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.  

I feel like the channel of language is the key to what we call intelligence.

Tinson Chen

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.

You can do as much as you'd like. You just have to do it all shoddily.

Tinson Chen
Photo by Catherine Goce

By: Evonne Syed

The topic of integrating artificial intelligence and robots into the workforce rouses the concern of anyone wishing to enter the job market, and the same goes for postsecondary students.

Fortunately, the future is optimistic for students as automation is not expected to prevent graduates from attaining their career goals.

In fact, the rise of automation actually improves career prospects for university graduates, as it is creating a new job market. Forbes Magazine reports that artificial intelligence is predicted to create 58 million jobs as 2022 approaches.

As the popularity of automation systems and the use of artificial intelligence in the workplace becomes more widespread, there will be more and more people required to actually build and develop these systems.

This will open up opportunities for those who wish to enter the fields of robotics and information technology. BBC News anticipates the prominence of data analysts, social media specialists and software developers, as a result.

For this reason, while one may argue that automation has resulted in the elimination of certain jobs, the introduction of automation in the workforce is actually creating more jobs and opportunities in our current digital age.

Luckily, McMaster University has many programs to equip students with the necessary skills to flourish in our digital age. The recent construction of the Hatch Centre shows McMaster’s testament to students advancing in these fields.  

Even if one is not interested in working in the field of automation, that does not mean that they are otherwise at risk of being unable to obtain a job. There is an increasing demand for “human skills” in the workforce since these skills are what distinguish robots from actual human beings.

University graduates tend to seek out careers that require a higher level of education which simply cannot be programmed into automation systems. It would be way too costly and time consuming to teach a robot the knowledge a person has acquired from their post-secondary education.

There are also plenty of skills, academic and otherwise, that students learn and develop through their time at university. Education and experiential opportunities prepare students to apply their knowledge in a variety of situations.

For example, critical thinking skills and problem solving are transferable “soft skills” that employers seek and students develop during their time at university.

Some jobs require humanistic qualities, which are simply not possible for a machine to replicate. For instance, no matter how much technology advances, robots may never be capable of understanding human emotions and experiences.

The interpersonal skills, empathy and compassion that people develop by interacting with one another are skills that are beneficial for the work environment. These skills equip anyone to thrive professionally as the future of the job outlook changes.

Technological advancements such as automation will inevitably impact life as we know it, and that includes changing our work environments. However, these changes are not inherently harmful and the possibilities for post-secondary graduates remain promising.

Students must be proactive, take initiative to educate themselves as much as possible and work on developing these skills. Provided that students make the most of their university experience, and are willing to undergo some extra training to keep their learning sharp, robots are sure to have nothing on them.


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