Gary Marcus

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Gary Marcus
Gary Marcus at Web Summit 2022.jpeg
Marcus in 2022
Gary Fred Marcus

(1970-02-08) February 8, 1970 (age 53)
EducationCenter for Talented Youth
Alma materHampshire College (BS)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MS, PhD)
Scientific career
FieldsCognitive psychology, artificial intelligence
InstitutionsNew York University
ThesisOn rules and exceptions : an investigation of inflectional morphology (1993)
Doctoral advisorSteven Pinker

Gary Fred Marcus (born 8 February 1970) is an American psychologist, cognitive scientist, and author, known for his research on the intersection of cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and artificial intelligence (AI).[1][2]

Marcus is professor emeritus of psychology and neural science at New York University and in 2014 founded Geometric Intelligence, a machine learning company.[3][4]

His books include Guitar Zero[5] and Kluge.[6]

Early life[edit]

Marcus majored in cognitive science at Hampshire College.[7] He continued on to graduate school at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he conducted research on negative evidence in language acquisition[8] and regularization (and over-regularization) in children's acquisition of grammatical morphology.[9] During his PhD studies, he was mentored by Steven Pinker.[10]


In 2015 Marcus co-founded a machine-learning startup, Geometric Intelligence. When Geometric Intelligence was acquired by Uber in December 2016, he became the director of Uber's AI efforts; but in March 2017 he left the company, retaining an advisory role.[11][12]

In 2019 Marcus launched the startup, Robust.AI, with Rodney Brooks, iRobot co-founder and co-inventor of the Roomba. Robust.AI aims to build an "off-the-shelf" machine-learning platform for adoption in autonomous robots, similar to the way video-game engines can be adopted by third-party game developers.[13][10]


Marcus's early work focused on why children produce over-regularizations, such as "breaked" and "goed", as a test case for the nature of mental rules.[14]

In his first book, The Algebraic Mind (2001), Marcus challenged the idea that the mind might consist of largely undifferentiated neural networks. He argued that understanding the mind would require integrating connectionism with classical ideas about symbol-manipulation.[15]

Marcus's book, Guitar Zero (2012), explores the process of taking up a musical instrument as an adult.

Marcus edited The Norton Psychology Reader (2005), including selections by cognitive scientists on modern science of the human mind.

With Jeremy Freeman he co-edited The Future of the Brain: Essays by the World's Leading Neuroscientists (2014).

Language and mind[edit]

Marcus belongs to the school of thought of psychological nativism. One of his books, The Birth of the Mind (2004), describes from a nativist perspective the ways that genes can influence cognitive development, and aims to reconcile nativism with common anti-nativist arguments advanced by other academics. He discusses how a small number of genes account for the intricate human brain, common false impressions of genes, and the problems they[clarification needed] may cause for the future of genetic engineering.[16]

In a review, Mameli and Papineau argue that the theory expounded in the book is "more sophisticated than any version of nativism on the market", but that in attempting to rebut anti-nativist arguments, Marcus "ends up reconfiguring the nativist position out of existence", prompting Mameli and Papineau to conclude that the nativist-anti-nativist framing should "be abandoned".[17]

Artificial intelligence[edit]

Marcus is a notable critic of the "hype" surrounding artificial intelligence.[10] He has called for regulation of AI, increased AI literacy among the public, and "well-funded public thinktanks" to consider potential AI risks.[18] He has also argued that AI is currently being deployed prematurely, particularly in situations that involve a risk of real-world harm resulting from bias, as with facial recognition or résumé parsing, since current deep-learning techniques are not amenable to formal verification for correctness.[19]

Marcus has described current large language models as "approximations to [...] language use rather than language understanding".[10]

On 29 March 2023, Marcus and other researchers signed an open letter calling for a moratorium on "the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4" until proper safeguards can be implemented,[20][21] primarily citing the short-term risks of "mediocre AI that is unreliable [...] but widely deployed".[22]

Partial bibliography[edit]


  • Marcus, G.; Davis, E. (2019). Rebooting AI: Building Artificial Intelligence We Can Trust. Pantheon/Random House.
  • Marcus, G.; Freeman, J. (ed.) (2014). The Future of the Brain: Essays by the World's Leading Neuroscientists. Princeton University Press.
  • Marcus, G. F. (2012). Guitar Zero: The New Musician and the Science of Learning. The Penguin Press.
  • Marcus, G. F. (2008). Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind. Houghton Mifflin.
  • Marcus, G. F. (ed.) (2006). The Norton Psychology Reader. W. W. Norton.
  • Marcus, G. F. (2004). The Birth of The Mind: How a Tiny Number of Genes Creates the Complexities of Human Thought. Basic Books.
  • Marcus, G. F. (2001). The Algebraic Mind: Integrating Connectionism and Cognitive Science. MIT Press.
  • Marcus, G. F., Pinker, S., Ullman, M., Hollander, M., Rosen, T. J., Xu, F., & Clahsen, H. (1992). Overregularization in language acquisition. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 57(4), i-178.


