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Hello, this is me!

Nur Imroatun Sholihat

Your friend in learning IT audit Digital transformation advocate a-pat-on-your-shoulder storyteller

About me

Hello

I'mNur Imroatun Sholihat

IT Auditor and Storyteller

So I heard you are curious about IT and/or auditing. I'm your go-to buddy in this exciting journey. My typical professional life consists of performing (and studying!) IT audit and managing the award-winning magazine, Auditoria. Armed with a Master's in Digital Transformation from UNSW Sydney, I'm currently wearing multiple hats—ambassador at IIA Indonesia's Young Leader Community, mentor at ISACA Global, Head of Public Relations at MoF-Cybersecurity Community, and trainer at IIA Indonesia. You'll also find me sharing insights on my YouTube channel, speaking at seminars, and crafting content on LinkedIn. Let's connect and dive into the world of IT and auditing together!

experience

IT Auditor

2017-present

IT governance, cybersecurity, application--my daily struggle, seriously :D

Storyteller

2005-present

Writing keeps me sane :)

Content Creator

2020-present

Creating Youtube videos and LinkedIn posts, hopefully useful

IT Officer

2011-2015

performing IT services--sometimes about people forgot to plug their cords, sometimes serious incidents :p

Blog

Showing posts with label english. Show all posts
Showing posts with label english. Show all posts

Even Simply Brushing Clothes with Someone Is Fate

There is a word in Korean, ‘in-yeon’. It means providence or fate… It’s an ‘in-yeon’ even if two strangers walk by each other in the street and their clothes accidentally brush,” – Past Lives (2023)

 

Recently, there were moments when my mind occasionally wondered about where fate would bring me. Then fatefully, I stumbled upon a movie that eloquently talks about fate namely “Past Lives”, written and directed by the talented Celine Song. In Korean, there exists an expression for providence particularly regarding human connection: “in-yeon”. The narration of the Korean proverb 옷깃만 스쳐도 인연 (“even simply brushing clothes with someone is fate") made me pause the movie and think deeper. It suggests that a seemingly insignificant encounter with someone on the street, when the edges of our clothes brush, is fate. That the presumably minuscule scenes in our lives carry within them the destiny.  And for 2 individuals to eventually marry each other, they have 8.000 layers of in-yeon between them. 

 

In Islam, we're taught of qadar (divine decree), where even the fall of every single leaf is governed by Allah’s will.

 

I can write a long essay on how beautiful the movie is—the storyline, cinematography, dialogues, performances, and everything. However, I am here today to specifically talk about my thoughts about fate after watching the award-winning movie. This isn't the first time the concept of “fate” in Korean culture has been discussed and caught my attention. In Reply 1997, the series also delves into its role in human relationships.

 

Some people believe they are born with an invisible red string tied around their little finger… The string is tied to a person they’re destined to be with. However, it’s hard to find out who is the person at the other end.” – Reply 1997


In Islam, too, we find the notion of predestined connections between individuals. It is said that who we will end up with was inscribed 50.000 years before the earth was created. 


So, my heart should be at ease, right?

 

Despite the comforting embrace of destiny, an unsettling unease grips my heart. Even within this framework of destiny, where I should find solace, there remains an element of uncertainty I couldn’t help but be worried about. Sometimes I sensed that my paths are not predetermined in their entirety, but rather shaped by the choices I make and the people I encounter along the way. It whispers to me that while fate may guide us, we are, to some degree, the authors of our own stories. 


Hence, I fear I may have avoided a fate that will eventually bring goodness.

 

What if, in my haste, I've overlooked the subtle signs that guide me toward him? What if that someone has crossed paths with me but I barely register? What if he slipped by, unnoticed? 

 

What if, in my hesitation, I forfeit the chance for a love?

 

What if my destined other half is forever beyond my reach?

 

I am haunted by the possibility of missed connections, of souls meant to intertwine and then destined to remain forever apart instead. 

 

But also I am afraid that I will give up too early.

 

Thus, I couldn’t help but think about it over and over while grappling with my own destinies. If there is someone on this earth who is destined for me, why does it feel so impossible to find him? Should I just give up on the idea that somewhere someone is also looking for me? Borrowing Past Lives' analogy: Is there someone out there who shares 8.000 layers of in-yeon with me? Truly, as mused in Reply 1997: If the red string of fate really exists, where will mine end?”.

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image source: Henry & Co. via Pexels

Jannabi and Lessons of Storytelling (Part 1): The “Landmark”

source: Hyundai

Journalist: “Everyone’s talking about the driveway to the past. To when do you want to go back to if you could visit?”  

