Artificial intelligence has to go in new directions if it's to realize the machine equivalent of common sense, and three of its most prominent proponents are in violent agreement about exactly how to do that. Yoshua Bengio of Canada's MILA institute, Geoffrey Hinton of the University of Toronto, and Yann LeCun of Facebook, who have called themselves co-conspirators in the revival of the once-moribund field of "deep learning," took the stage Sunday night at the Hilton hotel in midtown Manhattan for the 34th annual conference of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence. The three, who were dubbed the "godfathers" of deep learning by the conference, were being honored for having received last year's Turing Award for lifetime achievements in computing. Each of the three scientists got a half-hour to talk, and each one acknowledged numerous shortcomings in deep learning, things such as "adversarial examples," where an object recognition system can be tricked into misidentifying an object just by adding noise to a picture. "There's been a lot of talk of the negatives about deep learning," LeCun noted.
To learn who's taking home the Turing Award, people might turn to their trusted talking bots, like Siri or Alexa. Or, in fact, some of the very technology the three winners helped bring to life. Yoshua Bengio, Geoffrey Hinton and Yann LeCun have earned what's often referred to as the Nobel Prize of the tech world for their pioneering work in artificial intelligence, the Association for Computing Machinery announced Wednesday. The researchers, working both independently and together, helped advance the thinking and application of neural networks, the technology that gives computers the ability to recognize patterns, interpret language and glean insights from complex data. "Artificial intelligence is now one of the fastest-growing areas in all of science and one of the most talked-about topics in society," Cherri Pancake, president of the computing society, said in a statement.
The winners of the 2018 Turing Award have been announced. Geoffrey Hinton, Yann LeCun, and Yoshua Bengio -- sometimes referred to as the "godfathers of artificial intelligence" -- have won the 2018 Turing Award for their work on neural networks. The three artificial intelligence pioneers' work basically laid the foundation for modern AI technologies. In the 1980s and early 1990s, artificial intelligence experienced a renewed popularity within the scientific community. However, by the mid-90s, scientists had failed to make any major advancements in AI, making it harder to secure funding or publish research.
When Geoffrey Hinton started doing graduate student work on artificial intelligence at the University of Edinburgh in 1972, the idea that it could be achieved using neural networks that mimicked the human brain was in disrepute. Computer scientists Marvin Minsky and Seymour Papert had published a book in 1969 on Perceptrons, an early attempt at building a neural net, and it left people in the field with the impression that such devices were nonsense. "It didn't actually say that, but that's how the community interpreted the book," says Hinton who, along with Yoshua Bengio and Yann LeCun, will receive the 2018 ACM A.M. Turing award for their work that led deep neural networks to become an important component of today's computing. "People thought I was just completely crazy to be working on neural nets." Even in the 1980s, when Bengio and LeCun entered graduate school, neural nets were not seen as promising.
Once treated by the field with skepticism (if not outright derision), the artificial neural networks that 2018 ACM A.M. Turing Award recipients Geoffrey Hinton, Yann LeCun, and Yoshua Bengio spent their careers developing are today an integral component of everything from search to content filtering. Here, the three researchers share what they find exciting, and which challenges remain. There's so much more noise now about artificial intelligence than there was when you began your careers--some of it well-informed, some not. What do you wish people would stop asking you? GEOFFREY HINTON: "Is this just a bubble?"