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Computer theorist wins $1 million Turing Prize| GuyWhoKnowsThings

Computers seem methodical, deliberate, and completely predictable. But they can also behave in completely random ways. As researchers build increasingly powerful machinesA key question is: What role will randomness play?

On Wednesday, the Association for Computing MachineryThe world's largest society of computer science professionals, announced that this year's Turing Prize will go to Avi Wigderson, an Israeli-born mathematician and theoretical computer scientist who specializes in randomness.

Often called the Nobel Prize in Computing, the Turing Prize is endowed with one million dollars. The award is named after Alan Turing, the British mathematician who helped create the foundations of modern computing in the mid-20th century.

Other recent winners include Ed Catmull and Pat Hanrahanwho helped create the computer-generated imagery, or CGI, that powers modern movies and television, and artificial intelligence researchers. Geoffrey Hinton, Yann LeCun and Yoshua Bengiowho cultivated the techniques that gave rise to chatbots like ChatGPT.

Although computers typically behave deterministically (that is, they follow a predictable pattern set by their creators), scientists have also shown that random behavior can help solve some problems. In an interview with The New York Times, Dr. Wigderson said randomness plays a role in smartphone apps, cloud computing systems, microprocessors and more.

“It's everywhere,” he said.

Randomness is essential for cryptography, where unique digital keys are used to lock data and applications. Algorithms that involve random behavior can also help analyze complex situations, such as stock market activity, a storm moving across the country, or the spread of disease.

Dr. Wigderson, a mathematics professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, was one of a group of scholars who published a series of papers exploring the role of randomness in solving extraordinarily difficult problems, such as predicting the climate or finding a cure. for cancer.

The fundamental lesson of this work, said Madhu Sudan, a theoretical computer scientist at Harvard University, is that computers can solve many complex problems that humans will never fully understand, but some things will remain a mystery, even to machines.

“This shows that there are many things we can solve with computers,” Dr. Sudan said. “It also shows that this progress will not be unlimited.”

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