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Making Vagueness Into an Exact Science

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University of Aberdeen computer scientist Kees van Deemter

"Vagueness is inherent in how we communicate in our day-to-day lives," says Kees van Deemter of the Department of Computing Science, University of Aberdeen.

Credit: University of Aberdeen

Aberdeen University computer scientist Kees van Deemter is creating a system that would be able to understand the meaning of vague phrases.

Vagueness is a key part of everyday communication, according to van Deemter, who notes that advertisers might use a word such as "powerful" to describe a product, or politicians might use the term "failing schools" in a speech. Although the average person on the street would have a good understanding of "wind speed" if it was described as "strong," the exact figure would not mean much to the person. However, computers would understand the number.

Van Deemter is developing computer systems that would use exact figures as well as vague words. "What is more, they need to be able to make that judgment call: whether to be fully precise, or to sacrifice some precision, in order to be understood better," he says.

From Aberdeen Press and Journal (Scotland)
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