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Jonathan Schaeffer


Academic Affiliations

Professor – University of Alberta (Computing Science)

Industry and Research Affiliations

Co-founder - Onlea

Areas of Expertise

artificial intelligence, computer games, game theory, parallel computing, heuristic search, machine learning

"Games have been critical in advancing AI technology."

Jonathan Schaeffer

Games are more than just playing around

Jonathan Schaeffer's career has been spent making computers play games as a means of advancing fundamental AI research. His early work focused on research into parallel computing and game-playing AI. He was the lead author of Chinook, a checkers-playing program that was the first in the world to win a world championship against human players. In 2007, he and his colleagues solved the game, creating a program that could play perfectly – meaning it cannot be beaten. His influential work in checkers and other games like chess and poker has been foundational to the field, helping push forward important concepts in artificial intelligence. Schaeffer was a leader of the Computer Poker Research Group at the University of Alberta, which would go on to develop programs like Polaris, and eventually achieve expert-level play at heads-up no-limit Texas Hold 'Em.

After receiving his PhD from the University of Waterloo, Schaeffer joined the University of Alberta in 1984. Schaeffer helped found the Alberta Ingenuity Centre for Machine Learning at the University of Alberta in 2002, which would later become Amii. He has held many leadership positions at the university, including Chair of Computing Science, Associate VP for the University of Alberta, and Dean of the Faculty of Science. Schaeffer has been recognized for his achievements in AI research by many organizations, having been named a Fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. In 2020, he received the Award for Lifetime Achievement in Computer Science from CS-Can | Info-Can. Schaeffer is also the founder of several companies, including Bio-Tools and Onlea. Schaeffer's work has received more than 12,000 citations, and over the course of his career at the U of A, he has trained more than 75 graduate students. While still involved in technical research, Schaeffer has recently focused on educating about the potential societal benefits of artificial intelligence and advocating for funding and support for further research.

"If I can make a difference in this country in terms of our understanding of what AI can do, and especially what it can't do, maybe that's a much bigger legacy. Because AI can revolutionize the world in incredibly positive ways.”

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