The average man of Pakistan
There is a clear link between the development of the concept of “average man” and the European & Scandinavian welfare states:statistics.
By Anthony Williams
The average man (now called the average person) of Pakistan does not exist, it’s a statistical concept given to us by the Belgian polymath, Lambert-Adolphe-Jacques Quetelet (1796-1874) and, though he may not have been the first to use the phrase “the average man [l’homme moyen],” he unquestionably deserves the credit for popularising the concept of the “average man”. In Quetelet’s mind, human averages had a certain moral mandate. By his logic, if everyone were optimally fed and lived under the same environmental conditions, they would be average. And this is what society should be striving for: the continual improvement of the average of the group. Karl Marx extrapolated this idea to wealth distribution and decided that money should be evenly distributed throughout the masses thereby making everyone as average as possible not just physiologically, but financially too. Making moral philosophy an integral part of public policy for economic development, and strengthening of the welfare state of Pakistan, seems to be the advise former economists of International Monetary Fund (IMF) are eager to give to Imran Khan, our Prime Minister. Dr. Omar Javed writes in his recent article titled “Social Democracy – The Middle Way for Pakistan” published in Global Village Space magazine (Dr. Moeed Pirzada, CEO) “The PTI government has indicated that it will reform the economy and institutions, in order to establish a welfare state; to do so, it draws inspiration from the state of Madinah, during the golden age of Islam. At the same time, it wishes to learn from the Scandinavian model of welfare, that PTI rightly believes practice the principles on which the state of Madinah was based on; justice, equity and virtue.” There is a clear link between the development of the concept of “average man” and the European & Scandinavian welfare states and that link is the science of statistics, now fashionably called “Data Science”. The purpose of this article is to highlight the progress of the Data Science in Pakistan in the identification of the average man and realisation of the welfare state for you, the reader.
First off, let’s take an extreme example of the sad Zainab rape-murder case, where geofencing and data analysis helped the law enforcement agencies to caught the culprit within no time. The authorities used the call data records from the vicinity of all the previous crimes and identified people who were common to all the situations. The cellphone of the suspect in the Kasur child rape-murder case was detected in 4 out of 5 recent instances where the same DNA was identified. Police say the suspect, who was arrested from Pakpattan, is a resident of the same area where Zainab’s house is located and lives very close to the victim’s aunt’s house. His appearance matches that of an individual who was seen with Zainab in CCTV footage recovered by the police. He was arrested as part of the investigation earlier but was let go, only to be arrested again after more evidence was collected. One case successfully solved, hundreds of such cases waiting to be solved. Who will solve them? Maybe the data science team from Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) that help solve Zainab’s case, but that would be expecting too much. Another way would be for these data scientists to teach an army of students at the Information Technology University (ITU), Arfa Tower, Lahore and other Universities nation-wide. But is the ITU looking for the average man of Pakistan? Let’s look at its latest degree offerings; MS Data Science (MSDS) + BS in Economics with Data Science (BS EDS) and see if they can help in the search for a welfare state for Pakistani people. Through MSDS degree, students will develop their real-world problem-solving skills using data science, which will differ from the typical classroom problems students are usually exposed to solve. At ITU, we believe in the solution of problems with high social impact. The curriculum will also take into consideration the needs of the industry including stakeholders in business, social media, education, health, and entertainment. The master program would prepare students to actively contribute to various related fields of data science, such as computer vision, big data analytics, scientometrics, artificial intelligence, high-performance computing, and computer security.
The Science of Economics today is in a crisis. This is because mainstream economics, as it has been taught over the last century, has failed to adequately address so far some of the principal challenges faced by the human community at the global and national levels: recurrent economic crises, growing inequality, widespread violence and the environmental crisis that has placed our planet in peril. As Thomas Kuhn has pointed out, science progresses through paradigm changes. When new questions emerge, which the prevailing paradigm is unable to investigate, and then a new paradigm emerges. This is why the leading universities in the world are engaged in rethinking economics, crossing its conventional boundaries and bringing teachers and students together in the great endeavour of developing a new paradigm for the subject.
In this historic juncture, the aim of an undergraduate programme in Economics should be to combine rigorous training in mainstream economics with data science together with exposure to a wide range of fields in the Social Sciences and Humanities. Through such multidisciplinary training around hardcore economics, the students can be stimulated to form connections across subjects in addressing the central challenges that impact society, economy and polity. Students of economics can thereby participate in the exciting venture of transforming the economics paradigm and help build a better future for the human community.
The undergraduate programme in economics with data science (BS EDS) has been designed with this aim in view. Rigorous training is provided in economics through courses such as Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, Mathematics, Econometrics, International Trade and Finance. Emerging fields in economics are also included in the programme. For example, the New Political Economy, Sustainable Development, the Evidence-BasedE design of Policy for Urban and Rural Development. A key dimension in the economics programme is Data Science which has two components: (i) Big Data Techniques and (ii) Machine Learning. This relatively new field is becoming increasingly important in the design of projects and policies. This corpus of courses in economics and data science is combined with courses in the fields of Philosophy, Politics and Literature. It is hoped that systematic training in economics and data science, combined with a broad understanding of Social Sciences and Humanities, will equip students to contribute to research and policy thinking. They will thus be able to participate in the process of developing a new paradigm in economics and building a better world. Amen.
Anthony Williams is CEO of TaxDosti – An AI enabled legal startup building Pakistan’s smartest tax calculator. He can be reached at taxdosti.com.