Most people think of Gary Marcus and Yann LeCun as matter and anti-matter (or perhaps the other way around). But that wasn’t always the case. One upon a time Gary Marcus and Yann LeCun were friends; they did a number of public events together, and even appeared side-by-side in a famous photo together, which LeCun posted on Facebook, at the time describing Gary Marcus as his favorite critic. (Later, immediately after LeCun won the Turing Award along with Hinton and Bengio, the photo circulated again, with Marcus cropped out).
Indeed in 2017, Marcus and LeCun appeared together in a very civilized, and very interesting debate, moderated by David Chalmers at NYU. Marcus opened the debate with a list of things the two agreed up, and when Marcus earlier that day sent the list to LeCun, LeCun wrote back swiftly, and agreed on their points of agreement:
The dinner afterward, with Daniel Kahneman and others also present, was a good time for all.
Things changed, seemingly for good, on January 2, 2018, when Marcus posted his infamous Deep Learning: A Critical Appraisal, to which LeCun did not take kindly; LeCun tossed it off as “mostly wrong”, and the Twitter Wars began. Articles were written about these battles.
Sometimes the wars quieted down, only to rage again.
Many believed that these wars would never end; the disagreements seemed too intense. In November 2022, Galactica came, and the wars became even fiercer. Insults were hurled. Credentials were lied about. Lawsuits (for libel) were briefly (very briefly) contemplated. Things were bleak. Neither wished to speak to the other. The once friendly duo, who had amicably shared a stage several times in the mid 2010’s seemed irreconcilable.
And then, at the end of November … ChatGPT rolled in.
ChatGPT succeeded, where had Galactica (pulled after three controversial days) failed. All eyes turned to OpenAI. And well, LeCun began to channel Marcus.
Nearly every word below in this Twitter-style Ask Me Anything was (except as noted) written by Yann LeCun this morning, but may as well have been written by Marcus.
Marcus would, I daresay, not disagree with a single word.
And it’s not just LLMs, hype, the limits of of scaling, and the need for better mechanisms for handling intuitive physics that Marcus and LeCun agree about. Marcus and LeCun would also agree that Cicero, which has received far less attention, deserves more, in part because of its capacity for planning:
Small wonder that Sam Altman stopped following Yann LeCun a few days ago.
Coda: I can neither confirm nor deny the truth of this speculation:
But I can say that my work here is done.
Rumor has it that Marcus is ready to bury hatchet if LeCun is.
Haha. This was a pleasant and hilarious read. LeCun has come around and may even retrace his steps at some point and start over, although I doubt it. Reading the exchange on Twitter, I busted out laughing when I saw this tweet by an anonymous poster named Ubongo: "You are on an offramp." To which LeCun answered: "People have been telling me this during my entire career."
What's funny is that I agree with Ubongo. On the highway to AGI, LeCun took the offramp long ago when he made objective function optimization the core of his AI career. Deep learning is irrelevant to AGI. :-D
Ah I'm late to this very entertaining feud which I've been seeing on Twitter. Thanks for the background information. :)
You're both great. I wish you both well.