  • Marcus, Gary, "Artificial Confidence: Even the newest, buzziest systems of artificial general intelligence are stymied by the same old problems", Scientific American, vol. 327, no. 4 (October 2022), pp. 42–45.
  • Marcus, Gary, "Am I Human?: Researchers need new ways to distinguish artificial intelligence from the natural kind", Scientific American, vol. 316, no. 3 (March 2017), pp. 58–63.
  • Marcus, G. F., & Davis, E. (2013). How robust are probabilistic models of higher-level cognition? Psychological Science, 24(12), 2351–2360.
  • Marcus, G. F., Fernandes, K. J., & Johnson, S. P. (2007). Infant rule learning facilitated by speech. Psychological Science, 18(5), 387–391.
  • Marcus, G. F. (2006). Cognitive architecture and descent with modification. Cognition, 101(2), 443–465.
  • Marcus, G. F., & Fisher, S. E. (2003). FOXP2 in focus: what can genes tell us about speech and language? Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 7(6), 257–262.
  • Marcus, G. F., Vijayan, S., Bandi Rao, S., & Vishton, P. M. (1999). Rule learning by seven-month-old infants. Science, 283(5398), 77–80.
  • Marcus, G. F. (1998). Rethinking eliminative connectionism. Cognitive Psychology, 37(3), 243–282.
  • Marcus, G. F., Brinkmann, U., Clahsen, H., Wiese, R., & Pinker, S. (1995). German inflection: The exception that proves the rule. Cognitive Psychology, 29(3), 189–256.


  1. ^ A Skeptical Take on the A.I. Revolution, retrieved 2023-01-11
  2. ^ "Machines that think like humans: Everything to know about AGI and AI Debate 3". ZDNET. Retrieved 2023-01-11.
  3. ^ Etherington, Darrell (2016-12-05). "Uber acquires Geometric Intelligence to create an AI lab". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2023-01-11.
  4. ^ "Uber Bets on Artificial Intelligence With Acquisition and New Lab". The New York Times. 2016-12-05. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-05-20.
  5. ^ Guitar Zero by Gary Marcus |
  6. ^ "Editors' Choice - Book Review". The New York Times. 2008-05-04. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-05-20.
  7. ^ "Gary Marcus 86F". Hampshire College. Retrieved 2023-01-11.
  8. ^ Marcus, Gary F. (1993-01-01). "Negative evidence in language acquisition". Cognition. 46 (1): 53–85. doi:10.1016/0010-0277(93)90022-N. ISSN 0010-0277. PMID 8432090. S2CID 23458757.
  9. ^ Marcus, Gary F. (1995). "Children's overregularization of English plurals: a quantitative analysis*". Journal of Child Language. 22 (2): 447–459. doi:10.1017/S0305000900009879. ISSN 1469-7602. PMID 8550732. S2CID 46561477.
  10. ^ a b c d Anadiotis, George (November 12, 2020). "What's next for AI: Gary Marcus talks about the journey toward robust artificial intelligence". ZDNet. Retrieved 2023-03-30.
  11. ^ Bhuiyan, Johana (2017-03-08). "Uber's new head of its AI labs has stepped down from his role". Vox. Retrieved 2023-03-30.
  12. ^ Fried, Ina (2017-03-08). "The head of Uber's AI labs is latest to leave the company". Axios. Retrieved 2023-03-30.
  13. ^ Feldman, Amy. "Startup Founded By Cognitive Scientist Gary Marcus And Roboticist Rodney Brooks Raises $15 Million To Make Building Smarter Robots Easier". Forbes. Retrieved 2023-03-30.
  14. ^ Marcus, G. F., Pinker, S., Ullman, M., Hollander, M., Rosen, T. J., and Xu, F. (1992). Overregularization in Language Acquisition. (Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development). 57 (4, Serial No. 228). SRCD monograph?
  15. ^ Marcus, G.F., The Algebraic Mind: Integrating Connectionism and Cognitive Science, Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, 2001.
  16. ^ Marcus, G.F., The Birth of The Mind: How a Tiny Number of Genes Creates the Complexities of Human Thought, New York, Basic Books, 2004.
  17. ^ Mameli, Matteo; Papineau, David (2006-09-01). "The new nativism: a commentary on Gary Marcus's The birth of the mind". Biology and Philosophy. 21 (4): 559–573. doi:10.1007/s10539-005-1800-7. ISSN 1572-8404. S2CID 59464488.
  18. ^ Marcus, Gary (2022-08-07). "Siri or Skynet? How to separate AI fact from fiction". The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved 2023-03-31.
  19. ^ Georges, Benoît (November 26, 2019). "" Les machines ne savent pas gérer les situations imprévues "". Les Echos (in French). Retrieved 2023-03-30.
  20. ^ Chavanne, Yannick (March 29, 2023). "Bengio, Musk, Wozniak et des centaines d'autres experts appellent à mettre en pause le développement des IA". ICTjournal (in French). Retrieved 2023-03-30.
  21. ^ "Pause Giant AI Experiments: An Open Letter". Future of Life Institute. Retrieved 2023-03-30.
  22. ^ Marcus, Gary (March 28, 2023). "AI risk ≠ AGI risk". The Road to AI We Can Trust. Retrieved 2023-03-30.

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