Technocrat- engineer meritocracy as saviors of the nation and the world?
An article by Hans Hofmann-Reinecke for discussion: Dr. Hans Hofmann-Reinecke studied physics in Munich and then worked in nuclear physics research for 15 years. In the 1980s he worked for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna as a Safeguards Inspector. Today he lives in Cape Town.
„We want Gyro Gearloose (German: Daniel Düsentrieb) back!
Will there be a renaissance in technology and scientific thinking, and with it a return to politics guided by logic and reason? Will the engineer, with his competence, creativity and discipline, get us out of the impasse? Or will female engineers do it? “Nothing is too heavy for an engineer”, the legendary Donald Duck translator Erika Fuchs once wrote. Germany owed the Export World Cup to its engineers, among whom were talented entrepreneurs who were able to act efficiently and flexibly in a social market economy. An excellent infrastructure in terms of education, transport, energy and banks made it possible to develop and produce first-class products. They were readily bought all over the world, even at a slightly higher price because they were „made in Germany“. The whole of Germany benefited from this economic boom, not just the engineers and entrepreneurs.
What does an engineer do? Maybe you think of your Donald Duck days of Gyro Gearloose, the unworldly weirdo who is busy himself tinkering complicated things that nobody can use. The real engineer is the opposite. He identifies tasks that need to be solved, looks for the best alternative in terms of quality, cost and time and then ensures that the matter is realised. This requires intelligence, creativity and discipline. The engineer uses scientific knowledge, which mostly comes from physics. The task of the physicist is to create new knowledge, whether useful or not. The engineer turns it into something useful. The beams discovered by the physicist Wilhelm Roentgen are used for medical diagnosis, but nothing can be done with black holes so far.
At the end of the 1960s, all technology began to be banned
Engineers were honored for their achievements in museums, for example in the Deutsches Museum in Munich and the Technik Museum in Berlin. They were celebrated as heroes and ennobled by monarchs. And rightly so. If one were to remove from our existence the services they have rendered since 1800, many thanks! Then we not only lacked smartphones and refrigerators, but also sewage systems and X-ray machines. But what would we lack if we had to lose the products that sociology has been working on since 1800? This apparent discrepancy made things difficult for those affected. Then, in the late 1960s, humanities scholars began to ban all technology, under the pretext that it had only brought us atomic bombs and air pollution. But the real reason is that engineering and natural sciences would overwhelm the cognitive abilities of many sociologists, political scientists and historians. Driven by resentment and envy of the high status of technology and natural sciences in modern life, these were demonized in general, but nuclear energy in particular. The march through the institutions – originated in the humanities, pushed forward by the left, completed by the Greens – has now destroyed expertise in natural sciences and technology, along with other important cultural achievements of the West.
The museums mentioned are falling into disrepair or being desecrated – the apparatus on which Otto Hahn and colleagues discovered nuclear fission was removed from the Deutsches Museum in Munich, and at the Technik Museum Berlin “inclusion” plays a more important role than electricity generation. This victory fits well with the anti-male zeitgeist, because the typical engineer is white and male. And this is where the green-left “logic” comes in. Despite the rejection of science and technology, everything is done to persuade women to take up such training. The Technical University of Munich, for example, not only has a university women’s representative, but each individual subject has its own faculty women’s representative. Quote is more important than technique. And even if it is not yet the case that women have achieved dominance in this area, it is promised.
Will one yearn for the German engineer soon?
To illustrate this text, I searched the internet for images using the keyword “engineer”. Almost all of the illustrations showed female engineers or „Engineers of Color (EOC)“. Unsplash, iStock & Co follow the spirit of the times. A look at a presumably authentic and up-to-date team of engineers paints a different picture: this is what SpaceX looks like.
The loss of engineering skills is more than an academic issue, it is an existential problem. Dramatic consequences are already becoming visible in everyday life. Bridges are crumbling, trains are erratic, airports don’t work and, yes, blackouts are imminent. This isn’t going to be fun. So will we soon long for the good old German engineer? … who may be humorless and pedantic at times, but who understands his job and offers practical solutions to essential problems. Perhaps at some point one will realize that one cannot leave decisions about such an endlessly complicated matter as the restructuring of the power grid, an open-heart operation on our civilisation, so to speak, to a few laypeople who are willing to sacrifice long-term suffering for the sake of short-term political success to accept the people ruled by them. So will there be a renaissance in technology and scientific thinking, and with it a return to politics guided by logic and reason? Will the engineer, with his competence, creativity and discipline, get us out of the impasse? Or will it be the women engineers who put in a lot of effort? That is probably a question that also overwhelms Nostradamus.”
