Recently, someone (not me) suggested in a tweet to Judea Pearl, let's have a Kaggle** competition on the topic of Causal AI. I love the idea, so I am trying to promote it with this blog post. Big Pharma could fund such a competition for much less than what they pay for a TV commercial, and the technical insights they might gain from this exercise might prove to be invaluable to the pharmaceutical industry. (Plus it would be good publicity for them, much better than a lame TV commercial.) . It would not be the first time either. For instance, Merck** has hosted Kaggle competitions in the past.
Judea Pearl, who won the Turing Award (often called the "Nobel prize" of computer science) for his work in Bayesian Networks and the closely related subject of Causal AI, might be willing to help design such a contest. Another Turing Award winner, Yoshua Bengio, who has recently been working on CausalWorld, might also be willing to help. The Columbia Uni professor and famous ex-student of Judea Pearl, Elias Bareinboin, might be willing to help too. There is no shortage of experts in this field that might be willing to help design what, there is no doubt in my mind, would be a historic, history changing, seminal, mind bending event.
Causal AI is certainly a worthy topic for Kaggle and Pharma to pursue. So far, Machine Learning is just glorified curve fitting. The next step in mimicking human reasoning is described by Pearl's Theory of Causality far better and more explicitly than by any other theory I've ever seen. And Pharma would benefit greatly by using in the drug discovery process, a theory that harnesses the crucial differences between correlation and causation in a logical, self-consistent, quantitative way, as does Pearl's Theory of Causality.
**Kaggle (which rhymes with gaggle), is a company that holds machine learning competitions, with prize money. It was founded in 2010 and acquired by Google Alphabet in 2017. By now, Kaggle has hosted hundreds of competitions, and played a significant role in promoting Data Science and Machine learning. For example, a team including the Turing award winner Geoffrey Hinton, won first place in 2012 in a competition hosted by Merck. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia's Kaggle entry:
In June 2017, Kaggle announced that it passed 1 million registered users, or Kagglers. The community spans 194 countries. It is the largest and most diverse data community in the world, ranging from those just starting out to many of the world's best known researchers.
Kaggle competitions regularly attract over a thousand teams and individuals. Kaggle's community has thousands of public datasets and code snippets (called "kernels" on Kaggle). Many of these researchers publish papers in peer-reviewed journals based on their performance in Kaggle competitions.
By March 2017, the Two Sigma Investments fund was running a competition on Kaggle to code a trading algorithm.