The ‘godfathers of AI’ just won this year’s Turing Award

Andy Meek

Facebook’s director of artificial intelligence research is one of three AI leaders who’ve won this year’s Turing Award, sometimes referred to as the Nobel Prize of computing.

This year’s winners include Yann LeCun, a New York University professor who also works on AI at Facebook; Geoffrey Hinton, a University of Toronto computer science professor; and Yoshua Bengio, a computer scientist and professor at the University of Montreal. The award, announced by the Association of Computing Machinery, carries a $1 million prize, with financial support from Google, and it’s named for famed British mathematician Alan Turing.

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ACM president Cherri Pancake said the growth of and interest in AI today is due “in no small part” to advances in deep learning made possible by this year’s award winners. “Anyone who has a smartphone in their pocket can tangibly experience advances in natural language processing and computer vision that were not possible just 10 years ago,” Pancake said. “In addition to the products we use every day, new advances in deep learning have given scientists powerful new tools — in areas ranging from medicine, to astronomy, to materials science.”

AI has become an increasingly fundamental part of the way the world’s largest social network operates, and according to the ACM Facebook’s AI chief has been working on this since the 1980s. During that decade, for example, LeCun developed “convolutional” neural networks, a foundational principle in the field that’s been essential in making deep learning more efficient.

Facebook’s founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg used his personal Facebook page to congratulate LeCun this morning, noting that the winners’ combined work has “moved the entire field of AI forward.”


This year’s three winners have worked both independently, as well as together. Per the ACM, Hinton, LeCun and Bengio developed “conceptual foundations for the field, identified surprising phenomena through experiments, and contributed engineering advances that demonstrated the practical advantages of deep neural networks.” LeCun performed postdoctoral work under Hinton’s supervision, and LeCun and Bengio also worked together at Bell Labs in the early 1990s.

The ACM will present the award to this year’s recipients at a banquet on June 15 in San Francisco.

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