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Turing Award honours CIFAR’s ‘pioneers of AI’

CIFAR Fellows Yoshua Bengio, Geoffrey Hinton and Yann LeCun were jointly awarded the prestigious A.M. Turing Award for their development of ‘deep learning.’

Turing Award Winners
Yoshua Bengio, Geoffrey Hinton and Yann LeCun [Photos: Yoshua Bengio (Maryse Boyce), Geoffrey Hinton (Daniel Ehrenworth), Yann LeCun (courtesy of Facebook)]

The award is often referred to as the “Nobel Prize of Computing,” and is given by the Association of Computing Machinery for major contributions of lasting importance to computing. It carries a $1 million prize.

Bengio, Hinton and LeCun came together at CIFAR in 2004 when Hinton founded what is now the Learning in Machines & Brains program. The fellows were all interested in an artificial intelligence approach using neural networks, which are loosely modeled on the way the human brain works.

Their work together led to a number of advances, including a breakthrough AI technique called deep learning, which is now integral to computer vision, speech recognition, natural language processing, and robotics.

“(The CIFAR program) was crucial,” Hinton said in a 2014 profile in Reach magazine. “The fundamental idea of CIFAR, which is to get the best people and put them in contact where they can exchange ideas, worked really well.”

“This award is a testament to the power of sustained investments in fundamental research,” says Dr. Alan Bernstein, President & CEO of CIFAR. “The contributions of these three individuals are extraordinary. CIFAR takes pride in having played a part in their accomplishments from the very beginning.”

The three fellows are commonly referred to as the ‘pioneers of AI,’ and continue to have a strong role at CIFAR and in AI research.

Hinton is a CIFAR Distinguished Fellow and advisor to the Learning in Machines & Brains program. He is a vice president and engineering fellow at Google, chief scientific adviser at the Vector Institute and emeritus professor at the University of Toronto.

Bengio is co-director of the Learning in Machines & Brains program, and a professor at the University of Montreal. He is also a Canada-CIFAR AI (CCAI) Chair, and the scientific director at Mila, Quebec’s Artificial Intelligence Institute.

LeCun is co-director of the Learning in Machines & Brains program, a professor at New York University and vice president and chief AI scientist at Facebook. He is also a member of the CCAI International Scientific Advisory Committee.

“Working independently and together, 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,” the ACM said in announcing the award.

Bengio, Hinton and LeCun will receive the award at the ACM’s annual banquet on Saturday, June 15, 2019 in San Francisco, California.

CIFAR is generously supported by the governments of Canada, British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, Canadian and international partners, as well as individuals, foundations and corporations.

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