Saturday, 16 October 2010

Product Liability Covers Fuzzy Logic in Food too!



Updated on 10 December 2010
Just to say that my new washer dryer that does not operate with fuzzy logic is still working!

Fuzzy logic was how my other washer dryer operated. That’s what the engineer told me on 12 October 2010 while he was installing a new loop and probe into my barely just one year old machine (it broke down on the last day of the guarantee period!). I was amused, not only because it sounded dubious, but especially because it was the fourth time an engineer was paying me a visit to install a new part to this particular machine. And unfortunately, after three washes and four drying cycles (which either left the clothes damp or nearly burnt), on the fourth wash cycle, the machine broke down again with the same error code. A code that was previously explained to me to mean that the washer was having trouble talking to the dryer!

So the fifth visit resulted in a wire being re-secured.  The machine worked again... for one week.  Then I got the error code when I tried to turn the machine on!!  Sixth visit came and a new machine was authorised. I went for a simpler one and it works!

Fuzzy logic is derived from a fuzzy theory and fuzzy reasoning that technology works better when it’s not exact. It’s claimed that fuzzy logic is more akin to how humans think, but I wish they’d speak for themselves. In other words, I don’t like to be accused of fuzzy thinking!

I’m not going to name the maker or outlet where I purchased my washer dryer because this is not about them. It’s also not about the seven out of eleven mechanical/computerised products I’ve bought over the past two years that have broken down (luckily for me, mostly within the warranty period). The reason I am writing about this on my blog, which is about food, is because of some people’s insistence that technology in the food industry is absolutely a good thing (not fuzzy about it at all) that ought to be pursued further regardless of indications to the contrary. If food reacts to technology the way my washer dryer has been reacting over the past year, I would predict that we are all in for a lot more visits to the doctor in the future.

But yes, fuzzy logic appears to be the going trend these days.  Computers, kitchen appliances, gadgets, cars, food, either with computerised parts or made using computers, are more and more being operated and manufactured with fuzzy logic. And more and more, new products are breaking down – good for insurers, but hardly good for the rest of us (or the environment).

And fuzzy logic is being used in the food industry. Not only because of the extent that machines and computers are relied upon, but to extend the meaning just a little ... anything that is solely justified by using scientific research is based on a type of fuzzy logic. For an example, I’ll use the issue of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). As mentioned in a previous article on GMO terminology, GMOs are a technological product. Scientists cannot tell for sure where genes that are forced into cells are going to go, but they use fuzzy reasoning to determine that the genes will go approximately where they are intended to go and thereby produce the intended result (more or less).  This is based on the fuzzy theory that this is how nature works.  In this respect, many humans do seem to use fuzzy thinking.

But rest assured, in the UK, Defra advised that "existing product liability laws will apply to GM products as they do now to non-GM products."  Go to Defra's website to find answers to many other questions about GMOs, but for the most part I found them to be at best shortsighted.  If you are in the US, not to worry, it appears from a Lexology article that "[a] looseleaf reference book titled Products Liability: Design and Manufacturing Defects, 2d has been updated with sections considering legal issues relating to genetically modified (GM) foods."  So the English and Americans at least will have legal recourse if GM products start acting like my washer dryer.

Referring back to my washer dryer that didn't seem to have a clue on how to work, I know I want to avoid fuzzy logical manipulations to my food. How about you? If you agree with me and haven’t already done so, why not sign a ‘No to GMOs’ petition, just for the fuzzy logic of it!