Judea Pearl Wins ACM Turing Award For Contributions that Transformed Artificial Intelligence

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Pearl Developed Novel Framework for Reasoning under Uncertainty that Changed How Scientists Approach Real World Problems

Judea Pearl, Winner of 2011 ACM Turing Award

Like Alan Turing himself, Pearl turned his thinking to constructing procedures that might be harnessed to perform tasks traditionally associated iwth human intelligence.

ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery today named Judea Pearl of the University of California, Los Angeles the winner of the 2011 ACM A.M. Turing Award for innovations that enabled remarkable advances in the partnership between humans and machines that is the foundation of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Pearl pioneered developments in probabilistic and causal reasoning and their application to a broad range of problems and challenges. His work serves as the standard method for handling uncertainty in computer systems, with applications ranging from medical diagnosis, homeland security and genetic counseling to natural language understanding and mapping gene expression data. His influence extends beyond artificial intelligence and even computer science, to human reasoning and the philosophy of science.

The ACM Turing Award,widely considered the “Nobel Prize in Computing,” carries a $250,000 prize, with financial support provided by Intel Corporation and Google Inc. It is named for the British mathematician Alan M. Turing, whose 100th anniversary will be celebrated in June at the ACM 2012 Turing Centenary Celebration that includes 34 past Turing Award winners along with Pearl.

“Like Alan Turing himself, Pearl turned his thinking to constructing procedures that might be harnessed to perform tasks traditionally associated with human intelligence,” said Google’s Vint Cerf, Chair of the ACM Turing Centenary.

“Dr. Pearl’s work provided the original paradigm case for how to do statistical AI,” said Dr. Limor Fix, Director of the University Collaborative Research Group, Intel Labs. “By placing structured knowledge representations at the heart of his work, and emphasizing how these representations enabled efficient inference and learning, he showed the field of AI how to build statistical reasoning systems that were actually telling us something about intelligence, not just statistics.”

Alfred Spector, Vice President of Research and Special Initiatives at Google Inc, said, “Before Pearl, early AI systems tended to have more success in domains where things are black and white ‒ like chess, for example. Modern applications of AI, such as robotics, self-driving cars, speech recognition, and machine translation deal with uncertainty. Pearl has been instrumental in supplying the rationale and much valuable technology that allow these applications to flourish.”

Judea Pearl is a professor of computer science at UCLA, where he was director of the Cognitive Systems Laboratory. He is a graduate of the Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology, with a BA degree in Electrical Engineering. In 1965, he received an MS degree in Physics from Rutgers University, and was awarded a Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn.

Pearl is the recipient of the 2012 Harvey Prize in Science and Technology from the Technion, the 2011 Rumelhart Prize from the Cognitive Science Society, and the 2008 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Computers and Cognitive Science from the Franklin Institute. He was presented with the 2003 Allen Newell Award from ACM and the AAAI (Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence). His groundbreaking book on causality won the 2001 Lakatos Award from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Pearl is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of AAAI and the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). He is President of the Daniel Pearl Foundation named after his son.

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