Choi Jung Hoon: “Hmmm. The moment I decided to become a singer?  My mom always had her compilation album in her car and listening to it…”

Recently, I stumbled upon a captivating collaboration project between Hyundai and Jannabi titled “Pony”. It's not often that an advertisement captures my attention so thoroughly. This particular ad isn't just something to skip through—it's one I find myself happily watching again and again. Among the many factors contributing to its standout appeal, storytelling undoubtedly takes the spotlight.

Have you heard that storytelling is the future of advertising? In this instance, Hyundai borrowed Jannabi’s profound storytelling skills in a package with the story itself.


Jannabi, a South Korean indie band, has gained widespread acclaim for their exceptional lyricism, nostalgic melodies, and musical finesse. Their raw authenticity has endeared them to audiences across generations, propelling them to commercial success that surpasses typical indie boundaries. They became a prominent name, headlined big festivals, topped music charts, won awards, and appeared on major TV programs --all while keeping full control over their artistry. Becoming an independent artist while gaining mainstream recognition, don't you think it is too good to be true?


No wonder, people were curious about the secret behind Jannabi’s triumph in getting the best of both worlds. Frontman Choi Jung Hoon credited his mother's influence for inspiring his career path as a singer-songwriter. Her enthusiasm for music shared through car rides with him, introduced him to influential musicians and shaped his artistic ideals. This piece of story clicked with the fact that Jannabi’s songs sound like “the music you heard in your parents’ car”. It makes all sense that the band’s tunes always feel warm, nostalgic, and unique yet somehow familiar (and humans love familiarity). Walking on top of Jannabi’s noteworthy popularity, it instantly became a well-known story among South Koreans.


Hyundai, recognizing the potency of this narrative, seized the opportunity to advertise in a unique way. They collaborated with Jung Hoon to create a song inspired by his memories of listening to his mom’s favorite tunes in her Hyundai car. The video beautifully depicted him being transported to 1975 in a classic Hyundai retracing her youthful passion for music, closing it with a seamless transition to the present-day Hyundai model he drives. It's a subtle yet powerful message highlighting Hyundai's enduring presence across generations. They implied that the manufacturer has served South Koreans for generations without even saying anything about it in the video.


Through Jannabi's vivid storytelling and heartfelt expressions, listeners find themselves drawn into narratives that resonate on a deeply personal level. The song tapped into shared experiences and emotions of sitting as a passenger in their parents’ cars. The lyrics allowed listeners to empathize with the joy of youth, passion for something, and the dear memories of their parents. This is why storytelling will always win against any advertising methods. It evokes emotions that resonate with audiences, encouraging the listeners to reflect on their own experiences and relationships.

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Heath and Starr in their book “Making Numbers Count” called it a “landmark”--where we leverage existing well-known information to create our narratives. As people already knew this “landmark”, it would be easier to take people on the journey. In this case, as the story of how Jung Hoon’s mom shaped her son's career was popular among the people, it served as the landmark that brought people into the narratives Hyundai wanted to create. This is a powerful move that I, as a storytelling enthusiast, must applaud.


In a world packed with advertisements competing for our attention, only the ones that touch our hearts and souls endure. Hyundai has leveraged Jung Hoon's stories about his passion for music and his bond with his mom which are potentially the collective stories of many people. The story belonged to many people and as an implication, it created an "unconscious" sense of belonging to Hyundai.


To conclude, the shift from product-centric advertising to narrative-driven storytelling has fundamentally changed the way brands connect with consumers. Because at the end of the day, stories are the things we remember, cherish, and share the most. They will stay forever with us. I meant, you still remember the fable or fairytale you heard as a kid, right? Those stories will forever etched in our minds, even without us trying. Those are the "landmarks" we all dearly keep in our hearts.


The "I Want to Touch People's Souls Like Jannabi's Songs", 

iim

Woman My Age Shouldn’t Have Cried Because of SQL

  

If a woman my age cries, one can predict several possible reasons behind it but structured query language (SQL) is probably unthinkable.


Dear my teenage self, we hit a roadblock again. Our current job demanded proficiency in SQL, a language founded on the principles of logic. Don’t you remember how much you struggled with logic? During high school, you were so afraid of attending classes in logical subjects. You were so fixated on the thought that you weren’t built for logic, proven by your low marks on almost every assignment and test. Mathematics and physics seemed to dance just beyond your reach, leaving you feeling inadequate and frustrated. I can still taste the bitterness of embarrassment from those days when your math teacher distributed the results and said “Take the remedial test next week” to you.


