NewsDecember 1, 2020
James Allen has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in the area of Information, Computing, and Communications. Allen is the John H. Dessauer Professor of Computer Science at the University of Rochester, and the Associate Director and a Senior Researcher at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in Pensacola, Florida.
Allen developed one of the most widely used frameworks for temporal reasoning, which has been cited over 11,000 times in a wide variety of different scientific disciplines. The key insight in this model is to conceptualize time as interval-based rather than point-based as in done in other mathematical models. His model is part of a more general framework for representing and reasoning about actions and events, which has proved useful in a range of AI-areas such as natural language understanding, knowledge representation and planning. He also laid key foundations for a plan-based model of communicative acts, and the extension of this to a theory of natural dialogue. Within this framework, his group has built some of the most sophisticated dialogue systems to date, ones that enable humans to interact naturally with complex AI reasoning systems, just as they might interact with another person. Over the past two decades, he has also developed one of the most sophisticated broad-coverage, “deep” parsing systems. By “deep” it is meant that the output is a representation of meaning in the form of commonsense knowledge, as opposed to an abstract representation of the linguistic structure.
Allen joined the Department of Computer Science at the University of Rochester in 1979, and he has supervised 34 Ph.D.-level graduate students. This year he also received the Herbert Simon Prize for Advances in Cognitive Systems from the Cognitive Systems Foundation which recognizes scientists
who have made important and sustained contributions to understanding human and machine intelligence through the design, creation, and study of computational artifacts that exhibit high-level cognition. He is also a Fellow of the Cognitive Science Society and the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI).
Allen’s current outside interest is in regenerative farming, exploring techniques that support the production of food while also improving the environment.