Pearl is the Chancellor’s Professor of Computer Science and Statistics at UCLA, where he has been a faculty member since 1970. He directs the university’s Cognitive Systems Laboratory and conducts research in artificial intelligence, human cognition and philosophy of science.
The Association for Computing Machinery awarded Pearl the 2011 A.M. Turing Award, the pre-eminent honor in the field of computer science. His work on reasoning with uncertainty and his calculus of causal inference have influenced not only machine learning, but also natural language processing, computer vision, robotics, computational biology, econometrics, cognitive science and statistics.
Most artificial intelligence systems once reasoned with Boolean logic — understanding true or false, but having difficulty with maybe. Yet modern AI systems, such as self-driving cars, speech recognition and automated translation, routinely encounter uncertainty. Pearl developed the theoretical foundations for reasoning under uncertainty using what he called a “Bayesian network,” which mimics the neural activities of the human brain. Bayesian networks marked a critical step in achieving AI that can interact with the physical world.
Bayesian networks also have had a major impact on the way machines reason about actions and observations and how cause-effect relationships are understood and measured across many scientific disciplines.
Pearl earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at the Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology, a master’s degree in physics at Rutgers University and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn. He has authored three books, “Heuristics” (1983), “Probabilistic Reasoning” (1988) and “Causality” (2000, 2009). The latter book won the 2001 Lakatos Award from the London School of Economics and Political Science “for an outstanding significant contribution to the philosophy of science.”
He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, a fellow of the Cognitive Science Society and a founding fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence.
Part of the Dickson cash prize will be donated to Pearl's alma mater, the Technion, and part to the Daniel Pearl Foundation, named after his son, who was murdered in Pakistan in 2002.