One of the admirable things about Jon Bing's work was his great ability to identify and extrapolate features of technological evolution. In this fashion he has helped us understand possible legal and other societal implications of future technology. His insights have often pinpointed significant issues, and this is not solely because he understood information technology; he had a thorough understanding of the society and people that the technology was to be used by and for.
Jon Bing was a regular traveller, and highly respected in the international ICT law community. Michael Kirby, a former judge of the Australian Supreme Court and central to the development of the first international norms concerning privacy rights, wrote on the event of Jon's passing: “I honour Jon Bing as one of the founders of global law and policy on information technology. I was very proud to know him as a colleague and a friend.” Jon Bing travelled to obtain inspiration from his many colleagues and friends in other countries, and to share and discuss his own analyses with lead international experts. He was furthermore an enthusiastic guest in all the different countries he visited, showing great interest in their particular legal systems, cultures, histories, food and wine.
Jon's academic curiosity has resulted in an exceedingly wide scholastic authorship. He has written on copyright law, privacy law, criminal law, administrative law, contract law, the sources of law and legal information systems, among others. Specifically, he analyzed these in relation to ICT law and considered the questions he saw emerging therefrom. Today, hardly any legal field is free of information and communications technology (ICT) issues. Jon was often the person who paved the way between traditional legal questions and ICT-law related questions.
Jon Bing worked a great deal, and relished in it. The bibliographies made available on this website exemplify his great capacity for work. It might seem as if it has been unnecessary for him to prioritize, but this is a bold misconception. What he may declined is difficult to imagine: academic papers and books, lectures, participation in conferences and meetings all over the world, appointments, writing fiction and media appearances are among the activities he spent his time on. Inevitably, he must have declined several offers – but his CV and bibliographies do not show any trace of this.
Academic breadth and constant renewal is a demanding combination. When Jon nevertheless succeeded this is, among other reasons, because he was in the forefront of building the Norwegian Research Center for Computers and Law (NRCCL) with more than 20 colleagues sharing the same academic ambitions as himself, with focus on legal breadth and technological innovation. Academic fellowship and establishing an environment focused on law and information technology in Norway has been an important aspect of Jon's work. Jon was the entrepreneur who secured financing and employment opportunities for a number of young, hopeful students and researchers; many of whom returned with new knowledge from unfamiliar terrain. Thus Jon and his many co-workers have developed the field of ICT law, byte by byte.
Words such as fellowship, friendship and trust are crucial to understanding Jon's success in building the ICT law community in Norway. Today the field consists of the NRCCL, The Norwegian Association for Computers and Law (NFJE), and a number of former students and co-workers, both national and international, who are still involved with the NRCCL. The frequent – almost ritualistic – gatherings are clear testimonies to Jon's enthusiasm for meeting and getting to know new people. Thus Club Bing, where Jon held an open house at his home, has been a meeting point for more than 40 years for everyone who wanted contact with the ICT law community.
Why have so many people chosen to engage Jon, read his works and listen when he speaks? The answer is not as simple as expertise, timeliness, or the likes of such. We think an important part of the answer can be found in his capability for imagination, and his capacity for disseminating knowledge. It's about finding the right pictures, the entertaining anecdotes, the remarkable choice of words, the humor and the historical observations of timely questions. You won't instantly recognize all these qualities in Jon's scientific works, where the requirements are primarily academic, yet the entryway to Jon's scientific world is so packed with adventure that we gleefully step inside.
Dag Wiese Schartum, Lee A. Bygrave and Anne Gunn Berge Bekken
I think about Jon every time I see an elephant. I have done so for many years, and I will likely continue to do so for the rest of my life. Jon's many elephant-decorated ties and his collection of elephants in all shapes and colors made a deep impression on me, not solely because the collection was an impressive one, but because the collector displayed such evident enthusiasm. This creative playfulness also characterized him as a professional.
I got to know Jon while I was a fresh new hire at the University of Oslo in the middle of the 80's. By then, he had already established himself and started the tradition of having an open house every first Monday of the month, where we felt welcome among all those who were interested in information technology from other academic perspectives. Jon was definitely and obviously a jurist, yet still interdisciplinary, and was capable of weaving law and information technology together. His ambition, understanding legislation in theory and practice, as it is translated to program code, is if possible even more relevant today when the automation of public administration is more comprehensive than it was in the 80's.
