Dickson Prize in Science
Honoring Judea Pearl
Professor, University of California, Los Angeles
Award Ceremony and Lecture
Monday, February 29, 2016
McConomy Auditorium, first floor, Cohon University Center
A light reception will immediately follow in the Connan Room, first floor, Cohon Center.
Lecture Topic: Science, Counterfactuals and Free Will
Counterfactuals, or fictitious changes, are the building blocks of scientific thought and the oxygen of moral behavior. The ability to reflect back on one's past actions and envision alternative scenarios is the basis of learning, free will, responsibility and social adaptation.
Recent progress in the algorithmization of counterfactuals has advanced our understanding of this mode of reasoning and has brought us a step closer toward equipping machines with similar capabilities. Dr. Pearl will first describe a computational model of counterfactual reasoning, and then pose some of the more difficult problems that counterfactuals present: why evolution has endowed humans with the illusion of free will, and how it manages to keep that illusion so vivid in our brain.