Fast forward, the present you should learn SQL’s lines of code. I hid my confusion and fear as I confronted the daunting task. Try as I might, there were moments I couldn't wrap my head around the SQL queries. I felt so out of place again—feeling small as a familiar ache in my chest resurfacing. I once again realized that this journey would be far from easy as every function felt like a tangled web. Witnessing my friends study much faster than me, one even jokingly teased my turtle pace, I couldn’t stop tears from streaming down. It gave me all the years of “smart people are the ones proficient in math” where I don’t belong there.


As tears flowed down, I realized that the emotions weren't just about SQL anymore. It was about the years of feeling inadequate--the years of constant embarrassment coming from red marks in logical subjects. It was about the countless times I'd struggled to prove myself in a world that seemingly revolves around numbers and logic. It was about the weight of expectations and the fear of failure that threatened to consume me.


And guess what? Just like you back then, I allowed myself to feel the frustration and embarrassment again. I will face everything with my shaken bravery. I may not have been born with an innate understanding of logic, but I refuse to let that define me. For years, even when I was the weakest one in the room, I knew that persistence ran through my veins. I will walk slower than anyone, fail, be frustrated, and cry again many times but it’s okay.


Until then, let's keep pushing forward, one query at a time.


The “I might be the weakest but I can learn”,

Your present self

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image credit:  Zeeshaan Shabbir via pexels.com

EXPECTATION


It's been a while, hasn't it?

I found myself amidst an intense introspection--contemplating life and expectations. Navigating the labyrinth of human relationships has recently brought me face-to-face with poignant experiences--each a miniature heartbreak from those I hold dear. At this juncture, the weight of expectations and disappointments seems putting dark clouds above me. 

I've always believed in giving my utmost to those around me, investing my heart into every interaction, every relationship, and every connection. I know I have so many shortcomings but I have always tried my best. I put in great effort to be there for others, to support them, and to show them love. It's the way I've always lived my life, and I don't regret it for a second. 

Yet, along the way, in some settings, I can't help but discern a lack of reciprocity.

There have been moments when I couldn't help but wonder if I was receiving the same treatment I gave. Often, I was being left behind questioning if the consideration I extended was returned in kind. It's a bitter pill to swallow, which made me ponder whether I even deserve the care I long for. Again and again, it made me feel that I didn't deserve kind treatment in the first place. (T_T). 

Disappointments have become frequent in this chapter of my life. They often trace back to my expectations of people. I've learned that expecting too much can lead to heartache. Expectations, like delicate glass ornaments on the tree of relationships, are placed with care, hoping they'll enhance the beauty of the bonds I share. Yet, I've noticed that most of the time, I'm the one caring more and putting in more effort. Facing this, I couldn't help but feel down and, at times, even resentful.

Actually, throughout my journey, there have been times when I felt strong and resilient. I've faced life's challenges head-on, and I've overcome many of them. But there have also been those tiny, fragile moments when I yearned for a little extra kindness, understanding, or love and what happened made me think that sometimes I should even beg for people to treat me decently.

Truth is, there were tiny, tiny times when I hoped that I would be treated better.

The reality is that even the strongest among us are only human. We all have vulnerable moments.  Truly, I am just an ordinary human. My heart breaks, and I yearn for genuine treatment. 

To whoever reading this, if I may say something to you: please, please, I beg you, treat people kindly. 

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P.S.: While I recognized the aforementioned heart-breaking moments, it didn't necessarily mean that I failed to notice the kindness people did to me. I truly appreciate the people who treat others carefully and kindly. And I am happy to say that most of the people around me are thoughtful and kind people.

(I've learned to gradually diminish my expectations of people and shift them more towards Allah. I feel so much better.)

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image credit: Mat Reding via pexel.com

#bicaraaudit: The Beginning


There is a conversation that remains etched in my mind, forever altering my perspectives and reshaping the way I perceive contributions to society. That one dialogue shifted the lens through which I viewed my role as a civil servant, transforming my understanding of how I can make an impact beyond my office work. This conversation rekindled a sense of responsibility and ignited an aspiration to create something that potentially holds meaning--at least from my perspective.

As a civil servant, it's almost natural to limit my perception of contribution to the tasks I perform within the walls of my workplace. However, a conversation with a close friend unveiled a new dimension of it that resonated deeply with me. 

"But rarely did we realize, we are essentially being paid by the citizens, not merely the government," my friend shared. "Hence, our contributions shouldn't be confined to our office tasks alone. If there's more we can do – like creating informative content or sharing our knowledge – those actions too are valuable contributions."

That conversation was a revelation, prompting me to reconsider doing more than I’ve done.

