The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) is bestowing the 2018 Turing Award to three computer scientists who helped advance artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

Researchers Geoffrey Hinton, Yann LeCun, and Yoshua Bengio have all contributed to the development of Deep Learning. They were some of the first to use neural networks for computing to set the theoretical foundations of AI.

Their years of work have earned them the prestigious award, along with a $1 million prize funded by Google.

"Artificial intelligence is now one of the fastest-growing areas in all of science and one of the most talked-about topics in society," said Cherri M. Pancake, president of the ACM.

"The growth of and interest in AI is due, in no small part, to the recent advances in deep learning for which Bengio, Hinton, and LeCun laid the foundation."

Godfathers Of AI

Hinton, LeCun, and Bengio were pioneers in the field of artificial intelligence, earning them the moniker of the "godfathers of AI."

Hinton is a cognitive psychologist and computer science professor at the University of Toronto. His work on Deep Learning began during the 1970s, during which many researchers thought AI technology could only be built by coding behavior directly into systems.

He went against this popular notion, choosing to find a way for computers to learn behavior on their own. This led him to study neural networks and how they could be used to develop better AI.

Aside from his work at UToronto, Hinton also serves as vice president and engineering fellow at Google. He helps design machine learning algorithms for the tech company.

Meanwhile, LeCun is a Silver Professor at New York University's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. He was also hired by Facebook to be its chief AI researcher.

LeCun's research work mainly centers on machine learning, mobile robotics, and computational neuroscience. He also helped develop the concept behind computer vision, in which computers are trained to gain high-level understanding through the use of digital images and videos.

Bengio is also an expert on deep learning and artificial neural networks. However, unlike his two co-Turing Award recipients, he chooses not take jobs at any of the big tech companies.

Instead, Bengio serves as a professor at the Université de Montréal, where he oversees several studies on AI. Some of his work includes developing systems that help computers understand natural language, as well as technology that can produce fake images that look very similarly to genuine ones.

In 2004, Hinton invited LeCun and Bengio to join him in a research program centered on neural computation and adaptive perception.

The Future Of Artificial Intelligence

Despite their contributions over the years, Hinton, LeCun, and Bengio believe there is still much work to be done to advance artificial intelligence even further.

Most of the technologies that have been developed so far have driven the progress of AI, but they are far from being true intelligence.

"We need fundamental additions to this toolbox we have created to reach machines that operate at the level of true human understanding," Bengio noted.

The ACM will present all three computer scientists with the Turing Award at an event in San Francisco on June 15.

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