, i.e., how probable is it that a variable is in a set (it either entirely is or entirely is not in the set in reality, but there is uncertainty around whether it is or is not). The technical consequence of this distinction is that fuzzy set theory relaxes the axioms of classical probability, which are themselves derived from adding uncertainty, but not degree, to the crisp true/false distinctions of classical Aristotelian logic.

Bruno de Finetti argues that only one kind of mathematical uncertainty, probability, is needed, and thus fuzzy logic is unnecessary. However, Bart Kosko shows in Fuzziness vs. Probability that probability theory is a subtheory of fuzzy logic, as questions of degrees of belief in mutually-exclusive set membership in probability theory can be represented as certain cases of non-mutually-exclusive graded membership in fuzzy theory. In that context, he also derives Bayes' theorem from the concept of fuzzy subsethood. Lotfi A. Zadeh argues that fuzzy logic is different in character from probability, and is not a replacement for it. He fuzzified probability to fuzzy probability and also generalized it to possibility theory. (cf.)

More generally, fuzzy logic is one of many different extensions to classical logic intended to deal with issues of uncertainty outside of the scope of classical logic, the inapplicability of probability theory in many domains, and the paradoxes of Dempster-Shafer theory.

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