Jon was an exceedingly friendly man, and a versatile and lavish networker. He was ambitious on behalf of the field and the academic community, yet inclusive and generous. For me as a professional, his authorship was an extra dimension of the professional. It was easy to recognize both the author and the jurist in his lectures: very precise and very imaginative. Jon was immensely knowledgeable, and his lectures were marvelous and fun in a number of ways – something to look forward to.
I am going to miss Jon.
I’m using the word “remembrances” instead of “memories” because I think the word remembrances gives a rounder flavor to the life and, alas, the death of my dear friend Jon Bing. Since I learned of his death, approximately one month after it occurred, and after speaking with some of his friends and colleagues in Norway and Sweden, I have been periodically jotting down words and phrases that have captured our friendship and have captured the tremendous imagination Jon had.
Just as a background, I first met Jon in 1977 in Sweden, when I was living there. My dear friend Peter Seipel introduced us at one of the first inter-Nordic conferences, held that year in Dalarna. Peter had told me that I “must” meet Jon, so my expectations were high. They were also fulfilled more than I can express. I had not yet studied law in my home country, although I was taking a survey course in civil law in Stockholm at the time. But he invited me to Oslo and the NRCCL, where I acquired my very own TirsdagKaffe mug. I still have it.
I think I’m ready now to impart a few words about Jon, albeit in sadness mixed with gratitude. Jon was a large man, who lived a life equally large, punctuated with his unmistakable walrus moustache. He lived the life he wanted, in spite of not paying much attention to his health. Once his health finally got his attention, it was too late. Left behind are his loving friends and colleagues, mourning the loss of this dear, sweet, generous and breathtakingly brilliant man.
Jon also had a wonderful sense of humor, one that cemented our friendship. His twinkling eyes and his chuckling laughter were delightful to witness. He and I shared a lot of laughter in mutual appreciation of our humor and sense of the ridiculous. An example of this happened on one of my trips to Norway, maybe 25 years ago. Fish ties were all the rage here in the United States, so I got him one. Instead of a large mouth bass that I got another lawyer friend of mine (which fit his personality, totally), I got Jon a salmon. He took one look at it and said in front of everybody, “This is not a Norwegian salmon.” He was right. It was a salmon from the Pacific, and he knew the difference. I don’t know if he ever wore it, but if he did, it would not surprise me if he also wore a sign that said, “This is not a Norwegian salmon.”
When Peter Seipel was defending his Ph.D thesis (“Computing Law”) in December 1977, all of us who were invited to the richly traditional program at Stockholm University were also invited to lunch and later on, to a lovely dinner. On the way from the auditorium to the building where lunch was served, at approximately 12:00 noontime, Jon and I looked at the sun setting, whereupon he heaved a heavy sigh and remarked, “the curse of the north.” We both laughed, and he was so very right.
Jon and I also shared a love of Africa and especially elephants. Unfortunately, in my country the elephant is a symbol of a political party to which I steadfastly do not belong, and Jon knew that. Nevertheless, we shared our respective Serengeti stories with one another, and I enjoyed seeing his various elephants all over the place. Of course, his wonderful parrot Sara had to share space with them. I loved listening to Sara squawking in a brilliant Norwegian dialect. I hope she is coping with his loss, as well.
Perhaps Jon would—in his own personal way—think of what I’ve written above as only so much “purple prose.” I wouldn’t have written it in any other way. Purple was his favorite color, after all. That his friends painted his casket entirely in purple was such an expression of love and respect, that nobody could ever top it.
In my own tribute to Jon, I shall look around on my various bookshelves for his book Det Myke Landskapet and reread it. I miss him, and the thought of not being able to speak and laugh with each other again is painful. I expect, however, that Jon and Knut Selmer are now enjoying catching up with one another, and planning the extraterritorial, not to mention existential, office of the NRCCL.
Rest in peace, Jon. Everlasting love and hugs from Susan.