With newfound realization, I embarked on a journey to create a program that would serve as a (hopefully) educational platform focused on internal auditing and IT auditing. Yet, the path was far from straightforward. Doubts loomed over me like dark clouds: Was I skilled enough? Could I consistently present in front of a camera? Did my equipment meet the standards? Would anyone find my content useful, let alone watch it?

Yet, I recognized a pattern. Many of my steps began amidst the shadow of doubts. And I understood that the key was not to eliminate doubt entirely but to persist despite its presence. As long as my actions aligned with a perceived value and usefulness, I was determined to push forward.

So, today, I present #bicaraaudit – the realization of my long-nurtured aspiration. Through this program, I hope to become a companion in your journey of learning about internal auditing and IT auditing. The dream, once limited to thoughts, now breathes life through this initiative.

The first episode kicks off with an exploration of the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) certification. I delve into its benefits and ponder whether the effort invested in obtaining it truly pays off. But this is only the beginning. Starting this week, please anticipate new episodes every Thursday at 09.00 WIB. Your feedback, thoughts, and inquiries are invaluable to me. I wholeheartedly invite you to engage by sharing your insights in the comments section.

I am looking forward to having more discussions with you all.

 

Love,

iim

Kenal Digital: The Beginning

Life's journey often takes unexpected turns, and for me, restlessness has been a driving force behind several decisions. Recently, one specific restlessness led me to embark on a new endeavor - creating a program called "Kenal Digital," (loosely translated as "Know Digital").

For some time now, I've been deeply conscious of the impact of digital transformation in today's world. In an era where it is hailed as the key to organizational success, I have witnessed some organizations getting lost and confused on this transformative journey. Often, digital transformation is misinterpreted as merely implementing the latest tools and technologies. It could end up looking like a race not to be left behind, a haphazard move to showcase innovation, or an imprudent change to incorporate technology without considering the bigger picture.

The consequence of this "technology-first" mindset is a misalignment between the technology and the organization's overall vision. This can lead to wasteful investments, subpar user experiences, and ultimately, a failure to realize the true potential of digital transformation and derive the true value of the efforts.

Feeling concerned about this trend, I decided to address the issue in my blog through a dedicated column called #sensibletech. In these blog posts, I shared my perspective on the thoughtful implementation of technology, particularly within organizations. It felt like a good starting point until a friend made a thought-provoking suggestion:

"If you really care about it," she said, "as I believe that people don't read that much anymore, you should consider disseminating your thoughts through a medium that is widely consumed nowadays - video."

I stared at the wall in front of me as her words struck me deeply. As someone who finds comfort in writing, I had been hesitant to step into the world of audio-visual content creation. While I have occasionally spoken at seminars and videos, expressing my thoughts through written text has always been my go-to option. But my friend was right; to expand my reach and educate more people on this crucial topic, I needed to embrace a new medium.

Yet, doubts and questions flooded my mind. Was I technically and non-technically capable enough to host a podcast? Who is willing to be the guests? Did I enjoy being on camera enough to do it regularly? Could I handle the challenges that might arise in the future? Could I manage the entire process, from recording to editing, with my current capacity? Ultimately, will people watch it?

Fortunately, during my time at university, I encountered two kind souls who offered unwavering encouragement. Their advice was simple yet profound: "Start small," "Use the gear you have now and upgrade later," "I'll be your first guest if you need one," "Even if you don't have access to guests, you can do a monologue,", "Don't worry that much about whether the program will have viewers or not", and so on.

I realized that sometimes, all you need to find the courage is the support and push from people who believe in you and offer their unwavering support.

And so, here I am, presenting "Kenal Digital". With this program, my goal is to introduce a more thoughtful and strategic approach to digital transformation. I hope that the insights shared in this podcast lay the foundation for a careful and mindful digital transformation journey, where technology aligns harmoniously with the broader business strategy and even the broader system necessity. I believe that digital transformation is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but rather a tailored and customized expedition that enables companies to harness the true power of technology while staying true to their core values.

With gratitude and excitement, I present to you the first episode of "Kenal Digital." I hope you enjoy it.

