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Class Acts - Patrick Lin

Patrick Lin Cal PolyPatrick Lin / Philosophy Department

Specialty Area: Technology Ethics / Years at Cal Poly: 10 

What is/has been your favorite class to teach?
Philosophy 101! Incoming freshmen might know one or two things about philosophy, but it blows their minds to dig in to a wide range of intellectual puzzles and new ways to think about their world and lives.

What are your hobbies/extracurricular activities?
Music has always been a big part of my life. I’ve lived from coast to coast, and KCPR is hands down my favorite radio station anywhere. I tell everyone this.

How/why did you choose to work at Cal Poly?
Ten years ago, Cal Poly decided to develop capabilities in technology ethics, at the exact same time I was looking to move to San Luis Obispo for family. So, it was just a matter of being at the right place at the right time—which is how a lot of my life goes.

What are your research/scholarly pursuits?
I work on the ethics of emerging technologies, which includes law and policy. This includes robotics, AI, cyberwar/security, military weapons, human enhancement, nanotechnology, space exploration, data science, Internet of Things, and more. We get a lot of outside interest in our work, from Google to the United Nations.

What is your favorite class/student moment?
I love it every time we turn on students from other majors to philosophy; some even change majors or declare a minor in it. Philosophy is civilization’s oldest discipline, and after robots take over all our jobs, it may be the last thing standing.

What is one thing you wish your students knew about you?
The big things in my life, including this job, usually come from snap-decisions or accidents. Very little is planned. I hope my students go into this world unafraid—it’s ok to not have it all figured out.

If you were stranded on a desert island and could bring one book, what would it be?
If I can’t have How to Get Off a Desert Island, then maybe a book of Zen koans—something to meditate on before you die. Or I’d leave it to chance, because life is absurd, anyway.

Do you have a favorite getaway location?
It’s weird, but I like being on golf courses, museums, and hallowed grounds, such as old battlefields, cemeteries, and churches. There’s a sense of peace but also struggle, inspiration, human frailty, history, and impermanence at the same time.

What is a fact about you that few know?
I put out a guy who was on fire once. He probably would have survived anyway.

What is/are your guilty pleasure(s)?
I like a lot of dumb movies that critics hate. I guess I like a lot of dumb things in general. I don’t know why, but I don’t definitely don’t feel guilty about them.



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