The ACM Awards the 2011 Turing Prize for Computing to Judea Pearl

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The ACM Turing Award winner for 2011 is Judea Pearl. This computing award has been presented annually since 1966, with multiple recipients in some years. This year’s winner has advanced artificial intelligence by improving the way in which AI programs acquire additional information, among other things. The first winner of the Turing award, Alan Jay Perlis, was well-known for his advances in the area of programming languages.

Judea Pearl won the Turing Award for 2011 in Artificial Intelligence

The most recent ACM Turing Award winner, announced in March 2012, is Judea Pearl. He has “transformed artificial intelligence (AI)…for the processing of information under uncertainty.”

Judea Pearl image from The Big Picture by Vic Rubenfeld

Judea Pearl image from The Big Picture by Vic Rubenfeld

Pearl was born in Tel Aviv. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Israel, his Master’s at Rutgers and his PhD from the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute. He devotes considerable time to the Daniel Pearl Foundation, which promotes cross-cultural understanding in memory of Judea’s son Daniel.

One early approach to artificial intelligence created AI systems by asking experts to write rules; the AI then required precise information about a specific situation in order to apply and follow those rules.

Pearl recognized that experts must also deal with uncertainty. He implemented the mathematics of probability theory as algorithms, or rules, so the AI could represent data and acquire further knowledge.

In addition to probability, Pearl added reasoning about cause and effect to the repertoire of artificial intelligence.

Judea Pearl’s insights and approaches have benefitted robotics and computer vision systems, economics and statistics, and computer processing for natural languages. The latter might perhaps have been closest to Alan Turing’s own interests.

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