My name is Joseph Lin Chu. I also have a Chinese name which almost never gets used: 朱詠恩 (Zhu Yongen [pinyin] or Chu Yung-En [Wade-Giles]). I was born in Canada, grew up in the hometown of Burlington, Ontario, and now live near Toronto with a wonderful fiancee.
I’m the type of person who can spend a lot of time daydreaming or pondering the meaning of life, the nature of reality, and why people are the way they are. Inevitably I find reality at times rather unsatisfactory, and feel a determination to create a better world somehow, whether by understanding and changing the real one through scientific research, enterprise, or political discourse; or inventing my own through creative writing, or programming simulations like computer games.
The same goes for being unsatisfied with myself. I consider myself a work in progress, and still far from the ‘gentleman and a scholar’ ideal that I try to aspire to. I’m also beholden to the renaissance ideal of the polymath with a breadth of expertise.
A few years ago, I became a Master of Computer Science, having been focused on the connections that form our perceptions of reality (neural networks and pattern/object recognition). Having studied Cognitive Science in undergrad, I’m a connectionist who thinks that mimicking the human brain’s exceptional information processing abilities is, well a no-brainer. The hope is to at least find ways to improve how computers perceive and interact with the real world. More ambitiously, I hope to eventually be able to predict the future! To that end, I have worked as a Data Scientist on applied research in machine learning at a startup, and more recently as a Research Scientist at a larger company, and conduct research experiments from home as personal projects. In particular, I have worked on Natural Language Processing, Computer Vision, and the intersection of the two.
For hobbies, I like to play the piano and alto saxophone. I’ve also practiced several martial arts (with a strong preference for anything that involves swinging around a sword). I occasionally do some creative writing, mostly in the fantasy and science fiction genres, and hope to one day write a good novel. Sometimes, in addition to playing them, I design strategy and role-playing games, both digital and board. I also like to consider myself a bit of a connoisseur of quality anime.
I have eclectic tastes, and am equally comfortable reading Scientific American as I am reading, say The Economist, or a D&D Player’s Guide, or a manga like Gunslinger Girl. And, I have a habit of dabbling in amateur philosophy and debating politics, sometimes intentionally playing devil’s advocate in order to see how well thought out people’s beliefs are. Given that my own political view and philosophy are actually rather eclectic and nuanced, I tend to respect, if not necessarily agree with, any well defended argument. I like to follow current events too, and during elections tend to turn into a bit of a political junkie, having actually volunteered on a successful election campaign of a local MP.
I’m going to guess that most of the boring people will have stopped reading by this point and I can write whatever I want here. I sometimes meow at kitty cats when I think no one is looking. I used to want to take over the world when I was in grade school, but have long since realized that right now it really isn’t worth the effort, so I’m concentrating on making it a better place first. That in itself is probably a lifelong endeavour. In addition to attempting certain grand ambitious projects, like an Earthquake Predictor neural network, one of the ways I’m trying to make the world better is by giving roughly 12.5% of my annual income to charity.
For a long time I called myself a Christian Agnostic, as I wanted to be intellectually honest and admit that I didn’t know the truth, but that in practice I chose to take a leap of faith towards Christianity. However, a perhaps better descriptor would be a liberal Christian, as I am liberal in the sense that I choose my own individual interpretation of scripture rather than just accepting doctrines without scrutiny. I do believe in the fundamental core of Christianity, that Jesus lived, died, and rose again to save us all, and that God exists and wants a personal relationship with us. However, I have somewhat unorthodox views about certain details. For instance, I believe that because God created all, He is ultimately responsible for everything, including Original Sin, and that this is why the willing sacrifice of Jesus, who was God incarnate in a mortal form, and our salvation are ultimately a fulfillment of justice. I also believe that an omnipresent God entails an omniscient God entails both an omnipotent, and omnibenevolent God. God actually feels our pain and pleasure, and so cares about everything that happens to us. Thus, the Greatest Good, to maximize the happiness of everyone, is God’s Will. Note that this essentially implies a form of Utilitarianism, and that I am very much partial to that moral philosophy. To me, the creation and populating of a utopian and eternal Heaven is the Greatest Good possible and the right thing to do, and God’s purpose for the universe. Another particularly unorthodox idea I believe makes sense is the notion of purgatorial hell and eventual universal salvation, which I consider more consistent with God’s justice and mercy. Regarding the question of Biblical inerrancy, I believe the Bible was inspired by God, but nonetheless written by imperfect men. These were words and letters written by those affected by God, and should serve as a foundation to inform and understand one’s own personal relationship with God, but which also requires being willing to listen to God’s presence today.
My religious and philosophical beliefs have a significant influence on what I stand for when it comes to politics. As such I tend to lean liberal on most political and economic considerations, with the awareness that people are a product of the luck/fate of their genetics, experiences, and circumstances. God’s Will is to maximize the happiness of everyone, and to achieve this requires acting rationally, liberating people from unnecessary suffering, and encouraging the best use of resources to maximize happiness. I currently believe that the best way to achieve this is with a free market economy that is fairly regulated by a liberal democracy, with appropriate social welfare safety nets in place. I am sympathetic to democratic socialism, but remain skeptical about how it can be practically achieved. The only particular issue I tend to diverge from the centre-left is on abortion, which I have a rather nuanced view towards that leans pro-life in the later stages of pregnancy, when it has been established that the prenatal entity is capable of thinking and feeling, and so on principle should have the rights of personhood. Aside from that, I am a fairly typical liberal-minded intellectual.
For more on my ideas and creative works, see my online portfolio.