What is the most important commodity in a person’s life? The predictable answers to this question, from children or even adults, almost invariably revolve around material things, from money to gold to platinum and nowadays even vibranium.
However, I've always been taught since young that the answer to that question is in fact knowledge. The only commodity that compounds and multiplies even after sharing or giving it away. I have equally passed on this insight to my children since they were young and have always reminded them that the smartest person in their room will always have the choice to be the person that can benefit most from the rest. Whether they choose to benefit is a different matter but it is a privilege accorded to the informed and select few.
Our Creator’s first word to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was Iqra’, which means “Read”. Why did the Creator choose Iqra’ over many other words? I believe that His first instruction to us as humans was “to seek knowledge” and it is the inevitable consequence of reading. This is how I came to the realisation that knowledge is the most important commodity for me, and for the rest of humanity to acquire.
Knowledge is also limitless. To illustrate this point, if I were to have ten pieces of gold and distribute it, I can give away three pieces to one person, and two to another. Therefore, because material things are finite, I will only have five pieces left. However, that is not the case with knowledge.
If I have ten pieces of knowledge and share it with anyone in whatever proportions, my ten is still intact. In fact, when I share knowledge with others, I may even gain more as sharing my understanding of the subject matter may, in fact, deepen and multiply my own realisation and understanding of it. After all, knowledge of men is but a drop of water in the ocean, compared to the knowledge of our Creator. There is just so much to learn.
That is why I encourage the young, including my children, to acquire as much knowledge as they possibly can especially at a young age. The ability to absorb is higher and the absence of ego quickens the learning and understanding process. The young can develop and advance their mind early and use it to build products and services, businesses, industries, economies and nation as well.
After spending about 16 years studying from school to college or university, our children may find that their qualifications may not necessarily meet the demands of the industry when they graduate. The academic syllabus that they studied and memorised may have been irrelevant or obsolete by then. Education I believe should try to match the speed of technology. After all, technology has matched the speed of changing human behaviour.
We have seen that academic syllabus can remain static for a long time. What we learn in school may be limited to the books that our teachers ask us to read and what they impart to us, which is guided by the educational process and policies that they must adhere to. This in itself is limiting. This practice sometimes goes beyond schools and extended to colleges and universities.
Take the training of one who aspires to become a pilot for example. He goes through years of training and studying the programme for conventional aircraft piloting, but one day the aviation industry will evolve and progress. And just like self-driven cars is here today, I believe autonomous aeroplanes will also arrive soon enough. That trainee pilot may find himself beaten by computers and robots to his job. He may become irrelevant. Therefore, I believe that academic excellence cannot be confused with knowledge or smartness.
Education should not be run just by academicians and theorists. It should be jointly managed by an ecosystem of practitioners and incentivised people.
People are discovering more ways to automate jobs that are repetitive in nature. Some identify these jobs as the 3D; difficult, dirty and dangerous. Today, there are already robots that receive guests at the office lobby, vacuums the house while the owner sleeps and roams the floor of the deepest ocean bed to test new discoveries.
I always find it amazing that our young are still studying in school the exact same subject that I was studying and in fact its the same subject that my father was studying. While the world and knowledge have rapidly progressed, our choice of subjects in school has not. Our sustainability and future are gravely tested now with the advent of the Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR 4.0).
In the first 3 industrial revolutions, we have always played catching up which sometimes disallow us to lead technologies and economies. This results in us being more of a technology consumer than a technology creator. We lost the first 3 rounds. It is now round 4.
IR 4.0 to my understanding connects everything, regardless if it is an animate or an inanimate object. Once connected they can communicate with each other. These results in a massive amount of data which then presents an opportunity to be converted into business intelligence and more importantly into actionable items for product, service and business owners. These can be achieved via disruptive technologies, such as Robotics, Internet of Things, Big Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence and many more.
Robotic technologies are applied in inspection, monitoring and equipment sorting. The Internet of Things covers a broad range of areas from safety management to satellite communication. There are also Cloud Computing – transmission of digital information; Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality; 3D design and printing methods and applications. Sometimes only a single key operator is needed to carry out, control and monitor the automation. Drone operator for multiple drones, for instance, are increasingly in demand for remote monitoring, logistics, aerial photography and farm automation.
Coming back to the learning in school I find that the country’s Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) scheme, which combines formal and informal learning, is a step in the right direction to prepare our young with today’s knowledge and skills.
What we need now is for TVET to extend its arm and include other learning institutions including mainstream universities, to together build an ecosystem to advance and include technologies, sciences and skills, as well as the development of innovative aptitudes and comprehension to meet future demands. For example, the syllabus for accountancy students should not be limited to only the basics of accountancy that prepares them for the conventional job of an accountant or investment banker but also to expose them to the knowledge and skill sets of future jobs, such as digital currency manager and crypto asset banker.
The lessons from IR 1.0 to 3.0 should teach us to stop playing catch and end up being a consumer. We must strive to stay ahead of the IR4.0 and be an innovator instead. We have to take the steps now to instil in our young the knowledge, including the thinking process to create, innovate and provide solutions to problems to turn the tide and be ahead in IR 4.0.
The development of the thinking process, from asking the right questions to providing solutions, is crucial in being inventive. We must not only understand what IR 4.0 is all about but also go further by asking, “What is next?”
We should take a firm and decisive stance from letting our children who are born in the 21st Century to still be stuck with the knowledge and skills of the 20th Century.
Let us make a conscious decision to build tomorrow’s legacy. Today.
Datuk Azrin Mohd Noor is the founder of Sedania Group, an innovator, author and IP expert. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org