Judea Pearl, professor of computer science and director of the Cognitive Systems Lab

Professor Pearl Receives Classic AIJ Paper Award and Exceeds 100,000 Citations

Sep 11, 2020

By UCLA Samueli Newsroom

Judea Pearl, professor of computer science and director of the Cognitive Systems Lab, has received his second Classic AIJ Paper Award presented by the AI Journal. The award recognizes outstanding papers published at least 15 years ago in the Journal that are unique in their significance and impact.

Factors influencing the decision of the award include whether a paper started a significant new line of research, made a major theoretical advance or heavily influenced other researchers.

“Temporal Constraint Networks,” coauthored by Pearl and former students Rina Dechter and Itay Meiri, has been exceptionally influential in the field of artificial intelligence. In 1991, the trio offered a tractable algorithm to solve a commonly occurring problem: finding one or more scenarios consistent with a collection of given facts about temporal relationships among events of interest. The algorithm has had a significant impact on subsequent work in automated scheduling and robot planning.

“I feel like a dinosaur,” Pearl said when asked about this recognition. “It took quite some time to remember why this 30-year-old paper of ours got the attention it did, and why the topic of temporal constraint was so hot in the 1980s. My conclusion — the older you get, the more ‘classic’ you become.”

Pearl has been around long enough to see big shifts in the field of artificial intelligence.

“I am amazed at how different today’s AI is from the AI of 30 years ago when automated scheduling was considered a task requiring human level of intelligence,” Pearl said. “Today we are much more ambitious, and robots that do not exhibit deep learning, causal understanding and even guilt and ‘free will’ are considered a thing of the past.”

This award coincides with another milestone in Pearl’s illustrious career: The number of citations of his work has exceeded 100,000 — with more than 30,000 of the citations garnered in the past five years.

Pearl was first recognized with a Classic AIJ Paper Award in 2015 for “Fusion, Propagation, and Structuring in Belief Networks,” which introduced Bayesian networks and algorithms to AI, machine learning, information theory and cognitive science. Pearl is also a recipient of the A.M. Turing Award, often called the “Nobel Prize in Computing.” The foundations of modern AI rely on his research breakthroughs, which have helped pave the way for driverless cars, voice recognition software and automated causal thinking.

This is UCLA Samueli’s third AIJ Classic Paper. In 2016, computer science professor Richard Korf was recognized for “Real-time heuristic search.” The paper explored real-time search methods for selecting the next action to perform after a “look ahead” act.