Thursday, May 10, 2012

Is It Possible to Live without Facebook?

I will find out. I deactivated my Facebook account. (FB does not make it easy to locate the deactivate command.) I was spending much too much time on Facebook. And I constantly had to resist -- often unsuccessfully -- responding to posts that I found provocative. I think there are better forums ("fora"?) for discussion of public (& philosophical) issues. For example, books and blogs. But we will see. I don't want to be antisocial for the sake of being antisocial.

N.B. I never will Twitter. 

Postscript: I kept my Google+ account. It strikes me as more meaty and less gossipy. (I am a serious fellow, probably too serious.)

Now I will find other ways to waste time.


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Peter Norvig: Video: The State of Modern AI

The Tech Chronicles: Video: Google’s Peter Norvig on the modern state of AI  SFGate (no date given).


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Is "Reliability" of Expert & Scientific Evidence Sufficient?

Source: Legal Informatics Blog, :

Edmond on The Law Commission and Expert Evidence

Professor Dr. Gary Edmond of the University of New South Wales Faculty of Law has published Is reliability sufficient? The Law Commission and expert evidence in international and interdisciplinary perspective (Part 1), International Journal of Evidence and Proof, 16(1), 30-65 (2012). Here is the abstract:
This article offers a critical appraisal of the Law Commission‘s Report, Expert Evidence in Criminal Proceedings in England and Wales (2011), and related proposals for reform. Drawing upon interdisciplinary research and empirical studies from other common law jurisdictions it suggests that the introduction of a reliability-based admissibility standard for expert opinion evidence, even in conjunction with provision for recourse to court-appointed experts, is unlikely to generate the kinds of changes required to improve the quality of incriminating forensic science and medicine evidence or align criminal justice practice with espoused goals and principles.


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Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Off-Topic: In Memoriam: Richard Lugar: Statesman

The word is much overused, but Richard Lugar is a statesman. He should be proud for having contributed much to world peace and the world's welfare. And he should have been President. He also should have been a Nobel Peace Prize winner, a prize he would have gotten the old-fashioned way: by earning it. (Perhaps the latter achievement remains within his grasp?)



"Much of Lugar's work in the Senate is toward the dismantling of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons around the world."


"Lugar has been influential in gaining Senate ratification of treaties to reduce the world's use, production and stockpiling of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. In 1991, he initiated a partnership with then-Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sam Nunn aiming to eliminate latent weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union.[5] To date, the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program has deactivated more than 7,500 nuclear warheads. In 2004, Senators Lugar and Nunn were jointly awarded the Heinz Awards Chairman's Medal for their efforts.[48]"



It is lamentable that a person who possibly helped to avert nuclear catastrophe(s) does not get adequate political credit for doing so. (What would "adequate credit" for such an enormous accomplishment be?)


"In 1986, Lugar's leadership on legislation that imposed economic and political sanctions on South Africa marked a turning point in the U.S. response to apartheid and represents one of Lugar's finest moments in the Senate. He helped persuade the Reagan administration to embrace a more forceful role in opposing apartheid. That same year, he also helped persuade the Reagan administration to recognize Corazon Aquino as the winner of the disputed presidential election in the Philippines against incumbent Ferdinand Marcos."


Sen. Lugar’s Remarks to Supporters, Prepared Follow-Up

"If Mr. Mourdock is elected, I want him to be a good Senator. But that will require him to revise his stated goal of bringing more partisanship to Washington. He and I share many positions, but his embrace of an unrelenting partisan mindset is irreconcilable with my philosophy of governance and my experience of what brings results for Hoosiers in the Senate. In effect, what he has promised in this campaign is reflexive votes for a rejectionist orthodoxy and rigid opposition to the actions and proposals of the other party. His answer to the inevitable roadblocks he will encounter in Congress is merely to campaign for more Republicans who embrace the same partisan outlook. He has pledged his support to groups whose prime mission is to cleanse the Republican party of those who stray from orthodoxy as they see it.

"This is not conducive to problem solving and governance. And he will find that unless he modifies his approach, he will achieve little as a legislator. Worse, he will help delay solutions that are totally beyond the capacity of partisan majorities to achieve. The most consequential of these is stabilizing and reversing the Federal debt in an era when millions of baby boomers are retiring. There is little likelihood that either party will be able to impose their favored budget solutions on the other without some degree of compromise.

