Bridging biology and computation in the service of understanding how language evolved. Gary Marcus

Thursday, 4 September, 2014 - 09:30 to 11:00

Absent a time machine we may never know exactly why language - a cognitive system that leaves no direct fossils - evolved, but with deeply integrated, interdisciplinary approach, drawing on genetics, neuroscience, linguiistics, psychology, and computation, there is some hope that we might reconstruct how language evolved: what genetic innovations were there? How did those genetic novelties influence brain development and work in tandem with the ancestral genetic toolkit that we inherited from earlier primates?   What role did the process of duplication and divergence play in the evolution of language? In this talk, I argue that efforts to understand the evolutionary basis of language would be well-served by an intensive, cross-disiciplinary effort at characterizing the core set of cognitive primitives on which human cognition is based, and their neural basis.

Gary Marcus, Professor of Psychology at NYU and Visiting Cognitive Scientist at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, is the author of four books including the NYTimes Bestseller, Guitar Zero. He writes frequently for The New Yorker, Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times, and is co-editor of the forthcoming book, The Future of the Brain: Essays By The World's Leading Neuroscientists.  His research on language, evolution, computation and cognitive development has been published widely, in leading journals such as Science and Nature.