SAN FRANCISCO – In 2004, Geoffrey Hinton redoubled a technological idea called a neural network. It was a way for machines to see the world around them, to recognize sounds and even to understand the natural language. But scientists had spent more than 50 years working on the concept of neural networks, and machines could not really do that. Against the Canadian government organized Dr. Hinton, a professor of computer science at the University of Toronto, a new research community of several scientists who also worked on the concept. These included Yann LeCun, a professor at New York University, and Yoshua Bengio at the University of Montreal. On Wednesday, the Association for Computing Machinery, the world’s largest association of computer professionals, announced that Drs. Hinton, LeCun and Bengio had won this year’s Turing Award for their work on neural networks. The Turing Award, introduced in 1966, is often referred to as the “Nobel Prize for Computers” and includes a $ 1 million prize that will be shared by the three scientists.Over the past decade, the great idea borne by these researchers has reinvented the development of technology and accelerated the development of facial recognition services, digital assistants, storage robots, and self-driving cars. Dr. Hinton is now at Google and Dr. LeCun works for Facebook. Dr. Bengio has done business with IBM and Microsoft.
“What we’ve seen is nothing short of a paradigm shift in science,” said Oren Etzioni, chief executive officer of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Seattle and a prominent voice in A.I. Community. “The story has turned and I’m impressed.”
A neural network based on the network of neurons in the human brain is a complex mathematical system that can learn discrete tasks by analyzing huge amounts of data. For example, by analyzing thousands of old phone calls, it can learn to recognize spoken words. As a result, many artificial intelligence technologies can evolve at a speed that was previously unachievable. Instead of coding the behavior by hand into systems – a logical rule all at once – computer scientists can develop a technology that learns behavior largely independently. The London-born Dr. Hinton, 71, had accepted this idea early as a doctoral candidate. In the 1970s, most of the researchers of the artificial intelligence turned against it. Even his own doctor advisor questioned the choice.