Judea Pearl 370.
(photo credit: Danielpearl.org)
LOS ANGELES – Judea Pearl is the winner of an award, best known as the “Nobel
Prize in Computing,” for his path-breaking innovations in artificial intelligence
– the discipline probing the partnership between humans and robotic
Pearl’s selection for the Turing Award, which carries a
$250,000 prize, is slated to be announced Thursday in New York by the
Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).
The award recognizes Pearl’s
work, which “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,” according to the ACM
Pearl’s specialty, artificial intelligence, or AI, is the
subfield of computer science that aims to discover the fundamental building
blocks of thought, creativity, imagination and language – those elements of the
mind that make us intelligent.
A professor emeritus at the University of
California, Los Angeles, Pearl, 75, devotes half of his working schedule to
teaching a class at UCLA, guiding PhD students, and his research.
other half is devoted to the Daniel Pearl Foundation, headed and established by
him and his wife, Ruth, following the 2002 kidnapping and murder of their son
Daniel, a Wall Street Journal reporter, by Muslim extremists in
Among the foundation’s projects are an annual worldwide music
day and a fellowship program for journalists from Muslim countries.
Pearl was born and raised in Bnei Brak, received his bachelor’s degree from the
Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, and graduate degrees from Rutgers
University and the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn.
Pearl was notified
of his selection for the Turing Award – named in honor of British mathematician
Alan M. Turing – while preparing for a trip to Israel, where he will receive the
Harvey Prize in Science and Technology at the Technion.
The Harvey Prize
carries a $75,000 honorarium, which, he said, he will divide in three equal
parts and donate to the Technion, the Daniel Pearl Foundation and his
He and his wife have not yet decided how to split the
$250,000 Turing Award money.
Pearl’s major contribution to the two-way
dialogue between man and machine has been, first, in the area of uncertainty, a
constant in every human endeavor, and later in causality, the relationship
between cause and effect.
The research on uncertainty occupied Pearl for
much of the first part of his career, and when it was finished, in the late
1980s, he turned his attention to the theory of causality to further advance a
robot’s learning process.
Although his research on causality and causal
reasoning will “have had a major effect on the way causality is understood and
measured in many scientific disciplines, most notably philosophy, psychology,
statistics, econometrics, epidemiology and social science,” according to the ACM
citation, some economists and statisticians have criticized the
This being the case, Pearl said that while most recipients
consider prestigious awards as recognition of their past work, he sees the
Turing Award as elevating his current and future visibility and authority
vis-à-vis his critics.
Pearl will receive the Turing Award on June 16 in
San Francisco during the annual ACM banquet. Participants will include all past
winners of the award, who will also mark the 100th anniversary of Turing’s
birth. Turing is considered the father of artificial intelligence and is
credited with devising the techniques for breaking the German code during World