When I bought my first and only rice cooker a decade ago, many of the higher rated models bragged about fuzzy logic technology. Fuzzy rice? I like fluffy rice, but not so sure about fuzzy.

Even though I didn’t really understand it at the time of purchase, the reviews sold me that this genius intuitive technology would result in the perfectly cooked rice I desired. And it did.

However I still wanted to know more about it, mainly why is it called fuzzy?

First the name. A crisp relation represents presence or absence of association, interaction or interconnection between elements of ≥ 2 sets. Therefore, if it isn’t a crisp relation – not a straight defined process – it is a case of a fuzzy relation.

Fuzzy-logic rice cookers have computer chips that direct their ability to make proper adjustments to cooking time and temperature. Unlike basic rice cookers, which complete tasks in a single-minded, mechanical manner, the process behind the fuzzy-logic rice cookers is actually based on math.

In contrast to the Boolean logic where the truth values of variables may only be the integer values 0 or 1, fuzzy logic is a form of many-valued logic.

The fuzzy sets theory, first proposed by UC Berkeley professor Lotfi Zadeh in 1965, laid the groundwork for fuzzy logic. Fuzzy sets theory has to do with mathematical sets. An element either belongs to the set or it doesn’t. For example, a sparrow would belong to a set of birds, but a bat wouldn’t. In fuzzy logic, though, elements can belong to sets in varying degrees. This might make the taxonomists among us start to twitch.

Fuzzy logic is basically a way to program machines so they look at the world in a more human way, with degrees of truth. This makes me think of a “white lie.”

Using numbers, it incorporates non-definitive words like “slightly” or “almost” into its decision-making processes. As a result, the use of fuzzy logic in rice cookers helps to ensure properly cooked rice because it gives the appliances the ability to make judgment calls similar to those a person might make. It is fair to say those decisions might be better than those a hungry, impatient person might make.

Using fuzzy logic, different logic values can be assigned. Variables between the extremes of zero and one are closer to the concept of probability, which means there is a major correlation between the science of probability and fuzzy logic. However, fuzzy logic refers to intensity of truth, while probability refers to likelihood.

Fuzzy logic is not limited to kitchen appliances. It has been applied to many fields, from control theory to artificial intelligence to healthcare technology.

Melody K. Smith

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