Those of you who have read my articles would know that I am spending my summer break in Malaysia.
The second I stepped out of my flight, I could feel the searing heat and warmth of the sun, as well the humidity of the Malaysian air. Oh, how I have missed this country!
Amid celebrating Hari Raya Aidilfitri, I also attended an internship programme, supported Malaysian athletes at the Kuala Lumpur Sea Games 2017 and participated in student-led conferences and events.
I must say that my past three months have been productive and illuminating. One event in particular is the Malaysian Students’ Technology Conference that brought on an epiphany to my purpose in life.
This year, the theme focused on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, described as a range of new technologies that were fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, and impacting all disciplines, economies and industries.
A part of this revolution saw “emerging technology breakthroughs” in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, quantum computing and nanotechnology.
The conference was split into three panels, “Future of Jobs”, “Renewable Energy and Sustainability Development” and “The Platform Revolution”, and included talks and a poladrone demonstration in between.
Overall, the event was informative and highlighted recent developments in the digital world and tech industry. It also reminded participants on the need to remain sustainable.
The panel that I want to highlight is “The Platform Revolution”, which essentially meant to revamp a pipeline business to a platform business.
A pipeline business creates value by controlling a linear series of activities, the classic value-chain model. Inputs at one end of the chain (say, materials from suppliers) undergo a series of steps that transform them into an output that is worth more, the finished product.
A platform business creates value by facilitating interactions between external producers and consumers. An example of a successful platform business is Apple, which is how they turned the tables in 2007, and dominated the tech industry.
The panelists showed us a graph on how technology was growing, from just computers in the past to e-commerce in the present and artificial intelligence in the near future.
A part of me was awed by everything presented by the panelists, but another part of me was concerned.
I was concerned not because I could not handle the information overload (well, a bit, to be honest), but I was worried that these technological innovations would be too fast for everyone to keep up with.
Yes, I agree that we should be informed and aware of recent technological advancements, but, at the same time, I feel that this would further enhance the socio-economic gap between the privileged community and the less-privileged community.
How about the urban poor?
And to a further extent, Rohingya refugees?
These burning questions led me back to the original intent I had when I chose to become a chemical engineer, which is to become a link between scientific discoveries and their subsequent applications in a much larger scale for the use of the public. I want to reduce the wage gap among Malaysians and improve their overall life. Most importantly, I do not want anyone to be left behind.
Sometimes, we get carried away in the bubble of our comfortable lives. We feel happy in the comfort of our home, not realising that our less-fortunate brothers and sisters do not even have a house.
We take for granted the education that we are provided with, even complaining about the amount of work we have to do, while others would give anything to go to school and learn.
Apart from donating money and doing community service, I find myself wondering on how I could truly contribute back to society in the long run.
So, the ultimate question came about. Why do I study? Why am I learning new things? Why do I need to find a job? What is the purpose of life?
I believe that the pure need to help people is embedded in each person.
In an instant, a hadith that my mother told me came to mind, which was: “In Sahih of Al Bukhari and Muslim, it is reported that Anas ibn Malik narrated that the Prophet said: ‘Three things follow the funeral of a dead man. Two of them return and one remains, which is his family, his wealth, and his deeds. His family and wealth return, but his deeds remain.”
In simple terms, the prayers of family members, the charity and philanthropy that we do, and the beneficial knowledge that we pass on to others would help us in the afterlife. For now, let me focus on the last two points.
For charity and philanthropy, it is of utmost importance that we are equipped with knowledge before helping others.
This revelation came when I participated in a community-service camp organised by Yayasan Khazanah in partnership with a non-government organisations.
I was placed in a group aimed to help a single mothers’ association, and it became apparent that postgraduates were more qualified to head the initiative as they were equipped with more knowledge. Hence, we need to first gain knowledge before spreading good in this world.
The second point, which is to bestow beneficial knowledge on to others, and ensuring that the knowledge is practiced and passed on to another, showcases the meaning of the quote “Knowledge is Power”.
For that, I aspire to pursue a postgraduate course in the future, and return to Malaysia to serve its people in the best possible way.
So, what is your purpose?
Sit down and ask yourself that question. My purpose in life may be different from yours, but that is perfectly fine.
The most important thing is that you have the intention to do good, and, hopefully, everything else will fall into place. Coming from a 21-year-old, I still have a long way to go, but as people say, a journey of a thousand miles begin with the first step.
I hope you, too, will take this first step.
The writer is a first-year chemical engineering student at St John‘s College, University of Cambridge, UK. A Yayasan Khazanah scholar, she was a former student of Kolej Yayasan UEM and Sekolah Seri Puteri, Cyberjaya. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org