Lifetime Achievement Award 2016

Hector Levesque – University of Toronto

Hector Levesque is a Canadian academic and researcher, and Professor Emeritus in the Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto. Hector is internationally recognized as one of the deepest and most original thinkers within Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Hector's research lies broadly in the area of Knowledge Representation and Reasoning (KR&R), but given the foundational nature of his contributions, and the fact that representation and reasoning form a critical substrate in many AI systems, they have had impact in many other subfields of AI, ranging from robotics, to planning, to multiagent systems. On the representation side, he has worked on the formalization of a number of concepts pertaining to artificial and natural agents including belief, goals, intentions, ability, and the interaction between knowledge, perception and action. On the reasoning side, his research mainly concerns how automated reasoning can be kept computationally tractable, including the use of greedy local search methods. Hector is recognized for his fundamental contributions to the development of several new fields of research including the fields of description logic, the study of tractability in knowledge representation, the study of intention and teamwork, the hardness of satisfiability problems, and cognitive robotics.

Hector received his B.Sc., M.Sc. and Ph.D. from the University of Toronto in 1975, 1977, and 1981, respectively. Following graduation, he accepted a position at the Fairchild Laboratory for Artificial Intelligence Research (FLAIR) in Palo Alto, returning to Canada in 1984 to join the faculty at the University of Toronto, where he has remained since. A talented and inspiring teacher and mentor, Hector has trained a number of graduate students during the course of his career, the majority of whom hold academic or research positions at universities or research laboratories in Canada, the US, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

Hector is also a prolific writer, having authored over 130 papers appearing in top scholarly venues. He has also written four books, and edited three others. Hector’s fundamental contributions to the field of AI have been recognized with a number of awards. In 1985, Hector became the first non-American to receive the "Computers and Thought" Award from the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI), which is the highest honour bestowed by the field of AI on outstanding young scientists. He again made history nearly 30 years later with his awarding of the IJCAI “Research Excellence” Award, considered one of the most prestigious prizes in artificial intelligence. He was the recipient of the E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada in 1990-91. He is a founding Fellow of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence, now the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), and was a Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) from 1984 to 1995. In 2006, Hector was elected to the Royal Society of Canada. In 2011 he was elected a fellow of the American Association for theAdvancement of Science (AAAS), and in 2012 he was awarded the Canadian Artificial Intelligence (CAIAC) Lifetime Achievement Award, presented to an individual to recognize a lifetime of scientific excellence and outstanding contributions to the field of Artificial Intelligence.

Apart from the recognition for his body of research associated with the awards mentioned above, his specific research contributions are routinely singled out for accolades, including five best paper awards, a test of time award, and several other honourable mentions. While these awards all bear witness to the quality of Hector's work, they are but a small window into a broader set of research contributions. The true impact of one's research lies in the details. Indeed, Hector’s three decades of scientific excellence and outstanding contributions to the Artificial Intelligence community establish him as a most deserving recipient of the CS-CAN Lifetime Achievement Award.