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University of Balamand > Administration > Presidency > President Salem > Speech05-11-99

In the Conference on the Lebanese Infrastructure Held at the University on November 5 & 6, 1999

The University of Balamand is honored to host a conference on information infrastructure.  We are grateful to Dean Michel Najjar and his colleagues for holding it, and we thank the participants for their scientific contributions.

Information is the latest beneficiary of man's expanding technology.  It opens new horizons never dreamt of before.

It took several million years for man to separate himself from his animal origins, and a few thousand years to start a civilization and to experiment with the rudiments of science and of technology.  Advances in these realms were, until recently, progressing incrementally.  At present they are progressing in geometric proportions.  In the new millennium these advances will be on an astronomical scale, well beyond our imagination.

Man has invented the wheel and multiplied his speed.  He invented the telescope and extended his vision.  With the invention of the computer he has ventured into something new.  He has thus entered the realm of intelligence and perhaps the sacrosanct realm of mind and spirit.  The computer is more than an invention.  It is a staggering extension of the human mind.

It too like religion before, divides history into two halves pre-computer and post computer.  There is no escaping science and technology.  Those who oppose them will wallow in the quagmire of poverty and underdevelopment.

Information is basic to reach the right decision.  By itself information is neutral.  The question is what to do with it.  Information as a mass of facts and figures is a bore; it is even uncultured, but information as a tool for the realization of an idea is an invaluable ingredient in the making of civilization.  Information is a tool of the trained mind.

The issue at hand therefore is to how to train the mind, how to educate the spirit and give it direction, and only then can facts be tools in the making of the public good.

The technological age is global.  It knows no frontiers.  It challenges all precepts and beliefs.  We should be ready for it, to interact with from roots grounded deeply in our culture.  When well grounded, we can take as well as give.

There is no hiding place in the global village.  There is no escape from the cultural interaction that the information technology provides.  We should accept that, not run away from it.  We are for the first time in history thrust into the universal, and we must be up to this challenge or face the oblivion that engulfed nations that have failed to adapt.

We look forward to your recommendations on how to make better use of information technology in the building of Lebanon, a country that deserves more than it has gotten.

Again many thanks for your participation and best wishes for a successful conference.


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