Monday, September 9, 2019

Myth of Science and Technology as Panacea for our Backwardness

The mythology that has been sold to the entire Muslim world and especially in Pakistan is that our backwardness is because of our backwardness in Science and Technology. Hence, S n T became the holy grail for progress and development. Everyone is willing to invest in Science and Technology, whether it has been Zia's government and Dr. Mahboob ul Haq's drive for S n T scholarships, or whether it is the political governments of the 90s or the Musharaff era (1999-2008) when Dr Ata ur Rahman was at the helm of S n T and HEC. Funds were lavished on S n T. The underlying assumption behind this myth was that the society would magically transform itself when we have x-thousand S n T PhDs; y-thousand professors with high impact factor; n-thousand Thompson Reuters IFJ publications and z-thousand state of the arts labs spread all over the country. After spending of hundreds of billions of tax payers money we find ourselves back to the starting point.

Covered Drains of Moenjodoro
Let me make this clear. We can make atom bomb, we can make missiles. However, we have not been able to ensure that the plug for my mobile charger fits snugly in the wall socket. Each one of us goes around from one power point to another trying to find a socket wherein the plug will fit. We do not seem to find a socket that can hold the plug of my iron snugly without the noise of the sparks. But, this deterioration in plug's quality has happened only over the last twenty years despite all the funds lavished on S n T. I can recall my school days forty years ago, when the plugs of that time used to fit snugly in sockets, any socket! The plugs and the sockets would last forever.
Open Drains of Pakistan 
Another of my favorite example is that of covered drains. We have studied in our history books that 5000 years ago cities of the ancient civilizations of Harrapa and Moenjodoro used to have covered drains and streets bisecting at right angles. We have been successful in making atom bombs and missiles but have not been able to master the technology that can build or maintain covered drains or build cities with streets bisecting at right angles. Why?

I often ask what dent would R and D of an ultra high speed wafer fabrication technology that speeds up the processor by the next notch (and publishable in a high impact factor journal), make on our time savings, when shopping centers in Karachi do not open even at 1pm on workdays (even on days when there are no disturbances). What time saving would even the existing computer technology that executes billions of instructions per second, make in speeding up the businesses of the shopping centers when shopkeepers as well as buyers sleep late till noon and do not open their shops till after noon. Majority are then eager and ready to close their shops at 8pm. What would a saving of a few nanosecond here and a few nanoseconds there would buy us when we are not willing to start work early!

I think the reason for our backwardness is not that we are backward in S and T but because we are backward in our social ethics:
  • We are backward because we lack principles, such as honesty, commitment, fairness, integrity…
  • We are backward because we lack “principles centered leadership”
  • We are backward because we de-emphasize social sciences, at the cost of emphasizing S and T.  
  • We need to emphasize time management and promise fulfillment.
  • We need to emphasize healthy and productive life styles.
  • We need to emphasize character building, societal change movements and mobilizations for justice, honesty, integrity, commitment ....
Only by becoming a better human being, a better citizen who is socially interactive, can we get out of the malaise that afflicts us and which is eating through the fabric of our society.

See Also:

This is the 1st of the Five Major Myths of Higher Education in Pakistan:

  1. Our backwardness is because of science and technology 
  2. There is mushrooming of educational institutions in Pakistan 
  3. Public universities cost lower than private universities 
  4. Bigger infrastructure (land, building, equipment) means better education 
  5. Impact Factor research measures real impact

See Also:

What is PhD?
Why PhD is Difficult: 
Starting with your PhD
Reading Research and Writing your Research
Qualitative Learning from a PhD





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