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image source: CDD20 @ Pixabay

Amor Fati


Di saat rentan hati, ingin rasanya saya pergi mengasingkan diri. Pergi jauh ke sebuah pelukan dan berlabuh di bahu seseorang, tetapi pelukan siapa, bahu siapa?” (“When I was vulnerable, I want to go into exile. Go deep into an embrace and land on someone's shoulder, but whose embrace, whose shoulder?”) - Srimenanti, Joko Pinurbo

Several days ago, a close friend and I visited a place together with my motorcycle. As our outing came to an end, we made our way back to the parking area, only to discover it was packed with vehicles, making it challenging to retrieve mine. Determined, we both exerted considerable effort to navigate our way out while sharing jokes about how “independent” we are. I later uttered, “I remember a quite similar moment where I still get emotional when I think about it,”

“What happened?” She inquired

"One morning, while riding this exact motorcycle to work, I noticed smoke emanating from its front. Later, when it was time to head home, I approached a male colleague from my team, seeking reassurance about the safety of bringing the motorcycle to the repair shop in its current condition--hoping to convince myself that I would be alright," I narrated, the scene replaying vividly in my mind.

There was a brief pause as I took a deep breath, "Instead of offering me the assurance I sought, he said, 'Just ask a man for help. What's so impossible about it? You don't have to handle everything on your own.'"

The floodgates of mixed emotions surged within me. “I ended up seeking assistance while battling to hold back tears. Truthfully, I don’t want to be this ‘independent’, I just don’t have the luxury to rely on someone,” I noticed that the smile I offered was broken.

“Same as today. It’s not that we are inherently strong, just we don’t have options. That’s what you meant?” She tried to read the direction of my story.

I nodded. Truth is, there are times when I wish to rely on someone, putting down the burden of making difficult decisions or performing strenuous tasks. There have been days in my life when I yearned for a break from the constant need to engage my mind fully. There have been instances where I wanted to mindlessly follow someone else, trusting that he would lead me to the right path. I secretly longed for moments when I could surrender to a sense of ease, knowing that someone would take care of things for me.

As someone who always thought that nobody was willing to be her place to lean on, sometimes, I desired the freedom to be weak and vulnerable. There were also tiny moments when I hoped I could let go of the worries and responsibilities. Therefore, I would highly appreciate the moments when I am allowed to not have all the answers as someone else would be there to figure things out alongside me. Therefore, I just smiled when people said that I was a strong independent woman who didn't need help. Sorry to burst your bubble but that's not necessarily true.

Life has taught me resilience, nurturing independence born out of necessity. From time to time, I consoled myself with the knowledge that, despite the difficulties, I possessed the strength to navigate life. And perhaps, in an unexpected encounter, I may stumble upon someone’s shoulder. Until that, I will remain steadfast, honoring both my fragility and strength. Because, just as Joko Pinurbo also mentioned in Srimenanti: Namun, bagaimanapun saya mencintai hidup ini. (However, no matter how it is, I love this life). 

I will try to always love this fate.


Love,

iim

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(Amor Fati is translated as a love of fate.)

image source: John Nature Photos at Pixabay

I Am Too Soft for This City

Have I mentioned that one of my secret favorite things to do is blog walking? There’s something captivating about strolling through the depths of someone’s (even stranger’s) mind. A personal blog, in my opinion, offers a window into the intricate complexities of an individual’s train of thought. What a great thing it is to have access to someone’s mind by reading their posts.  

Recently, I revisited one blog that stuck in my mind even after years of reading it. I decided to delve into the posts that I hadn’t explored yet. After wandering around, one particular entry gripped me in its emotional embrace. I didn’t close the tab after I finished it as I was captivated by the poetic expressions that totally describe my feelings:

“As I willed myself not to cry, I realized I was probably too soft for this city. And that I should probably drink more water…. And, yet, I’m too hard for other cities. I can’t seem to find the right fit.” (I Am Too Soft for This City, Generation Meh)

For years, I found it difficult to express my confusion about the fit living space for me and then the author squeezed my struggle in just 4 sentences.  It was as if the post had eloquently captured my perplexity regarding finding a suitable place to call home. These sentiments mirrored the conversations I had with my friends, where I expressed the struggle in discovering a sense of comfort in my current residence, Jakarta.

Navigating the capital city, in my opinion, demand a high-level resilience and a strong-as-stone heart. Someone with delicate feelings like me often can only cry for what I and other people in this full-of-inequalities-and-unfairness city have to go through. I am aware of how overwhelmingly tiring it is to breathe in this bustling, fast-paced urban environment while being sensitive like me. It’s a metropolis with relentless demand and perpetual motion that will leave anyone behind unless they run. Yet, here is the land that offers the most opportunities and growth--stuff that I recognize as necessary.

“And that I should probably drink more water.”, the author wittily continued expressing their feeling towards the city. It’s a beautiful metaphor that in this kind of city, we need to take care of our well-being more. Indeed, I need to stop ignoring the importance of physical and mental well-being, even when I live in a stressful city.

