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Judea Pearl Wins Turing Award

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the a-hearty-handshake dept.

AI 38

alphadogg writes "Judea Pearl, a longtime UCLA professor whose work on artificial intelligence laid the foundation for such inventions as the iPhone's Siri speech recognition technology and Google's driverless cars, has been named the 2011 ACM Turing Award winner. The annual Association for Computing Machinery A.M. Turing Award, sometimes called the 'Nobel Prize in Computing,' recognizes Pearl for his advances in probabilistic and causal reasoning. His work has enabled creation of thinking machines that can cope with uncertainty, making decisions even when answers aren't black or white."

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38 comments

the next step: questioning the humans (3, Interesting)

ChipMonk (711367) | more than 2 years ago | (#39371395)

After all, every computer so far trusts that its human programmer(s) have a clue. This bad assumption is the greatest source of uncertainty.

Re:the next step: questioning the humans (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | more than 2 years ago | (#39371439)

Don't worry, the machines will start seeing through us before too long. Oh, wait - do worry.

Re:the next step: questioning the humans (3, Interesting)

digitig (1056110) | more than 2 years ago | (#39371687)

I seem to remember that COMAL didn't -- at least the BBC B implementation. If it thought that what you'd written wasn't what you meant it would silently change it to what it thought you meant. With the state of AI at that time, that was a pretty serious source of uncertainty.

Re:the next step: questioning the humans (1)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | more than 2 years ago | (#39373115)

We still have that. Or at least I do. I do all my coding with Word.

first (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39371413)

first nigar

Thinking machines? (0, Troll)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | more than 2 years ago | (#39371421)

Time to get Butlerian Jihad on Peal's ass. Seriously though, "thinking machines"? Are we really anywhere near there yet?

Re:Thinking machines? (2)

narcc (412956) | more than 2 years ago | (#39371839)

Seriously though, "thinking machines"? Are we really anywhere near there yet?

Not even close. There's also reason to believe that computers as we know them will never get there.

Re:Thinking machines? (2)

Alomex (148003) | more than 2 years ago | (#39373599)

No there isn't. So far the Church-Turing hypothesis remains unchallenged, in spite of some crackpot claims to the contrary.

Re:Thinking machines? (1)

narcc (412956) | more than 2 years ago | (#39373663)

?

Real quick: An hypothesis is a testable prediction. I think you mean the Church-Turing thesis.

That said, I don't know where you got the idea that I was challenging that. In fact, my comment assumes the validity of Church-Turing.

Re:Thinking machines? (1)

Alomex (148003) | more than 2 years ago | (#39373699)

I don't know where you got the idea that I was challenging that.

Because recently there have been a series of pseudo-academic publications doing this, but so far there is nothing behind their claims.

I thought you were going along those lines.

Re:Thinking machines? (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 2 years ago | (#39379075)

My understanding is that the Church-Turing thesis boils down to saying that any algorithm can be calculated by a computer. It doesn't say that anything in existence can be calculated by a computer. If you could prove that the human brain is just an extremely complicated algorithm, yes it could be modelled by a computer, but that is begging the question.

I would like to be corrected if I have misunderstood this.

Re:Thinking machines? (1)

Alomex (148003) | more than 2 years ago | (#39379245)

It says that anything that can be computed, by any means, including quantum and biological computers such as the brain, can be computed by a Turing Machine and thus by extension by a modern computer given enough memory and time.

We have been searching for a device that breaks this thesis for over 80 years now, and have not yet found evidence of one. In fact every time we propose a radically new model, starting from a very different approach, such as quantum computing or lambda calculus, we land back exactly at the Turing machine model.

I heard .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39371425)

that DeepBlue was supposed to get the 2011 Turing awards, but got rejected because his reasoning is too binary.

He's also the father of Daniel Pearl (5, Interesting)

MagikSlinger (259969) | more than 2 years ago | (#39371465)

Yes, this [wikipedia.org] Daniel Pearl.

Re:He's also the father of Daniel Pearl (1)

tomhath (637240) | more than 2 years ago | (#39371719)

To paraphrase an old cliche: "Only Pearl can father Pearl"

Re:He's also the father of Daniel Pearl (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39371961)

wow you must be fun at parties... Thanks for ruining a good article

Re:He's also the father of Daniel Pearl (1)

retroworks (652802) | more than 2 years ago | (#39371973)

You know, I was composing something a little bit snarky. Slashdot snarky, not complete troll. And I read this and followed the link before I hit the "post" command, and want to thank you for saving me from unintended troll-dom. Thanks, dude or m'am. I can imagine my son dying for something and people not knowing I'm his dad.

Re:He's also the father of Daniel Pearl (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39372119)

His work sort of trailed off after that. Perhaps unsurprisingly. Since then he's been pursuing more humanitarian efforts with the Daniel Pearl foundation.

