A Short Interview With Patrick Lin, Ph.D.
1. What are your HPS research interests?
My main interest in HPS is in its relevance and application to better understanding and guiding emerging technologies, such as nanotechnology and artificial intelligence. History is still an important guide to our future, despite Hume's problem of induction, so by examining the history and philosophical foundation of science, we can avoid previous missteps and learn valuable lessons in responsibly advancing new scientific areas.
2. What are your HPS teaching interests?
I am working on several publishing projects designed for university course adoption, currently all in the field of nanoethics (or the ethical and societal impact of nanotechnology). These include an anthology with Wiley, a monograph with Blackwell, an edited collection of essays for the International Journal of Applied Philosophy, and other titles under discussion.
3. What do you think are some of the most important questions in HPS today?
An important meta-question concerns the nature and extent of our responsibility in developing emerging technologies. In just the last decade or two, we have seen astonishing and accelerating breakthroughs in science and technology; and because science and technology are playing an increasing role in our lives and in society, it is an appropriate ethical question to ask whether, and how, we should work to resolve possible undesireable impacts beforehand.
4. How did you become interested in HPS?
I was deeply interested in science and technology well before I came to philosophy - from programming an Atari 400 computer at age 12, to starting out as a biology major at UC Berkeley, to my current business work with Silicon Valley companies. But I had always appreciated the larger, meta-questions surrounding science and epistemology as well as their implications for society.
5. What are your goals and/or expectations for WMU HPS?
WMU is in a unique position to create a leading center for HPS, just by leveraging its existing talent. With proper resources, we can galvanize leading thinkers and researchers across a range of disciplines at WMU as well as collaborate with other centers to put a much-needed spotlight on HPS.
6. Why do you think that HPS is important?
Again, history is an important guide for our future, and science is playing an increasing role in our lives, for better and worse. For instance, splitting the atom brought affordable energy to save many lives that might have otherwise perished during harsh winters, but it also led to such problems as living under the constant shadow of nuclear war, which we still have not solved more than half a century later. Similar worries exist for nanotechnology, as another example. Emerging technologies in particular face a crisis of philosophical identity, as scientists continue to struggle with defining the technology itself as well as its potential, limitations, applications and implications.
7. What advice would you have for students (undergraduate or graduate) who are interested in pursuing HPS studies?
Because science is converging with so many areas of our lives - from economics to politics to other societal issues, such as privacy - it is important for students to also be cross-trained in these areas. Science also is becoming much more difficult, and the philosophy of science is likewise more technical; so students need to have a deep understanding of the science as well.