On the other hand, some cities exude a gentler aura, embracing me with warmth. I find comfort in slow peaceful living but after months, I would find myself feeling out of place. I seemed can’t fully integrate my aspiration of having a meaningful impact with this softer lifestyle. There is a reluctant nod from me because turned out “Yet, I’m too hard for other cities” also fits my situation.

Then I remember an old piece of advice my dad said to my mom: “No matter where we go, there is always a neighbor we can’t genuinely get along well with or something that we couldn’t completely accept. The Prophet in the hadith had discussed this as well so let’s be grateful for where we live.”.   

While I acknowledged the truth in that advice, I still wish I can find the environment that fits me the most. I know this constant search for the right place leaves me disheartened at times. However, I hope that someday, I will stumble upon a city that balances growth and tenderness. I pray that one day I can find my rightful place in this vast world--the perfect equilibrium between my inner world and the external environment. Though the path may be uncertain, I believe that there is a city out there, a home out there, that provides me with the harmony I seek. I believe someday I will find it. 

Oh wait, perhaps I had found it...

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(For now, I will try to enjoy Jakarta.)

image source: Ahmad Basyar on Pixabay

Why Didn’t I Defend Myself (Part 2)

In my previous blog post titled "Why Didn't I Defend Myself", I shared the painful experience of being unjustly accused by a colleague's wife of attempting to steal her husband. I kept silent all the time until that blog post--an effort to document my healing journey from such a heartless act. I thought I had finally done with the horrible treatments until recently I once again received a message telling me to stay away. I had blocked her husband’s number, and never ever interacted again since that accusation was being thrown at me, and I was not even physically in the same country with him so it was perplexing why I was being bothered again. And what made me go back to the disappointment loop is the knowledge that she had reached out to my friends and colleagues--accusing me while shedding tears.

If someone’s wife tearfully tells you that a woman is trying to steal her husband, I believe it is difficult for us to not sympathize and incline to take sides with her, isn’t it?  

This kind of question reminds me of a story that sticks in my memory--a great reminder to never judge solely based on someone’s silence or speech. I have a good friend who was accused of pestering someone even when that someone already rejected him. Naturally, everyone believed these claims and viewed my friend in a negative light. In the middle of unpleasant words about him, after long thoughts, I told him, “I know you are a good person and I want to give you the benefit of the doubt. It would be useful if you can tell me your side of the story but even if you are never ready for that, know that I am always your friend,”

He thanked me but chose not to explain further, simply saying, “I will let you know someday,”. It indeed took him months to finally be able to open up about his experience. One day, he sat across me, exhaustion evident on his face, telling me that he quietly struggled of finding a way to cope with a rumor that was being spread by the other party. He revealed that he had been visiting a psychologist every week until he arrived at a point where telling the story didn’t shatter him anymore. (As evidence, he also showed me the letter from the psychologist).

“Instead, it was me who was being harassed,” his voice soft and trembling. “I was a victim of sexual harassment. It wasn't me pestering, just demanding an explanation. I know it is hard to process this information and believe it--especially when it comes from a man. But, that is my side of the story. It is okay if you don’t believe me,”

His voice shook me to the core, and I vividly remember his reddened eyes that simultaneously conveyed strength and vulnerability. His shoulders rose and fell visibly, as though all his efforts were insufficient to articulate his thoughts, as though he could crumble at any moment. I can see that even breathing wasn’t easy for him while brokenly smiling. Seeing that kind of smile, everyone, broke my heart every time without fail.

Holding back my tears, a profound realization washed over me. In this world, we easily empathize with those who openly display their feelings and tears. But what about those who silently weep, bearing their burdens in private? What about those who seek healing in silence while the accusers are loud and relentless? What about the hearts that quietly suffer as if they will die from the pains but still act calm and collected?

That day, once again I learned that sometimes, truth could be quiet and lies could be loud. That very moment, I made a solemn promise to myself that, even in times when my mind is clouded and judgment is easy, I would do my utmost to seek understanding from all parties involved. That is because I understood firsthand how it feels when people do not try to find my side of the story. Because I know how it feels when I’ve explained and nobody doesn’t really consider my perspective. Because I know how frustrating it can be when the people that I consider friends and colleagues stay quiet about what happened to me.

I took any steps further--even when the distance was already far. I backed off from the place where that someone's husband and I worked together because I am so done with all the dramas. Enough is enough. You can try to bring me down but know that Allah is watching. You can accuse me of anything but know that His angels record anything. And for the people that didn’t try to seek understanding from both sides or didn’t try to help when they have the opportunity to clarify, I am so sorry.

