Fuzzy Future

Bart Kosko, Author Harmony $25 (353p) ISBN 978-0-609-60446-5
Kosko's Fuzzy Thinking (1993) explained to laypeople the provenance and uses of ""fuzzy logic,"" a technique of mathematics and engineering that takes into account approximations, half-truths and good guesses about states of affairs that can't be evaluated well in black-and-white terms. Kosko's very readable followup applies ""fuzziness"" to government, economics and wars (""Fuzzy Politics""); to physics, chemistry and biology (""Fuzzy Science""); and to computers (""Fuzzy Digital Culture""). Sometimes fuzziness, as Kosko explains it, seems mostly an excuse to connect useful, brief explanations of concepts already known by other names. His application of ""fuzz"" to culture and history, for instance, may strike some readers as coals to Newcastle: a square with four corners (liberal, conservative, libertarian, populist) certainly explains political ideology better than a mere left-right continuum, but is the idea really Kosko's? His explanations of neural networks, entropy and statistical approximation, on the other hand, will give lay readers handy descriptions of important and hard-to-grasp concepts. ""Fuzzy logic"" in computer science and engineering have helped machines approximate the seat-of-the-pants, rule-of-thumb decision making humans already accomplish. A provocative final chapter promotes the idea that digital networks will be able to hold our own (still-fuzzy) consciousnesses, putting an end to human death: ""Biology is not destiny for the minds that will follow us.... Chips are destiny."" The breezy, self-assured style of Kosko's chapters contrasts sharply with his meticulous footnotes; readers with some background in areas Kosko covers will want to read both together. Nine b&w illustrations. Author tour. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 01/04/1999
Release date: 01/01/1999
Genre: Nonfiction
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