KARACHI: It is knowledge and not wealth that has helped some countries progress and acquire the status of being called ‘developed’ while the rest lag far behind in all spheres of human development.

This gap between the haves and the have nots will further grow as science acts as a divider between nations and its capacity to be used for exploitation grows. The only way forward is to have a knowledge-based economy and it is time that Pakistan, too, invests in quality education, in science and technology.

These were some important points highlighted in a lecture delivered by Prof Mohammad Iqbal Chaudhary at Karachi University’s (KU) Arts Auditorium on Thursday.

The recipient of numerous awards, Prof Chaudhary currently heads the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences at KU.

Speaking on how technological advancement has changed the world and what are its future prospects, Prof Chaudhary said science was for society’s service which in turn needed to nurture and support it.

“Science and technology is actually the difference between today and yesterday. If we were born only six decades ago, we would have lived only 49 years (the average life at that time); there was an acute shortage of basic food, and antibiotics were not yet discovered, which meant death from various infections was too common at the time,” he explained.

Advancement in science and technology, he noted, had changed life in a profound manner and today the life expectancy had increased to 76 years.

“We have reached an era when people are planning to land on Mars, biological warfare has become a reality while the time is not far when 3D printers will be producing complex human organs,” he said, adding that scientists had also developed the capacity of developing bacteria.

“Driverless vehicles, solar planes and super fast trains are all innovations of today’s age and life will undergo more changes as there is no end to research.”

Further elaborating on the subject, he said though scientific innovations had revolutionised human life, they had also made people poorer as these developments were confined to only a few countries.

“This has divided the world because technology has become a tool to twist the arms of the weak. Most of us are only the users of technology with no contribution to the knowledge that produced technology,” he said.

“There is net flowing from South to the North, making us poorer and poorer.”

He also talked about the challenges that have emerged with development that included energy crisis, global warming, emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria and food scarcity owing to the growing population.

Coming towards Pakistan, he said, given the fact that education and research had never been on the priority list of successive governments, the country was neither prepared for the changes being brought about by technological advancement nor benefiting from the scientific innovations.

“The West has developed vaccines to save children from numerous diseases but we lack the capacity to maintain the temperature required to keep these medicines viable. There are amazing medicines to cure diseases but we don’t have the money to buy them,” he said.

Pakistan, he said, was bestowed with immense natural as well as human resource and it was the government’s responsibility to make the best use of it by investing in education and scientific research.

Prof Chaudhary cited the example of countries like Singapore, which, he said, didn’t even have sufficient land for its people but it managed to progress only because it invested in its human resource.

In his brief remarks, dean of the social science faculty Dr Moonis Ahmer underlined the need for changing societal mindset and said the country needed a culture of critical thinking to progress.

Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2016