I am sorry that you could do better but decided not to. I am sorry that you could help someone who is being abused but decided to act like the pain she feel was nothing.

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Image by: Thanh Nguyen via Pixabay

Thank You for Saving Me After The Seemingly Endless Heartbreaks

For all my life, I went through a lot of heartbreaks. As a daughter, my mom seemed to have favoritism towards her son. If the son couldn’t academically perform well, she would say “It’s okay you don’t necessarily have to be a great student,”. But if the case happened to me, she would say I didn’t study hard enough. That I was not diligent enough.

That I was not enough.

That I probably will never be enough.

In my elementary school, a teacher also exhibited a clear bias towards boys to the point he decided to give a male classmate of mine the top rank although many people’s views suggested that I performed better. I vividly remember the tears streaming down my face as I walked home, burdened by the exhaustion of striving so hard only to face the perception that I would never be sufficient. These experiences served as bitter reminders that life is inherently unfair and while I know that indeed reality plays that way, I wished that I hadn't learned this harsh truth as early as that. I was an innocent young girl who believed that as long as I gave my all, good things will eventually happen to me. However, reality kept slapping my face with hardship after hardship, heartbreak after heartbreak telling me that I will never measure up. I experienced too many heartbreaks that I thought for a long time probably I simply doesn’t deserve love and happiness.

Guess what lyrics I picked as the representation of my life where love and acceptance were perpetually out of my reach?

Hyukoh’s “For me, even love occurs just between other groups of people.”. 

Consequently, I grew into a person of contrasting elements: I smile and laugh a lot even when I feel sad and upset. I appeared cheerful and bright even when fear and insecurity consumed me. I wore a bubbly façade while carrying the weight of heartbreaks and feelings of inadequacy, believing that I wouldn't be accepted unless I take the extra mile in everything. For me, I didn’t dare hope to be loved or cherished, my heart just quietly requested “Please just accept my existence”. I just couldn’t afford to feel rejected while I was struggling to accept myself and the fate I had.

After years of heartbreaks, Sydney which was in my prayers for the last 8 years appeared as a ray of hope into my life. The woman who thought she wouldn’t be chosen for great opportunities was picked among thousands of applicants. I finally know what it feels like to feel wanted after witnessing what happened here and crossing paths with some of the most beautiful souls I've ever met. That there are people who genuinely appreciated and wanted me to have this beautiful life. That I also deserve to wear genuine smiles and be happy.

So thank you Sydney for illuminating my once-dim heart. Thank you for gracing my monotonous dull days with your presence. This time around, thank you for being the beacon of light in my life after enduring the seemingly never-ending cycle of heartbreaks. I rewrote my narrative here as I learned to accept the lasting scars on my soul and moved on. I cherished the strength, resilience, and authenticity I learned throughout the journey. 

I finally learned that I am also worthy of acceptance and happiness. I am no longer feeling unwanted, unchosen, and undeserving. I am saying goodbye to an endless sadness. It took me two decades but I can finally say this: 

I am healed. 

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P.S.: Thank you, Allah.

My Thoughts on The Recent Artificial Intelligence Development

“AI is going to be one of the defining technologies of our time, and it's really important that we get it right." (Altman, 2023)

Although artificial intelligence (AI) had been around for more than half a century, I noticed that only recently, triggered by ChatGPT’s massive success, the general public started to pay close attention to it. AI has intercepted our daily life long before that (consider recommender systems in online marketplaces or social media platforms) but only in recent years that public conversations do not shy away from it. On my part, I have been very cautious to not give opinions regarding AI until I have enough knowledge. Now I think the conversation around this topic is necessary and timely and I am relatively ready. Therefore, I mustered up my courage to finally write about it.

(Disclaimer: While I have educated myself on the topic, I recognized the possibility that I am unconsciously biased or take less-than-necessary learning. After all, I am just an ordinary tech enthusiast with very limited knowledge so take this post with a grain of salt. I am ready to admit my mistakes on these thoughts if in the future they are proven wrong. I used ChatGPT as an example here not to undervalue thousands of awesome AI products, just as a representative of them.)

These days, Lex Fridman’s interview with Sam Altman (OpenAI CEO) occupied a large chunk of my brain. It is living in my mind rent-free and I have no problem with that. Unless Lex decided to ask me about the rent price, I would not dare to charge him. (LoL my unfunny joke is back!). On a serious note, the interview made me torn apart between wanting AI development to get full support (which sometimes means allowing the development to be highly experimental) and that it should be strictly regulated. I hope AI researchers/practitioners and regulators out there can find the perfect balance of leveraging the maximum possible benefits humanity can generate from AI while upholding the highest ethical principles and the responsibility of creating a better world without disadvantages that outweigh the advantages--including from the most vulnerable people’s perspectives. In a utopian society, I will end my post here because I have done my part of providing a recommendation as mentioned above. But we all know that this complex world of ours does not work that simply. So let me continue.

