Deans' Seminar Series: Yuri Gurevich, "Impugning Alleged Randomness"

When is a supposedly random event not random at all?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014 3:00 pm

Location: DeBaun Auditorium

Impugning Alleged Randomness:
When is a supposedly random event not random at all?


Yuri Gurevich
Microsoft Research

John organized a state lottery and his wife Donna won the main prize. You may feel that the event of her winning wasn't particularly random, but how would you argue that in a fair court of law? Traditional probability theory does not even have the notion of random events. Algorithmic information theory does, but it is not applicable to real-world scenarios like the lottery one.

In the case above, and in many real world cases as well, there is a strong suspicion that a presumably random event is not random at all. But how can one justify the suspicion? This talk provides an answer based on a generalization of the well-known Cournot's principle, according to which it is a practical certainty that an event with very small probability will not happen.

Yuri Gurevich is a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, where he founded a group on Foundations of Software Engineering, and a Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan. His name is most closely associated with abstract state machines but he is known also for his work in logic, complexity theory and software engineering. The Gurevich-Harrington Forgetful Determinacy Theorem is a classical result in game theory. Yuri Gurevich is an ACM Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a member of Academia Europaea; he obtained honorary doctorates from Hasselt University in Belgium and Ural State University in Russia.