Can Fuzzy Logic Bring Complex Problem Into Focus

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In modeling complex environmental problems, we often fail to make precise statements about inputs and outcome. In this case the fuzzy logic method native to the human mind provides a useful way to get at these problems.

Fuzzy logic has become a common way of dealing with information in a number of fields, such as control theory, smart machines, investment analysis and so on. But the application of fuzzy sets can and has been extended to environmental science and policy. For anyone who has worked on health and environmental issues, it becomes immediately obvious that we deal constantly with fuzzy concepts—hazard, acceptable, safe, etc. Even concepts such as carcinogen and neurotoxin define fuzzy sets whose members are selected by experts who review and make judgments on conflicting toxicology or epidemiology. In spite of their relevance and early efforts to promote their use in risk assessment2, fuzzy logic applications are still rare in risk assessment or other environmental assessments.

In this paper we consider whether and how fuzzy logic and fuzzy arithmetic apply to risk assessment and environmental policy. We use a case study assessment of water quality in the Ganga river of India to illustrate this evaluation. Our goal is to consider whether and how much this approach can be applied more broadly for environmental assessments.

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