Re:He's also the father of Daniel Pearl (1)

justforgetme (1814588) | more than 2 years ago | (#39374435)

Well, who could possibly blame him... Holly damp cloth, that link really woke me up a but to roughly.

Re:He's also the father of Daniel Pearl (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 2 years ago | (#39373833)

"While Dan Rather attempts to rationalize the network's heartless decision to air this despicable 'terrorist propaganda video,' it is beyond our comprehension that any mother, wife, father or sister should have to relive this horrific tragedy and watch their loved one being repeatedly terrorized," the family said.

"Terrorists have made this video confident that the American media would broadcast it and thereby serve their exact purpose. By showing this video, CBS or any other broadcaster willing to show it proves that they fall without shame into the terrorists' plan."
-- Mariane Pearl, May 15, 2002

Fuzzy logic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39371637)

Sounds a lot like the implementation of fuzzy logic, which I thought was pushed forward by others. Can someone who's rtfa briefly summarize Pearl's contribution in a little more detail than the summary?

Re:Fuzzy logic? (4, Informative)

bmacs27 (1314285) | more than 2 years ago | (#39372229)

Pearl was responsible for the development of the concept of Bayesian Networks. The concept was popularized and developed in Probabilistic Reasoning in Intelligent Systems in the late eighties. In 2001, he followed it up with Causality to respond to justified critiques from the field of epistemology. That field (which produced many of the fuzzy logic motivation) has historically been reluctant to accept Bayesian interpretations of probability, although I always thought that there was very little "Bayesian" about Bayesian Networks beyond the name.

In summary, the networks are Markovian Directed Acyclic Graphs with probabilistic weights between the nodes. He further formalized methods of "Inferred Causation" from data which infers such useful concepts as "latent common causes," particularly in the second book. Both books are good reads. I highly recommend them.

Re:Fuzzy logic? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39373239)

Pearl developed Bayesian Networks. Any probabalistic inference one could make on a set of random variables X1...Xn can be done by integrating (summing) the joint distribution P(X1,..,X_n) in various ways, in other words, the joint distribution completely encodes all of the information about X_1...X_n. However, a full joint distribution is generally infeasible to construct for any problem of interesting size. A Bayesian network encodes the various independence relationships amongst the variables and allows for specification of the joint distribution in a more compact "factored" form, and algorithms exist for performing inference on the network instead of the full joint distribution.

Re:Fuzzy logic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39375357)

And here's the ACM citation. [acm.org]

contest (1)

HomelessInLaJolla (1026842) | more than 2 years ago | (#39371731)

What a rip off. He gets the award and I put up with the stupid robot [slashdot.org] .

It's about time, really (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39371913)

He should have got this long back, well deserved.

Congrats (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39371939)

Congratulations to Mr. Pearl.

because-ness and the Ascent of Man (3, Informative)

epine (68316) | more than 2 years ago | (#39372195)

I spent a day poking into his work around xmas time. I recall a long document with artistic illustrations on the nature of causality. One of those documents where every step seems almost too trivial to notice, until you discover you've reached the conclusion and haven't gaining any understanding. Well, some of those small points must be hiding more than they first appear. When the penny did finally drop, I felt his presentation was perhaps obscured by contrived simplicity.

In my own thinking since, I've realized that causality is not what we think it is. In a sufficiently complex system, causality as we wish to know it ceases to manifest itself. Stephen Jay Gould tried to get this point across in The Mismeasure of Man [wikipedia.org] without entirely realizing it. You come away from that book mainly with a profound sense of how much he hates the Ascent of Man iconography at more of a gut level than a cerebral one.

The second fallacy is "ranking", which is the "propensity for ordering complex variation as a gradual ascending scale."

Implied in that ascending order is the human conceit of because-ness. When we tire of because-ness on the grand scale, we flit to worrying about the wings of butterflies. Both at the same time? Wow, your mind is more flexible than mine.

What I realized in my subsequent thinking (after my Pearl diving) is that randomness and causality share similar housing. Pseudo-random numbers are useful precisely because they are decorrelated (to at least modest algorithmic depth) with any unwitting sequence you are likely to stumble over (but not ones maliciously prepared; to combat that you need true randomness).

If you have a correlation between smoking and lung cancer, how do you show that smoking is causative? You need to perform some intervention which does not by itself explain the answer. Otherwise you might just as well conclude that the smoking of special "control" cigarettes prepared by men in white coats is a lung cancer cure, and apply to the FDA for treatment status. There is no such thing as a pure control (like pure randomness). All controls are pseudo-controls. Like pseudo-random numbers, some pseudo-controls are damn good enough for certain purposes.

