UCLA Among Major Universities to Receive Toyota Research Grant

Computer Science Prof. Judea Pearl Secures Funding for Data Interpretation
Toyota Research Institute

Jan 26, 2021

By UCLA Samueli Newsroom

The Toyota Research Institute announced today its partnership with UCLA and 15 other academic institutions to participate in its collaborative research program on artificial intelligence over the next five years, with funding totaling more than $75 million.

Judea Pearl
Judea Pearl
Judea Pearl, Chancellor’s Professor of Computer Science at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering has been selected to join the program. With more than $750,000 in funding over the next two years, his research will focus on transforming data science from its current paradigm, “data fitting,” to one that leads to robust and useful data interpretation.

According to Pearl, “data fitting” is the term used to characterize the current thinking that dominates both statistics and machine-learning cultures. This view is driven by a belief that the secret to rational decisions lies within the data themselves and requires sophisticated data mining. Whereas, those who subscribe to the school of data interpretation view data as an auxiliary means for interpreting reality, the processes that generate the data.

“We have been rushing to reap the low-hanging fruit of big data and data-fitting technologies at the cost of neglecting data-interpretation technologies,” Pearl said. “The Toyota-funded project will help us counter this over-indulgence by outlining what research, educational and training facilities are needed to achieve a more balanced data science.”

Beyond analyzing data, Pearl said robust AI technologies that incorporate data interpretation can track data from multiple sources, while adjusting for data corrupted by noise, omissions, inadequate collection and even deliberate misreporting.

Pearl, who has received the highest honor in computing, the A.M. Turing Prize, outlined much of his research on this subject in the recently published “The Book of Why.”

In light of the many challenges caused by COVID-19, Pearl noted that such technology advancements could go a long way in preparing for future pandemics, enabling timely public policy directives and societal responses, as well as informing individual health care decisions.

Through this program, the Toyota Research Institute — the automotive giant’s U.S.-based research arm — will lead 35 joint research projects aimed at achieving breakthroughs in automated driving, robotics and machine-assisted cognition.

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