Yes, the importance of the natural sciences was pushed back badly in favor of the humanities as a result of the 1968 revolt. However, this was also a consequence of the downright naïve futurism of the 1950s and 1960s, which ignored the negative and social aspects of technical progress and at best only allowed technology assessments to be carried out in Hermann Kahn’s futorology think tank of the Rand Corporation. This culminated in the Pentagon feeding its computer Ada all sorts of big data about the Vietnam War in 1967, asking the question, „When will we win the war?“ and Ada calculated: „1964.“ Furthermore, the article with its plea for nuclear power and German engineering men (German mechanical engineering: 100 men, one woman) is also a bit out of date when you think of Maylab. But she, on the other hand, is an Asian-born STEM/MINT woman, especially since a number of East Asian countries and India still attach great importance to natural sciences.
The focus on engineers and physics and then nuclear power is also somewhat ideologically narrow. Natural sciences include more, including chemistry and biology. Math and cybernetics are just as important and there are also STEM/ MINT students who also study philosophy or a humanities or business administration/economics or computer science as a minor subject, which can’t do any harm either, since it trains logical, practical and social application thinking, as well as interdisciplinary and holistic thinking. But the universal geniuses are few due to the increasing specialization, more specialized and narrow- minded idiots are being bred. It is interesting that the Chinese Communist Party most closely corresponds to the author’s ideal of a technocrat-engineer meritocracy, since its leadership staff is made up of a large number of STEM/ MINT and engineering graduates.
Conversely, however, one also knows the phenomenon when mechanical engineers like the Turkish Islamist Erbakan or scientifically trained CCP leaders express themselves on social policy, then mostly reactionary, authoritarian ideas come out, since they see the individual only as a little wheel in a machine, but not as human being or it are Orwellian social bonus surveilance systems what they think of when it comes to cybernetics and IT. But it is also similar when artists express themselves on politics or technological or scientific topics, that there is a lot of nonsense and half- or even naive and ignorant non- knowledge being spread, which scrapes past the border of ideology and utopia, but that is often presented as the completeness of the imagination and creativity, which distinguishes the artist and is precisely the outstanding quality of the cultural worker and his unique selling point. But the globalization phase with the Fukuyama-like end of history and free trade and neoliberalism since the 1980s was characterized less by the dominance of humanities and more by an economization of society, the ideology of market radicalism, which did not provide for any industrial policy, since the market would do everything and the austerity policies regarding education, research and infrastructure are also just as characteristic of this epoch, what is now referred to as „ruthless scrimping“ and was then called slim state and leaner state, which had to be made „fit“ for the world market . The old question also remains as to whether there really are too few engineers and STEM/MINT people, as well as inventions, or whether there is not enough marketing, practical applications of basic research and start-ups due to a lack of venture capital and the military-industrial complex like in the USA.
That would have to be supplemented with military and geopolitical or security policy knowledge, which was also grossly neglected in the times of post-war pacificism and as a result of 1968, as can now be clearly seen in the talk show military crash courses. In addition, the author with the Axis of Good (Achse des Guten) also comes from a corner sponsored by the oil, gas and nuclear industry, which questions the scientific consensus on man-made climate change and its possible catastrophic consequences, fears a “green king” Charles III, does not want to see nuclear fusion like ITER, wind and solar power as technologies and therefore comes along ideologically, similar to Lyndon La Rouche’s political futurism sect, which originated from the Futurist movement of the 1920s in the USA.
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Nevertheless, one should give room for criticism. As a concrete example, the ARD documentary „The energy dilemma“ about the energy transition, which shows how poorly thought trough, planned, technologically and financially the entire project is designed. There is a lack of concrete financial, technological and infrastructural planning, especially since a transistion project in traffic shall also to be carried out at the same time. Somehow the „Tesla-Midset“ and the market should fix it. Interesting that the icon of the German energy transition Dr. Claudia Kempfert is convicted as an incompetent, abstract-ideological matron of renewable energies and energy transformation, who always makes evasive, empty promises that „everything is still available“ when asked concrete questions about how many gigawatts and infrastructure and finances one needs. A documentary that hears everyone’s voices, including Habeck, but just presents the basics, asks specific questions about planning and hopefully contributes that the expertise of scientifically educated persons and engineers are also included. Because otherwise it remains as futuristic – promising salvation and redemption – ideological wishful thinking project as the scientifically trained futurists of non-renewable energies of the 50s and 60s were.