Innovation. Our prime minister has got it right when he said Innovation is the way forward. Our oil is diminishing, our service economy is threatened by China, tourism is not much a revenue, so what is left? Being an education hub might be, but what can really attract a large group of international students if not for the worldly-famous innovations coming out from our higher institutions. So its all coming back to innovation, isn’t? This paragraph only echoed what I wrote two years ago (see post Kepentingan Mempunyai Universiti-universiti Bertaraf Dunia, 5th of February 2009):
“disebabkan ketiadaan teknologi asli kepunyaan Malaysia untuk dijual, ketika ini negara kita hanya menjalankan urus-niaga bersifat perkhidmatan (services) dan orang tengah, (selain aktiviti-aktiviti konventional seperti pertanian dan penjualan sumber-sumber bumi yang akan habis seperti minyak dan gas) dimana Malaysia terpaksa bergantung pada negara lain yang akibatnya menjadikan Malaysia sentiasa menjadi pengikut (follower) kepada kuasa-kuasa besar dan bukan pendahulu (leader) lalu terdedah kepada ancaman-ancaman politik, ekonomi dan sosial”
But, what is innovation and how it relates to the sustainability of our economy, society and country? Innovation from my own point of view is an act of modifying existing technologies so as to add its values both economically and socially for the purpose of self-enhancement and commercialization. Creating a new technology is not necessarily an innovation as creation would be a better name for it. Creating a new feature or function of an existing technology, on the other hand, would come back to the aforementioned act of modification.
How innovation can sustain the survival of our society and country? The answer is, by being ‘renewable’ in nature. Innovations come from ideas which in turn, come from the brain of an individual within a society. So, as long as we can ensure the rebirth of our society, innovation is always a possibility. This is how ‘renewable’ an innovation can be and compare this with the diminishing state of the oil. Also it is ‘renewable’ in the sense that as compared to other revenue generating activities, Innovation demands less ‘material’ capital but more of ‘human capital’. This is what I meant when I wrote the post All We Need Are Books and Brain to Conquer the World on September 16th. But having said these, it comes also with one condition, hence the word ‘possibility’ at the end of the of the sentence above.
Innovation, and sustainability for that matter will always remain a possibility unless we can breed our next and next and next generations to possess proper brain; smart enough, strong enough to have ideas than can lead to innovations. In other words, we need a clever and smart society to innovate. Do we really believe that we are the only one who has realized the importance of innovations? Come on, even the words come from somebody else.
Believing that anybody can innovate for me is immature, not wrong but immature. Immature in the sense that although it can happen sometimes and somewhere, the element of lucks always there to govern, so its more like a gambling. This ‘trial and error’ version of innovative works where innovators simply try things without having any ‘reason’ behind it and ‘principles’ that guide it, only consumes so much; money, time and energy with low rate of success. And in the time when the world is exponentially changing, the only option that we have is to be quick but correct hence the word effective.
Please, I am not being pessimistic on this issue, in fact I am full of confidence that Innovation is what we need, Innovation what we can do, and Innovation what we must do; the only way forward. If I am not confident, I would not even border to write this article. If I don’t believe that our society can change and improve, I would not even border to write anything in this blog, I might rather sit in front of the television wearing my ‘pelikat’ and just enjoy my life. But what I am saying is, if we want to do it, lets do it properly as there are best practices or proven methods that we can follow. Other words, there are ‘sustainable’ procedures in doing innovations. It’s funny this thing called sustainability; you sustain only if you can sustain.
I strongly believe, if we want to innovate, we must first understand in great depth the basic and fundamental principles which lie behind and that make up the technology we are about to innovate. Because only then we know what and how parameters to be adjusted?, what and how initial and boundary conditions to be modified?; what and how variables to be included? what and how equations to be solved? and among these which conserves and which optimizes the most? etc. The last two may be the most important; not ensuring the conservation of laws usually what leads to physical failure of the innovation and fail to optimize what makes an innovative work a waste.
I know this statement is going to be a controversial one because those ‘trial and error’ innovators who I have mentioned above would also like to claim that this has always been the case for them. This very dilemma is what I referred to when I wrote in a post on 14th of March 2009:
“We can not even agree on what do we really mean by a conqueror (or to conquer for that matter)? Does our ability in applying the knowledge qualify us as the conqueror? Or is it the ability to understand the knowledge from the axiomatic and the hypothesis point of views, followed by the theoretical and the theorem levels and end up with all the innovations and the inventions what really classifies the status of a conqueror?”
All I am saying is, the problem with our present society is that we can not even get to agree at the axiomatic level on what are we? what are our strength and weakness? etc. And my claim on we’re not ‘there’ yet on this smart issue contained in the following writing of mine taken from the post All We Need Are Books and Brain to Conquer the World on September 16th:
“But the realities are seeing, for examples, only two Muslims ever won the Nobles Prizes as compared to the 12 Chinese and Singapore universities at top 20 in the world in comparison with ours at top 200. I know people will argue about this ranking thing which for me just an immediate instance of how our people are so self-obsessed, cannot accept self-criticism and always like to blame others for their own lacking. Yesterday, after giving a business pitch at PECIPTA 2011 at KLCC Convention Centre, I went up to Kinokuniya and felt very sad to see out of hundreds (if not thousands) books at the Science, Engineering and Mathematics sections, it was hard to even get ten books authored by Muslims. If we really want Syiar Islam to be practiced throughout the world, we must start working in turning this ‘Kinokuniya scenario’ into those where it would be our books on those shelves.”
So all we need is a cultural revolution and by this time my critics will say “hah, another big words from him” and “typical him, idealistic and impractical”. I know all these will be thrown at me. But I am a man who do not believe in cutting corners or short-cut. We can excel but work-hard, persevere, big-hearted, brave we must be. This is what I learned so far in this life; especially from my experience in IC London and in developing my group of students who produced ERCAD software. So real these experiences I can never turned back. On the question what do I mean by cultural revolution, I would say lets start with the revolution of Budaya Ilmu and on what I really mean by this, those really and sincerely want to know my views on this, please read my posts in 2009 as there were all extractions from a bigger volume of my writing on Budaya Ilmu (huh! it has been three years since I wrote those, how time flies!).
Finally, let me conclude this article with my opinion that the measure of smartness of a society is represented by the rate of coming to an agreement on one particular issue; the smarter they are, the quicker they agree and vice versa. In turn, to innovate we must be smart and this only requires us to be quick to agree and most importantly quick to UNITE!.