June 29, 2021 Spotlight

Spotlight June 29, 2021
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Moshe Vardi honored with Allen Newell Award and Donald E. Knuth Prize

Rice’s Moshe Vardi has been awarded the 2021 Donald E. Knuth Prize, one of theoretical computer science’s most prestigious annual awards and the 2020 ACM/AAAI Allen Newell Award which he shares with Hector Levesque of the University of Toronto.

The Knuth Prize includes a $10,000 award and is given annually to one person for major research accomplishments and contributions to the foundations of computer science over an extended period of time. Vardi, University Professor and the Karen Ostrum George Distinguished Service Professor in Computational Engineering, was honored for “high-impact, seminal contributions to the foundations of computer science.” Vardi is also a faculty scholar at the Baker Institute for Public Policy and the leader of Rice’s initiative on Technology, Culture and Society.

The ACM - AAAI Allen Newell Award is presented to an individual selected for career contributions that have breadth within computer science, or that bridge computer science and other disciplines. In the award announcement, Vardi is described as “perhaps the most influential researcher working at the interface of logic and computer science, building bridges between communities in computer science and beyond.”

Chris Jermaine, Chair of Rice’s Department of Computer Science, explains that “The Allen Newell Award rewards those whose research career shows breadth—the researcher should have had contributions or impact across or beyond computer science. The award fits Moshe perfectly. I’m a database researcher and the database research community regards Moshe as one of its own. He’s got one of the classic papers in the database field, ‘The complexity of relational query languages.’ But people in artificial intelligence, formal methods, and logic feel the same way about Moshe. I met a philosopher from one of the world's top universities who knew I was from Rice and asked, ‘Do you know Moshe Vardi?’ To each of those areas, Moshe's one of them, and has made fundamental contributions."

Vienna Gödel Lecture 2021

Vardi also received another recent honor, an invitation to give the prestigious annual Vienna Gödel Lecture May 27. Launched in 2013, Gödel lectures explore the fundamental and disruptive contributions of computer science to society. Moshe's lecture titled "Technology is Driving the Future, But Who Is Steering?" discusses why the ethical lens is too narrow for dealing with technology's impact on society.

As he explains, “The benefits of computing are intuitive. Computing yields tremendous societal benefits; for example, the life-saving potential of driverless cars is enormous. But computing is not a game—it is real—and it brings with it not only societal benefits but also significant societal costs, such as labor polarization, disinformation, and smartphone addiction.”
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More About Moshe Vardi

Vardi joined Rice’s faculty in 1993. He teaches logic and research ethics across Rice’s curriculum and is a faculty scholar at the Baker Institute for Public Policy and the leader of Rice’s Initiative on Technology, Culture and Society. He has authored or co-authored more than 600 articles and two books and is a senior editor of Communications of the ACM, after having served for a decade as editor-in-chief. His research interests span automated reasoning, database theory, computational-complexity theory, multi-agent systems, and computer-aided design and verification.

He is also a fellow of the ACM and IEEE and a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the European Academy of Sciences. He is a Guggenheim fellow, the first two-time recipient of the ACM Presidential Award and the winner of the Southeastern Universities Research Association’s Distinguished Scientist Award, the IEEE Computer Society’s Goode Award, the European Academy of Sciences’ Blaise Pascal Medal for Computer Science and ACM SIGACT’s Gödel Prize. He was also the Director of the Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology from 2001-2019.

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