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CACM Reports: How Turing Award Winner Judea Pearl Changed the Game for Artificial Intelligence

June Issue Reports on Mining Medical Data, the Online Piracy Controversy, and Why Rumors Spread Quickly on Social Media

The Association for Computing Machinery
Advancing Computing as a Science & Profession

Contact: Virginia Gold

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NEW YORK – May 30, 2012 – As ACM celebrates the centenary of computing pioneer Alan Turing's birth in June, the Communications of the ACM (CACM) June cover story highlights the advances of the most recent ACM Turing Award recipient, Judea Pearl. Science writer Neil Savage probes Pearl's passionate advocacy of the importance of probability and causality and its implications for economics, epidemiology, and disease diagnosis as well as machine learning and natural language processing.  In a companion article, technology writer Leah Hoffman captures Pearl’s own words as he explains the arc of his scientific discoveries, from developing memory systems based on probability to analyzing causal relationships and creating the calculus of intervention.  This accomplishment made possible the ability to compute the consequences of various actions.  Also in this issue, Eugene H. Spafford, who chairs the ACM Public Policy Council (USACM),  dissects the recent controversy over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its companion legislation.  He notes that USACM provided briefings to Congressional staff and others on how the proposed legislation could damage the deployment of Internet security specifications (i.e. Domain Name System Security Extensions). In accordance with its mission, USACM did not address the other factors involved in real-life policy choices.

Communications, the flagship publication of ACM (the Association for Computing Machinery), offers readers access to this generation's most significant leaders and innovators in computing and information technology, and is available online in digital format.

Also in this issue:
  • Sanjeev Arora of Princeton University, winner of the 2011 ACM-Infosys Foundation Award, discusses his pivotal role in theoretical computer science.  He has contributed fundamental new algorithms to compute approximate solutions to the traditional traveling salesman problem as well as to graph partitioning problems.
  • Electronic patient records contain a treasure trove of data, writes Gregory Goth, but researchers are confronting the limitations of the structured data that is often exchanged between physicians and other parties in the medical data world.  He surveys new research that is using natural language processing technology to mine the structured data and free text that has increased in the health care realm. 
  • Is cybersecurity getting worse simply because society as a whole is becoming much more dependent on computers?  Simson Garfinkel of the US Naval Postgraduate School ponders this question. He concludes that making progress on cybersecurity requires that we address a myriad of both technical and nontechnical factors that work to prevent governments, corporations, and even individuals from securing  their systems. 
  • A group of German researchers analyzed why rumors spread so quickly in social networks.  They determined that the source of the speedy spread of information is fruitful interaction between few nodes with many neighbors, and many nodes with few neighbors. 
  • Chris Hall, founding director of the Communications Research Network at the Cambridge University Computer Laboratory, characterizes the Internet as a many-layered system that depends not only on technology, but also on people, coffee, and money.  Searching for answers to questions about Internet vulnerability, he concludes that improving the security of the Internet requires better data on which to base policy and engineering decisions, something to which government could usefully contribute. 
  • Researchers from NVIDIA Research and itseez posit that it won't be long before mobile computer-vision technology becomes as ubiquitous as touch interfaces.  Acknowledging that computer vision is computationally expensive, they present new ideas to improve energy efficiency to meet the constraints of time and the computational budget. 
  • Kode Vicious, aka George Neville-Neil, addresses scale failure, and the problem of using a tool for the wrong job until the day when it no longer suffices. 
  • Blog@CACM blogger Jason Hong writes about security breaches and offers a three-pronged approach.  Greg Linden discusses the differences between computers and the human brain and their tolerance of errors.

For more information on Communications of the ACM, click on

About ACM
ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession’s collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking. 

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