Work on Causality Causes Judea Pearl to Win Prize

by Leigh Anne Varney on March 16, 2012

By Don Clark

Humans have always made inferences about causes and effects, sometimes based on scanty information. Many machines do now, too, and Judea Pearl is frequently cited as a cause.

The computer scientist on Thursday is being named as the latest recipient of the high-prestige Turing Award, which is awarded annually by the Association of Computing Machinery. It comes with a $250,000 prize, provided with financial support from Google and Intel.  Pearl, a professor emeritus at the University of California at Los Angeles, is credited by the ACM with developing key theoretical foundations in the field known as artificial intelligence.

To Vint Cerf, the Internet pioneer who now works at Google and helped lead the award-selection process, the importance of Pearl’s work is not artificial but extremely practical–underlying many kinds of widely used technology, including speech-recognition systems, machine translation and the way Google serves up ads to Web surfers based on partial evidence it gleans about their interests.

“Most significantly, his work was looked at with great skepticism by many colleagues,” says Cerf, a past Turing award winner himself. “But he persisted in the face of skepticism and ultimately the work was of stunning value.”

Read the article by Don Clark

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