In recent years, the world is changing so fast right in front of our eyes and AI is one advancement the masses could not take lightly. AI systems have become much more powerful and relatively more reliable, which Sam narrated as “we don’t get mocked that much anymore”. AI used to be severely underestimated but now with recent advancements including GPT, many people even found it potentially “disturbs” mankind. Yes, while AI has created optimism and enthusiasm for many people, the other side of the population is scared and pessimistic about it. Sam himself is both excited and frightened--something that I appreciate because acknowledging both extremes of the benefits and risks is essential especially when the stake is this huge. He furthermore acknowledged that there will never be a completely unbiased version of GPT. What they can do is aim to make it as neutral as possible through RLHF (reinforcement learning from human feedback) and give more control to the people. For that reason, ChatGPT was deployed early to generate human feedback and also give the public more control so that it can be iteratively fine-tuned based on the collective inputs. Another thing I noticed is that GPT4 Technical Report (OpenAI, 2023) listed the possible risks like generating harmful advice or inaccurate information, and what the organization has done to mitigate them.

While definitely, the current AI has not yet “upheld the highest ethical principles and aligned with the best interests of humanity”, we should be a bit relieved that in this critical turning point of human history, people that (seemingly) strive to be balanced and cautious like Sam is in the driving seat. At least, OpenAI people are trying their best to get it right. I want to believe them.

Explainable AI (XAI)

To realize the full potential of AI, it’s important to prioritize alignment with ethical considerations and human values. The concept that I believe is useful to start this journey is explainability or interpretability:  the concept that a machine learning model and its output can be explained in a way that “makes sense” to a human being at an acceptable level (c3, n.d). Salierno (2023) described them as the ability to see inside what’s described as the “black box” of algorithmic decision-making while Miller (2019) defined them as how easily a human being can interpret and understand how the model arrived at a decision or prediction.

In simple words, XAI allows us to see the works between input and output. This is crucial because only through this transparency we can examine and evaluate AI models to ascertain what is influencing their decisions and identify any potential biases or ethics violations.

What is Next

After that, we shall evaluate the AI processes and models including their privacy and security aspects. The data collection and everything in the data life cycle should be transparently communicated to the data owner. The data behind the models should be governed properly mainly to ensure the quality of decisions made and the security aspects of the data. We should also consider how intellectual property would be negatively impacted by AI. Additionally, potential misuse of AI technologies such as deepfake should be mitigated by for example providing a mechanism to confirm the originality of a file (audio/video).

Other concerns that arose are regarding the accountability and regulatory aspects. A decision, even though generated by AI should be able to be held accountable. Therefore, who is accountable should be defined. In addition, regulatory development will probably always be outpaced by AI development. As a consequence, it is important to determine how can we ensure that AI is aligned with regulatory principles. We shall continuously monitor and evaluate AI processes and models, prioritizing the ones that have huge impacts on mankind. 

Closing

While I definitely cheer upon AI development, I also want it to be heavily regulated. At the minimum, I hope that AI models should uphold ethical principles and consider the best interests of humans and the broader systems. I know this balance is kind of difficult to achieve and I recognized all the hard work the AI people have done to achieve it. I am looking forward to a more robust, ethical, and reliable AI. I am optimistic about it.

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Image by rawpixel.com on Freepik

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References:

Altman, S. 2023. "Sam Altman: OpenAI CEO on GPT-4, ChatGPT, and the Future of AI" in Lex Fridman Podcast #367, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_Guz73e6fw&t=6324s>

c3.ai. n.d. Glossary. accessed at 10 May 2023, <https://c3.ai/glossary/machine-learning/explainability/#:~:text=Explainability%20(also%20referred%20to%20as,being%20at%20an%20acceptable%20level.>

Miller, T. 2017. Explanation in artificial intelligence: Insights from the social sciences. Artificial Intelligence, Vol. 267, page 1038, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.artint.2018.07.007.

OpenAI. 2023. GPT-4 Technical Report. accessed on 10 May 2023, <https://cdn.openai.com/papers/gpt-4.pdf>

Salierno, D. 2023. Explainable AI pulls back the curtain on machine-made decisions. Internal Auditor Magazine February 2023, a publication of The Institute of Internal Auditors

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