Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Computing with Words? What Is That All About?

Shahram Rahimi, Fred Petry & Elham S. Khorasani, CALL FOR PAPERS (2011) for  Special issue on Computing with Words, International Journal of Intelligent Information Technologies:
The “computing with words (CW)” was first introduced in 1996 by Zadeh as: A computational system in which the objects of computations are words and propositions drawn from natural language. It is inspired by the human remarkable capability to perform a wide variety of physical and mental tasks without any measurements or computations.
There may be no more innovative and daring thinker in the last 50 years than Professor Lotfi Zadeh. Think of it: having invented fuzzy set theory (and fuzzy probability,  etc.), Zadeh was not content. Late in life -- in 1996 -- he proposes "computing with words." Long before 1996, the thesis that our words and concepts make our world had fallen into disrepute in many corners of academia. Zadeh was not deterred. He asserted and asserts that words harbor knowledge and that if we can master that knowledge we can (sometimes? always?) get along in our world without measuring things.

There is, dear Legal Reader, something (quite a bit, I think) to the idea that human beings use words to "compute." If words are surrogates for concepts and ideas and if human beings use "ordinary" concepts (words) to calculate how they shall wend their way through this world of ours, there is nothing so very strange about the idea that human beings "compute with words." In our ordinary lives, this notion of computing with words is not really so strange: We use ordinary ideas (language) to understand and contend with our world. 

But wait! What about science? What about F = MA and all that? And not just science. What about those pictures we form in our heads about the way things stand and work in the world -- ideas and pictures such as "up," "down," "afterward," and so on? What about the pictures we form in our minds of the plumbing beneath our kitchen sinks when we tackle the job of unplugging some drain? All of this knowledge is just a matter of words? Is it also (at least) also a matter of images (or, in any event, something other than [mere?] words)?

We must, I think, find some way to reconcile and accommodate both the kind of knowledge we have and use when we use picture-thinking (and calculus etc.?) and the kind of knowledge that is unquestionably (I think) built into at least some of our "ordinary" (non-spatial? non-mathematical?) language and thought.

Well, there is plainly much, much more to be said about all of this. And some of it will be said, I think, at QJustice2012 in Lisbon, Portugal, May 22-24, 2012. (Come one, come all! Write Rainhard Bengez bengez (at) or me peter.tillers (at) for more information.) Professor Lotfi Zadeh himself will participate (by videolink) in QJustice2012. And so will one or two people -- for example, Joseph Halpern of Cornell -- who disagree with Zadeh on some important points.


The dynamic evidence page
Evidence marshaling software MarshalPlan
It's here: the law of evidence on Spindle Law. See also this post and this post.
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