"Unfortunately, we have an increasing number of legislators in both parties who have adopted an unrelenting partisan viewpoint. This shows up in countless vote studies that find diminishing intersections between Democrat and Republican positions. Partisans at both ends of the political spectrum are dominating the political debate in our country. And partisan groups, including outside groups that spent millions against me in this race, are determined to see that this continues. They have worked to make it as difficult as possible for a legislator of either party to hold independent views or engage in constructive compromise. If that attitude prevails in American politics, our government will remain mired in the dysfunction we have witnessed during the last several years. And I believe that if this attitude expands in the Republican Party, we will be relegated to minority status. Parties don’t succeed for long if they stop appealing to voters who may disagree with them on some issues.

"Legislators should have an ideological grounding and strong beliefs identifiable to their constituents. I believe I have offered that throughout my career. But ideology cannot be a substitute for a determination to think for yourself, for a willingness to study an issue objectively, and for the fortitude to sometimes disagree with your party or even your constituents. Like Edmund Burke, I believe leaders owe the people they represent their best judgment.

"Too often bipartisanship is equated with centrism or deal cutting. Bipartisanship is not the opposite of principle. One can be very conservative or very liberal and still have a bipartisan mindset. Such a mindset acknowledges that the other party is also patriotic and may have some good ideas. It acknowledges that national unity is important, and that aggressive partisanship deepens cynicism, sharpens political vendettas, and depletes the national reserve of good will that is critical to our survival in hard times. Certainly this was understood by President Reagan, who worked with Democrats frequently and showed flexibility that would be ridiculed today – from assenting to tax increases in the 1983 Social Security fix, to compromising on landmark tax reform legislation in 1986, to advancing arms control agreements in his second term.

I don’t remember a time when so many topics have become politically unmentionable in one party or the other. Republicans cannot admit to any nuance in policy on climate change. Republican members are now expected to take pledges against any tax increases. For two consecutive Presidential nomination cycles, GOP candidates competed with one another to express the most strident anti-immigration view, even at the risk of alienating a huge voting bloc. Similarly, most Democrats are constrained when talking about such issues as entitlement cuts, tort reform, and trade agreements. Our political system is losing its ability to even explore alternatives. If fealty to these pledges continues to expand, legislators may pledge their way into irrelevance. Voters will be electing a slate of inflexible positions rather than a leader.

I hope that as a nation we aspire to more than that. I hope we will demand judgment from our leaders. I continue to believe that Hoosiers value constructive leadership. I would not have run for office if I did not believe that.
As someone who has seen much in the politics of our country and our state, I am able to take the long view. I have not lost my enthusiasm for the role played by the United States Senate. Nor has my belief in conservative principles been diminished. I expect great things from my party and my country. I hope all who participated in this election share in this optimism." Source:



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Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Lotfi Zadeh on Misconceptions about Fuzzy Logic

Lotfi A. Zadeh Mon, May 7, 2012 at 8:45 PM

Berkeley Initiative in Soft Computing (BISC)

Dear members of the BISC [Berkeley Initiative on Soft Computing] Group:

Sometimes labels are misleading. This applies to fuzzy logic. There are many kinds of logical
systems, some going back to antiquity and some of recent vintage. Among them are: 
Aristotelian logic, modal logic, deontic logic, multivalued logic, dynamic logic, probabilistic logic,
etc. A common misconception is that fuzzy logic is a member of this list. This is not the case.
Fuzzy logic is much broader than a logical system. Basically, fuzzy logic, FL, is a system of 
reasoning, modeling and computation. FL has four principal facets. First, the relational facet,
FLr. This facet is centered on fuzzy relations, fuzzy if-then rules, fuzzy systems analysis and 
fuzzy decision-analysis. Most applications of fuzzy logic relate to this facet. The most visible 
application area is fuzzy control. Second, the epistemic facet, FLe. This facet is concerned 
with knowledge representation, linguistic variables, possibility theory, search and natural 
languages. Third, the fuzzy-set-theoretic facet, FLs. This facet is focused on the theory of 
fuzzy sets. Fourth, the logical facet, FLl. In this facet, and only in this facet, fuzzy logic is 
viewed as a logical system. To differentiate between FL and FLl, FL and FLl are referred to 
as fuzzy logic in a wide sense and fuzzy logic in a narrow sense, respectively. Today, when 
we discuss fuzzy logic, it should be understood that we are talking about fuzzy logic in a wide 
sense, unless stated to the contrary. Equating FL to its logical facet, FLl, is a common 
misconception. This misconception is a source of a great deal of misunderstanding about 
what fuzzy logic is and what it has to offer.

