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Go forth and ‘serve humanity’: Apple CEO to MIT graduates

Humanity first. Pic: Reuters/Brian Snyder.

As students in the UK celebrated their historic turnout for last Friday’s general election, those of the Massaschusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US were celebrating their graduation from the university ranked first in the world with none other than Apple CEO Tim Cook cheering them on.

Cook, who gave the commencement speech, talked about his long search for meaning, that is, until he joined Apple, where he said he found it.

His mission in life, he said, is to serve humanity, and he called for MIT’s graduating class to aim for this same greater calling (though he did praise the pranks they have pulled, even suggesting that they were the ones behind US President Trump’s late-night tweets).

“How can I serve humanity? This is life’s biggest and most important question. When you work towards something greater than yourself, you find meaning, you find purpose,” Cook said (full speech in Quartz).

“So the question I hope you will carry forward from here is how will you serve humanity?”

Cook heads Apple Inc. as its chief executive, having taken over from his predecessor and the firm’s founder Steve Jobs in 2011. He is the first Fortune 500 company head to publicly identify himself as gay and has pledged to donate all his money to charity after his death.

Before Apple, Cook graduated from Auburn University with a degree in industrial engineering and later, did his Master of Business Administration (MBA) at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

But college, religion, meditation and searching for the “next achievement” did not cut it for Cook.

Working to create “technology which didn’t exist yet” to serve a higher purpose while under Apple’s Jobs, did.

Students hold up their iPhones as Apple CEO Tim Cook is introduced to speak. Pic: Reuters/Brian Snyder.

Cook praised technology’s prowess in making people healthier, more productive and more fulfilled. He noted, however, that there is a limit to how much further technology could go in solving the world’s “hardest problems” or even its own “adverse consequences”, such as threats to privacy, fake news and social media’s anti-social influence.

“Technology is capable of doing great things, but it doesn’t want to do great things. It doesn’t want anything,” the CEO said.

“That part takes all of us.”

Reuters noted that Cook’s speech gave context to some of the moves he had taken in protecting privacy rights and pushing for greener technology, as head of the world’s most valuable technology company.

In the face of technology dividing and endangering us, Cook called on MIT’s graduates to use their humanity to defend against such threats that loom.

He said at one point: “Because if science is a search in the darkness, then the humanities are a candle that shows us where we’ve been and the danger that lies ahead.”

MIT recently topped QS World University Rankings 2018, scoring nearly full marks across all categories, including academic reputation, teaching and research quality, as well as employability.

International students, mostly from China and India, made up 29.67 percent of its 2016-2017 cohort, according to its website.

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