In a really big system, such as the evolutionary history of life on earth, you'll never get a clean separation you entirely believe a priori. You'll always wonder if your exploratory manipulation itself is the smoking gun. How to prove otherwise? Well, the problem regresses. With a billion evolutionary simulators (with roughly the complexity of the local solar system) run a billion times on each of a trillion microscopic hypotheses, you might reach some stunning conclusions—if your methodology section doesn't trigger black hole formation. It's not so much that causality ceases to exist, it's more the case that you'll just never get there in reductive purity.

Recently there is the Taubes position on fructose (consumed in excess quantity) being a principle vector in metabolic syndrome. How do you prove this? Test diets with and without? Do they taste exactly the same? Are the digestive mechanics exactly the same? Can you slip the change in the lives of your subjects without them any the wiser? How did select a test group and maintain contact with it while none of them were any the wiser? Didn't half of them drift off to lives in new cities? And none of them heard about the fructose hypothesis on the radio and made subconscious life changes.

This is where gene knock-out experiments in mice are the bomb. We presume that mice really don't know about experimental protocol. Douglas Adams wants to know why. The Ascent of Man is always hiding in causality arguments somewhere, as any acute satirist realizes.

[snit]I'm pretty sure I spelled Pearl correctly (not Perle). If I succeeded, was the cause of this the Slashdot design where not even the title of the article I'm commenting on appears anywhere on my Comment box screen? Not even in the URL? Somehow I doubt it. Does this state of affairs subtly influence the level of conversation here? If you can't prove it, why fix it? Here's a different reason: because it's fucking embarrassing on a geek site that the comment page doesn't even reference the title of the article one is supposedly commenting upon. If I'm enjoying my tantrum more than the possibility this will ever be fixed I would also have used all-caps to ensure conservation of the present world order. Works every time. But strangely sometimes the lack of all-caps doesn't seem to have much effect. So much for reason.[/snit]

I congratulate Mr Pearl nevertheless.

Re:because-ness and the Ascent of Man (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39374215)

I spent a day poking into his work around xmas time. I recall a long document with artistic illustrations on the nature of causality. One of those documents where every step seems almost too trivial to notice, until you discover you've reached the conclusion and haven't gaining any understanding.

Were you thinking of these illustrations [macrovu.com] ?

Re:because-ness and the Ascent of Man (1)

justforgetme (1814588) | more than 2 years ago | (#39374453)

Those images even blown up are barely readable.

Pearl's Rumelhart lecture (4, Interesting)

davids-world.com (551216) | more than 2 years ago | (#39372851)

Wow, that's big news. I heard him speak last year when he got the Rumelhart prize - the story about how he worked out Bayesian networks is humble. I think, some paper napkins were involved. The whole lecture is archived here: http://thesciencenetwork.org/programs/cogsci-2011/rumelhart-lecture-judea-pearl [thesciencenetwork.org]

Re:Pearl's Rumelhart lecture (1)

DrEasy (559739) | more than 2 years ago | (#39374715)

Thanks for the link, that was a great lecture!

Doh (1)

turing_m (1030530) | more than 2 years ago | (#39372919)

I've had Judea Pearl's book Causality in my Amazon cart for nearly a decade now, but hadn't gotten around to buying it. Now I'll never be able to say that I read Judea Pearl before he was cool.

Anyway, congratulations.

Re:Doh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39374241)

You are missing out. I read the book. I waited a year before I read 'A New kind of science' and instead of finding something very pretentious, I found amazing discoveries. Follow that with 'Causality'. Like one of the best desert wines you have ever tasted, Pearls work and ideas have contributed far and wide. I think that reading 'Blink: The Power of thinking without thinking' are the three most influential books I have read in decades.

I guarantee you will be blown away.

ACM Turing Award (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39373867)

What if you handed out a award and nobody cared?
And this thread has a remote possibility of reaching half a century in post count.

Congratulations (1)

aaaaaaargh! (1150173) | more than 2 years ago | (#39375125)

Congratulations! I haven't met him personally yet, but know many of his seminal papers and must say that he really deserves this award! Great work!

He's a very sweet man (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39377349)

I met Judea Pearl a number of times. I even took a basic probability course from him. He's a very gentle, quiet, sweet man. In his spare time he runs a choir, and used to often be seen at UCLA-adjacent dances. When I was around him, they had placed his office among those of another department in Boelter Hall. I guess no one knew what he was doing, and no one felt they needed to be near him. His little cubicle office was filled with books, more so than the offices of other professors. I lost track of him as I went in my own direction. Then he changed the world. Goes to show, I had a chance but the probabilities were not in my favor.

Breaking News! (1)

bartonski (1858506) | more than 2 years ago | (#39382327)

Judea Pe(a)rl is actually a computer program... and has therefore won both the Turing Award and the Turing Test!
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