In Memoriam of Robert Jungk – Austria’s Outstanding Science Journalist

Jungk’s quest for HUMAN technology is legendary: “We’re not slaves, but MASTERS of progress!”, he claimed. The mentor of sustainablity set standards how soulless hitech converts into HU(man)-TECH.  EUSJA’s national […]

Jungk’s quest for HUMAN technology is legendary: “We’re not slaves, but MASTERS of progress!”, he claimed. The mentor of sustainablity set standards how soulless hitech converts into HU(man)-TECH. 

Reverence to Austria's distinguished Science Journalist: Robert Jungk in the 1980's. His philosophy paves the way to a critical technology journalism (c) Walter Spielmann, JBZ Salzburg

Reverence to Austria’s distinguished Science Journalist: Robert Jungk in the 1980’s. His philosophy paves the way to a critical technology journalism (c) Dr. Walter Spielmann, JBZ Salzburg

EUSJA’s national delegates will gather in March 2014 for their General Assembly in Vienna. Recently, the City of Salzburg honored its Honorary Citizen Robert Jungk1 and his 100th birthday with a firework of exhibitions, lectures and future workshops2. In the world of science and technology, Robert Jungk is adequate to Salzburg’s most famous son, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Jungk lived through times when research only flourished in scientific ghettos. He was one of the very first ones in Europe who disseminated the results of science and dared to ask what they meant for citizens and voters, consumers and taxpayers, by and large for the overall progress of society3. Until today, his critical approach sets guidelines and ethics for science journalists.

As a Jew, Jungk was chased by the Nazis. He survived their terror and WWII in exile and wrote for a number of newspapers. Revealing their atrocities to the worldwide public, he became a journalist by heart and passion. Later, from the 1950’s throughout the 90’s he never would settle for a convenient status quo but became a fierce interrogator of scientific policy and the application of scientific research by the Industrial Technological Cluster.

From the early beginning, he questioned the benefits of nuclear power, especially regarding the yet unresolved waste storage. By the seventies and eighties, Jungk had become one the world’s foremost pioneers in ecology. He gave early meaning to “sustainability”, a word which is in everybody’s mouth nowadays, understood and practiced however by a very few.

Salzburg’s Robert Jungk Library4 has published now the intellectual harvest of the International Robert Jungk Year 2013. “The Art of Participation”5 is the most elaborated account of Robert Jungk’s  legacy, a cross section of his philosophy as well as a primer for future action.

More than ever, our world seems to be captured by the threadmill of modern technology. Capricious weather follies due to global warming and rising emissions, breathlessly increasing global communication with ramifications for our mental health and loss of fundamental human rights, the alarming depletion of natural resources, the rapidly deepening canyon between the haves and have-nots. –

Jungk teaches science journalists how to deal with these inequities. The Achilles heel of new technologies is always related to the question of how human they are. Not only the strengths and opportunities, but also WEAKNESSES and THREATS (SWOTs) must be under the magnifying glass of a reporter.

“We ought to be masters, not slaves of technology”, demands Jungk and suggests: “If no bridges are built between science and the citizens, researchers remain non-scientific because they omit the dimension of public acceptance and refusal; thus scientists are condemned to carry on an inhuman science which must lead to catastrophes.”6

Austria has always been a leading nation in science and technology. It attributed major figures to the “Who is Who in Science”: Meitner and Pauli, Freud and Reich, Popper and Watzlawick, Capra and Wittgenstein, Doppler, Mach and Tesla, Goedel and von Neumann, Lorenz and Mendel, even Porsche was born in Austria. While some might consider Jungk the “enfant terrible”, he is a true member of this distinguished family.

References

1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Jungk
2 http://robertjungk100.org/
3 http://www.wissenschaftsdebatte.de/?p=2819
4 http://www.jungk-bibliothek.at/
5 http://arbeitspapiere.org/2013/12/17/ap-28-die-kunst-der-partizipation/
6 http://www.netzwerk-gemeinsinn.net/content/view/693/218

 

About Wolfgang C. Goede

Wolfgang C. Goede is a science journalist based in Munich, Germany. He is a board member of the German Association of Science Writers TELI.