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Many decision-making and problem-solving tasks are too complex to be understood quantitatively, however, people succeed by using knowledge that is imprecise rather than precise. Fuzzy set theory, originally introduced by Lotfi Zadeh in the 1960's, resembles human reasoning in its use of approximate information and uncertainty to generate decisions. It was specifically designed to mathematically represent uncertainty and vagueness and provide formalized tools for dealing with the imprecision intrinsic to many problems. By contrast, traditional computing demands precision down to each bit. Since knowledge can be expressed in a more natural by using fuzzy sets, many engineering and decision problems can be greatly simplified.
Fuzzy set theory implements classes or groupings of data with boundaries that are not sharply defined (i.e., fuzzy). Any methodology or theory implementing "crisp" definitions such as classical set theory, arithmetic, and programming, may be "fuzzified" by generalizing the concept of a crisp set to a fuzzy set with blurred boundaries. The benefit of extending crisp theory and analysis methods to fuzzy techniques is the strength in solving real-world problems, which inevitably entail some degree of imprecision and noise in the variables and parameters measured and processed for the application. Accordingly, linguistic variables are a critical aspect of some fuzzy logic applications, where general terms such a "large," "medium," and "small" are each used to capture a range of numerical values. While similar to conventional quantization, fuzzy logic allows these stratified sets to overlap (e.g., a 85 kilogram man may be classified in both the "large" and "medium" categories, with varying degrees of belonging or membership to each group). Fuzzy set theory encompasses fuzzy logic, fuzzy arithmetic, fuzzy mathematical programming, fuzzy topology, fuzzy graph theory, and fuzzy data analysis, though the term fuzzy logic is often used to describe all of these.
Fuzzy logic emerged into the mainstream of information technology in the late 1980's and early 1990's. Fuzzy logic is a departure from classical Boolean logic in that it implements soft linguistic variables on a continuous range of truth values which allows intermediate values to be defined between conventional binary. It can often be considered a superset of Boolean or "crisp logic" in the way fuzzy set theory is a superset of conventional set theory. Since fuzzy logic can handle approximate information in a systematic way, it is ideal for controlling nonlinear systems and for modeling complex systems where an inexact model exists or systems where ambiguity or vagueness is common. A typical fuzzy system consists of a rule base, membership functions, and an inference procedure. Today, fuzzy logic is found in a variety of control applications including chemical process control, manufacturing, and in such consumer products as washing machines, video cameras, and automobiles.