Nautilus

Will We Reverse-Engineer the Human Brain Within 50 Years?

Gary Marcus can’t understand why people are shocked when he calls the brain a computer. The 43-year-old professor of psychology at New York University, author of Kluge, about the haphazard evolution of the brain, and a leading researcher in how children acquire language, grins and says it’s a generational thing.

“I know there’s a philosophical school of dualism that says there’s some kind of spirit separate from body, which creates thought detached from the brain,” he says. “But for someone like me who grew up reading neuroscience and cognitive science, it’s unsurprising the brain is a computer. It’s how I’ve always understood it to be.”

Marcus’s most recent book, Guitar Zero, charts his quest to learn to play the guitar as he approached 40. It delves into the brain’s perpetual ability to learn new things, subverting the myth that our brains are practically cast in stone by middle age. In recent years, Marcus has been perplexed by the fact it’s nearly impossible to discern how the human brain differs from that of other primates. He details his insights in his bracing Nautilus essay, “Where Uniqueness Lies.”

We recently caught up with the ardent writer and professor, who speaks in sentences that race by like a Top Fuel dragster, in his NYU office. Below this video is

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