The World Looks To Be Binary

The world seems binary for a reason and people make a mistake when they think that’s the only way to go. Yes/no, right/wrong thinking limits you.

Many years ago I had a chiropractor who, on behalf of the WSIB (Workers Compensation,) had gone into testing people for malingering. The essence was  people who have muscularity injuries seem not to know that muscles come in pairs. Bicep/tricep for example. His equipment used the pair idea to find relative strengths and to identify real injuries and the not so real too.

There are many binary situations we could think about

There is an advantage to binary thoughts. They’re simple. By examining both sides, people get a sense of depth in their thinking.

Some examples:

  • Heaven and Hell
  • Good and Bad
  • Up and Down
  • Assets and Liabilities
  • One and Zero

Our philosophy

Our academic logic system is derived from the thinking of the ancient Greek philosophers. Aristotle, in particular, dealt with true and false, and the necessary implication of what is known as “The excluded middle.” A thing must be true or false. Not neither and not both. That is useful for purposes of logic games and perhaps for teaching, but no one actually uses it when thinking. Even computers can think more subtlety than that.

The world establishes both sides, but actionable truth lies in combining them.

An advance

In the 1960s, Berkley computer scientist, Lotfi Zadeh proposed an alternative – Fuzzy Logic. Fuzzy logic operates on the idea of weighted truth. While seeming to contradict the idea of true and false, it is useful in our world.

Consider the idea of a log beside a fire. Is it a chair? Clearly not. Is it not a chair? Not so clear.

It has a certain “chairness” Fuzzy logic lets you think about ideas like chairness, tipping, slowing, and many others. When we think about how we think, sharp boundaries like those surrounding truth and false are seen to be not valuable.

Computers have been using the technique for decades, and people for millennia.

Take something like handwriting or voice recognition. If we are restricted to deciding a given symbol is either R or Not R, a computer without fuzzy logic, will always say Not if looking at my handwriting. How does it adjust for speakers from Texas and from Boston? By assigning probability assessments to what it finds and fitting the weight of those to other weightings it has available from context. Then the decision and the output. Usually right but not 100%

The technique is found in many products we use every day. Autonomous vehicles will use the theory. Fighter jets can land on their own. Washing machines can decide the “dirtiness” of the clothes and adjust the process to account for what it finds. Do you have antilock brakes, an automatic transmission, engines that optimize fuel usage, a dishwasher, or a microwave oven? You have fuzzy logic working for you.

The technique was first dismissed in the West.

It was first used in Korea and Japan. How did they see the potential early opportunity when others rejected it? It has to do with our understanding of logic. In Asia, the idea of the excluded middle is not so clearly defined. If you ask a Japanese thinker what is the opposite of true, the answer is likely to be not true. False is not the opposite of true, unless you have the law of the excluded middle.

You can see how the idea of weighted truth could fit more easily there.

The bullet train was one of the first applications. By using rate of speed change and other factors, the train can come to a stop within inches of its target with almost zero noticeable deceleration. Fuzzy logic permits very refined control systems. On or off is a blunt instrument by comparison.

People are attracted to success and the method is used extensively in the West now.

How good is it at control?

Many of us will recall balancing a baseball bat on its end in the palm of our hand. Not especially difficult. A little practice and you’re good to go. Did you ever think about how hard it would be to balance two stacked bats? I never did, because I would have dismissed it as ridiculous question in the first 3/10ths of a second.

A fuzzy logic robot can balance three. Fuzzy logic permits immensely fine adjustments.

That refinement will lead to more and more sophisticated possibilities. Look forward to them.

The takeaway

Computer chips can make decisions thousands of times a second. That allows better control.

Better control creates better efficiency. You may have noticed gas mileage is different now from what t was 50 years ago. I have a 4,200 pound car with a 3.6 liter engine that gets better gas mileage than my first car – a 2000 pound MGB with a 1.6 liter engine. Some of that improvement is from fuzzy logic.

Better control permits new technology. Do you think 3-D Printing will improve and become less costly?

Are there things coming like the replicator on Star Trek’s Enterprise? Likely not soon.

Finding better ways to think and identify and use nuance improves our life.

Never accept sharp edged positions no matter which of them you believe is true. Truth lies in the subtlety.


I help people have more retirement income and larger, more liquid estates.

Call in Canada 705-927-4770, or email don@moneyfyi.com

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