Humans of McMaster: Tinson Chen
The Silhouette: Please introduce yourself.
Tinson Chen: My name is Tinson Chen. I'm a fourth-year student in the arts and science program and combining with computer science. I use he and him pronouns and I am the President of the Students’ Association of Arts and Science Students and the [Vice President] of engagement of the McMaster AI Society.
How did you become interested in AI?
The pivot to the liberal arts was a decision I made near the end of high school. Once I'd gotten into the program and knew I wanted to stay, I got involved with the student politics of [the program]. I was a year [representative], senior program advisor and now the president. It was a good last opportunity to bring back a bunch of sorts of traditions that the last pre-pandemic year of students know. The reason I got into AI was that it's the most cutting-edge thing. The way I started with Mac AI was that I was a humanities and social science coordinator since they all have different faculty coordinators. For science and engineering, it's clearer how it relates to AI. Whereas, in the humanities and social sciences, [there’s] less obvious connection to machine learning. So, my big role was getting humanities and social science people to be interested in it.
Why did you make that turn to liberal arts?
I wanted to keep my options open. It was the end of high school and I was talking to my guidance counsellor. I was interested in a lot of stuff, into trivia too, and she told me: "Hey, there's this program that's pretty reputable and let’s you pursue everything you want to do." She was talking about artsci. I also really wanted a well-rounded education and to avoid tunnel vision for AI. I think the liberal arts can really inform the philosophy and the ethics of AI.
Considering the breadth of your interests, do you know what you would like to pursue after your undergraduate degree?
My interests, academically at least, are to do with natural language and getting computers to create natural language. If we were to create a computer that could actually convince a human of its humanity, that is sort of equivalent to solving the problem. I feel like the channel of language is the key to what we call intelligence. So that's what motivates me and why I'm pursuing a minor in linguistics as well. Non-academically, I wouldn't mind taking a couple years to cook around different places, learn different techniques and travel a little bit. You know, just learn the ins and outs of cooking.
When did you become passionate about cooking?
Wow, this is really making me realize how much I've changed going into university. This was only for the last bit of high school. Once I got to university, I was in Bates and had a kitchen. This gave me the chance to cook a lot more and get the ingredients to experiment with.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Maybe Parkinson's Law: work expands to fill time. You can do as much as you'd like. You just have to do it all shoddily.