In science and engineering, precision is respected and imprecision is not. What is widely
unrecognized is that in many important applications of fuzzy logic imprecision is deliberate.
The underlying rationale is the following. In most real-world problems there is some tolerance
for imprecision. Fuzzy logic exploits this tolerance for imprecision through the use of words in
place of numbers. Resulting in lower costs and greater simplicity. This is a key idea which
underlies Computing with Words (CWW). This idea is one of the most important features of
fuzzy logic, and it is unique to fuzzy logic.

In CWW, concepts and techniques drawn from the realm of natural languages play an
important role. Natural languages are intrinsically imprecise. In CWW, the accent is on
problem-solving rather than on axiomatics and precisely defined concepts. There is a rationale
for this attitude -- a rationale which is embodied in the Impossibility Principle. Briefly, the
Impossibility Principle states that as the complexity of a system increases, a point is reached
beyond which precision and relevance become incompatible. An example which I employed in
my earlier messages, March 23, 24 and April 4, 2011, is the taxicab problem. The taxicab
problem is a convenient platform for introduction of two basic concepts--the concepts of
p-validity (provable validity) and f-validity (fuzzy validity).

I hail a taxicab and ask the driver to take me from address A, where I am, to address B. There 
are two versions: (a) I ask the driver to take me to B the shortest way; and (b) I ask the driver 
to take me to B the fastest way. Abstractly, the street map is assumed to be a graph, and the 
problem is to move from node A to node B. Each link (block) is assumed to be associated with 
a constant, l, the length of the link, and a random variable, t, the traversal time. The traversal 
time, t, is assumed to depend on the time at which the taxicab enters the link.

Version (a) has a p-valid solution. The route that the driver chooses is an f-valid solution. 

Version (b) has an f-valid solution which is the route that the driver takes. Version (b) does not 
have a p-valid solution because we have no way of minimizing the sum of not-well-defined 
random variables. In summary, Version (a) is a tractable problem whereas Version (b) is an 
intractable problem.

An analogy is helpful. Assume that I want to reach the peak of a mountain. I start by driving a 

car toward the mountain. At some point, I cannot proceed further because of rough terrain. To 
proceed further, I use a mule. Eventually, I reach a point beyond which I have to proceed on 

Using a car in the first leg of my trip is analogous to the use of tools which are provided by 

traditional bivalent-logic-based mathematics. Classes are assumed to be crisp, that is, have 
sharp boundaries. Let us refer to the tools which I use as Modality 1. The second leg is 
analogous to the use of tools based on fuzzy logic. Classes are assumed to have unsharp 
boundaries which are precisely defined via membership functions. Broadly speaking, we 
employ what may be labeled fuzzy mathematics. Call it Modality 2. In the third leg, the 
machineries of traditional mathematics and fuzzy mathematics cease to be effective. Classes 
have unsharp boundaries which are not precisely defined. This is the world of everyday 
reasoning. What we employ may be viewed as quasi-mathematics--a kind of mathematics 
which I describe very briefly in my 2009 note on "Toward Extended Fuzzy Logic--A First Step," 
Fuzzy Sets and Systems 160, 3175-3181. Call this Modality 3. The taxicab problem, Version 
(b), falls within Modality 3.

Given a real-world problem, P, what modality does it fall into? The answer depends on how 

P is modeled. Idealization of an intractable problem may make it a tractable problem. This is 
common practice when we are faced with an intractable problem which we want to solve 
through the use of traditional mathematics.

    What I said above carries an important message. You should not assume that every problem 

that we are faced with falls into Modality 1, that is, can be solved through the use of traditional 
mathematics. Rigor and precision carry a price.



Lotfi A. Zadeh 
Professor Emeritus
Director, Berkeley Initiative in Soft Computing (BISC) 

729 Soda Hall #1776
Computer Science Division
Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences
University of California 
Berkeley, CA 94720-1776 
Tel.(office): (510) 642-4959 
Fax (office): (510) 642-1712 
Tel.(home): (510) 526-2569 
Fax (home): (510) 526-2433 

BISC Homepage URLs


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