Yuri Gurevich Talk for Deans' Seminar Series

3/6/2014

Yuri Gurevich visited Stevens on March 4, 2014 for the Deans' Seminar Series to talk about “Impugning Alleged Randomness: When is a supposedly random event not random at all?”

Gurevich, a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research where he founded a group on Foundations of Software Engineering, offered the following scenario: 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?



According to Gurevich, 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 example. 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?

Gurevich’s talk provided 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.

“Dr. Gurevich provided a very interesting and very relevant talk that demonstrated how mathematical principles can be applied to address very complex real-world problems,” says Michael Bruno, Feiler Chair Professor and Dean, School of Engineering and Science.

In addition to his role at Microsoft, Gurevich is also 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.