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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Today In The AA [#11]: Adapting to Taiwanese Culture

Heya everyone. Pardon the blog hiatus, I've been busy with RoboCup prep and all the activities Taiwan has to offer. I'll try to summarize my last couple weeks down below, somehow!

Life in Taiwan

One thing I've really grown to respect about the University of Manitoba, and Winnipeg in general, is the cultural diversity. I didn't realize until coming out here, just how adjusted I was to seeing countless walks of life in such close proximity. Out here, there are very few Westerners, which does make for some interesting encounters. Out with Jacky one day for a lunch meeting, I was approached by a friendly NKFUST student, who was seeking an interview.

 *I haven't even published a paper yet, and my most seminal work involves a spell-checked README file. What could this lady want from me?*

Her name was Tsai Ting Wu, I found out after signing my name on the completed interview sheet.
I was asked to read various lyrical translations from a Taiwanese band, and give my opinion on which had more emotional impact. She's a linguistics student working on her thesis, by the way. I'm always happy to assist in research, and I could imagine it wasn't easy capturing a native English speaker of the required age demographic.

... Interlude... A Focus on Mental and Physical Wellness

When taking on many new challenges and experiencing many things at once, it is crucial to ensure one is both mentally and physically in tact. It can be especially difficult when one has a naturally ("intense" as I'm often told) personality.
I really like routines, I can't express that enough. It can get to the point where these routines become compulsions, and are more detrimental than beneficial. One primary example is working out.
Excel Spreadsheet tracking my workout progress.
Sinusoidal function

I've been following a solid routine out here involving 3 (5km) jogs per week, plus my standard 2-3 hours calisthenics workout. The fatigue level for such a routine is relatively sinusoidal with respect to time , with the amplitude increasing on every cycle. Most recently it has been getting to the point where simple tasks become difficult to maintain, likely due to the fatigue. Now with this in mind, there are 2 options I may take.

  1. Keeping pushing through, and stop being a wimp.
  2. Allow the body to recover and workout after
These are the 2 options most would come up with, at least. Unfortunately my mind doesn't agree with either. I know, rationally, that if I don't give myself time to rest, I'll completely drain myself. On the other hand, it's difficult to know if my fatigue is a result of being mentally weak, or just physically at my limit.
The middle ground I've met on, is to take a short break this weekend (Saturday/Sunday) and focus on running some Unit Tests on myself (refer to this post where I explain the importance of it.)

Clearly, my goals are reasonable. I realize mentally, that my routine is far from impossible. The issue is most likely sleep. Having short periods of time where sleep is weak, doesn't cause the workout to crumble, but in the long run it will. Thus, this weekend will be spent ensuring I fix up some of these fundamental needs.
Point of this section is that if you notice plateaus, or periods of fatigue in your own life, don't just give up and flop. At the same time don't dismiss your mind/body if it is demanding something from you.

My rule of thumb is that if you have a couple bad workouts, or a couple bad anything in your life, just suck it up and push forward; but if you can clearly identify an increasing negative trend after multiple sessions, then you must reposition yourself before going further, or you'll crumble in the long run.


Heading home again late evening to actually catch some sleep, I bumped into Tsai Ting Wu, the Linguistics student from before. She had a follow-up quest for me, involving a video interview this time. I was required to study up on the cultural diversity within Taiwan. Turns out there is a lot, it's just more difficult for a foreigner to notice.

I'm not as ignorant as to think Asia has only "Asian people"; but learning about the Minnan, Hakka, and aboriginal cultures within Taiwan was eye opening to just how complex we are as a race. From physical to psychological characteristics, humans share some Universal traits while having an unbelievable amount of complexity on a smaller scale.

Obligatory scenery shot to build atmosphere in this post
I believe that, especially as someone studying artificial intelligence and cognition, it is crucial to make the distinction between general intelligence that agrees with the global population, as opposed to hand crafted agents that act on the will of a smaller minority. For at least the next several decades, artificial intelligence won't likely evolve to being fully general and independent of humanity; but rather a powerful multi-purpose tool for expanding human interest. On this thought, we must ensure that such capability is spanned across all various cultures and influenced by as diverse a sample as possible.

Traveling as a researcher is beyond a pleasure, it is a requirement if one truly seeks to contribute valuable science.

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