The Gradual Arrival of Fuzziness in Switzerland

TitleThe Gradual Arrival of Fuzziness in Switzerland
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsPortmann, E
JournalArchives for the Philosophie and History of Soft Computing

Switzerland is renowned for many things: the mountains, Heidi, chocolate, bank accounts, the punctuality of public transport and, of course, (pretty expensive) high quality watches. However, Switzerland is probably most famous for exactness and accuracy, influencing Swiss mentalities and everyday life. Legend has it, that is to say, that in Switzerland you can set the watch by the trains ? something unheard of in any other European country ?, and that a minor delay of a local train can make it into the newspapers. Precision is the key to the sophisticated workmanship of the Swiss watchmaking industry, and accurate clocks are unquestionably vital to a reliable public transport system. To sum up: Attributes such as accuracy, exactness, and reliability are held in high esteem all over Swiss society and are supposed to be part of a particular Swiss national and cultural identity. This contributes to a profound uneasiness about things or ideas that cannot be detected by measurement or will not be described appropriately by the means of preciseness. Similarly, the scientific disciplines of the Swiss research community, especially the natural and social sciences as well as engineering and computing, tended (and still tends) to underestimate factors and phenomena that cannot be described adequately by anything else but terms and models relying on exactitude and unequivocalness. Of course, this does not apply only to Swiss researchers, but, apparently, in Switzerland it was especially difficult to take up concepts such as the fuzzy set theory developed by Lotfi Zadeh. As we all know, this theory takes into account a distinct logic of vagueness, inexactness, uncertainty and indetermination [Zadeh, 1965], which seems to be diametrically opposed to a quite static view of the world based on accuracy. Nevertheless, fuzzy set theory found its way into Swiss computer sciences, too, jolting the beliefs and convictions of Swiss scientists ? albeit rather late as in the most European countries the reception of Zadeh?s ideas started much earlier [Arguelles Mendéz & Seising, 2015; Seising, 2005; Seising, 2009]. This slightly belated gradual arrival of fuzziness in Switzerland is the topic of this article. Based on the example of the Swiss Academy of Natural Sciences, the first part takes a look at the history of accuracy in Swiss research. The second part focuses on the fuzzy pioneers in Switzerland. Referring to the Swiss service industry, the third part elaborates on fuzzy marketing and management research, currently gaining traction in Switzerland. A brief conclusion completes this short history of the propagation of fuzzy set theory in Switzerland.