Judea Pearl, emeritus professor of computer science and statistics, will receive the American Mathematical Society’s 2018 Ulf Grenander Prize in Stochastic Theory and Modeling for the invention of a model-based approach to probabilistic and causal reasoning, the discovery of innovative tools for inferring these models from observations and for the development of new computational methods for the practical applications of these models.

Pearl said he viewed this prize in the context of a philosophical puzzle that has haunted him for years: Why has science deprived cause-effect relationships of the benefit of mathematical analysis?

“My college professors could not write down an equation to express the most obvious causal statement. For example, that the rooster crow does not cause the sun to rise, or that the falling barometer does not cause the incoming storm,” Pearl said. “Unlike the rules of geometry, mechanics, optics, or probability, the rules of cause and effect have not been encoded in a mathematical framework. Why have scientists allowed these rules to languish in bare intuition, deprived of mathematical tools that have enabled other branches of science to flourish and mature?”

Pearl, who currently directs the Cognitive Systems Laboratory and conducts research in artificial intelligence, human cognition and philosophy of science, said he hopes “that this prize will further encourage mathematicians to delve into the intricate problems that the calculus of causation has opened and that this influx of interest will lead to new insights into the logic that governs human understanding.”

The 2018 prize will be awarded Jan. 11, 2018, at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Diego. To read more about the award, click here.

 UCLA Samueli Materials Science and Engineering