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Category: 02. 2/14 Understanding S, T, and S (Page 1 of 2)

The Longevity of Kranzberg’s Laws

Melvin Kranzberg, a prominent professor of technological history, penned his six laws of technology in 1995. Much has changed in the field of technology since then, many of his tenets remain applicable to this very day, while others have simply struggled to keep up with technological advancements.

Kranzberg’s First Law is “Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral.” In my opinion, this law had remained true until very recently. With recent companies like Apple and Google coming under fire for intentionally crafting products and services to be addictive and create a user dependency of sorts. This development coupled with the working conditions of employees in Apple manufacturing plants in China, in which workers are treated horribly and not allowed to leave, makes them somewhat of an evil entity in my eyes. Additionally, the misogynistic culture of Silicon Valley is another issue of major concern and trouble. As the figurative cornucopia of technology, the sundry of sexual abuse and harassment cases to arise from that region are extremely unacceptable. I believe that the culture surrounding technology, not so much technology itself, has run a muck.

His Second Law, “Invention is the mother of necessity”, is one that I wholeheartedly believe to be true. As I mentioned in my first post, the moment that Apple introduced the iPhone, our generation was diverted down a course of no return. The phrase “There’s an app for that”, spurred a massive rush to develop apps that could do just about everything from banking to editing photos. However, without these apps, the iPhone and smart phones in general, would never have been as successful as they are. The invention of the iPhone required the invention of applications that would allow it to differentiate itself from the other popular mobile phones at that time.

The Third Law produced by Kranzberg states “Technology comes in packages, big and small”. This is still very true to this day. He makes reference to the invention of radar and how many people have laid claim to inventing it, and given that there are so many components and applications that go into it, they are not necessarily wrong. This is entirely accurate given the fact that technology is continually evolving and advancing, BlackBerry may have invented the smartphone, but Apple took it to a whole other level. It added to it and ultimately revolutionized it, so who is to say who actually invented it.

Kranzberg’s Fourth Law, “Although technology might be a prime element in many public issues, nontechnical factors take precedence in technology-policy decisions”, is one that I believe to be outdated. The ongoing Congressional investigations into the extent of Russian hacking in the 2016 Presidential elections are a prime example of this. At the forefront of the debate is a conversation regarding Facebook’s platforms and profile verification systems. Russian hackers allegedly used fake Facebook profiles to promote false information and incite support for certain candidates, while denigrating others.

His Fifth Law states, “All is history is important, but the history of technology is more important.” This is a rather controversial take, but I do agree with it. The history of technology is without a doubt the most practical and relied upon history used today. The history of law and precedence is a close second, but everything that we create in this day and age is a response, spin-off, or solution to a technological creation produced in the past. First came the printing press, then the telephone, then the mobile phone, then came the internet and smart phones, and finally arrived at Bluetooth and Amazon Echo technologies. Everything builds off of the past and that is why it is so important.

The Sixth Law introduced by Kranzberg, “Technology is a very human activity – and so is the history of technology”, is absolutely true to this day. The fact that we sit down each week in class and discuss the way technology is impacting society and our lives is concrete evidence of that. We are actively participating in this process. The illusion that robots will soon overrun the human race is not one that I will ever entertain, the human mind is absolutely essential to any technological advancement and we will always be able to manipulate it a direct manner.

The economics of technological dependance

“Invention is the mother of necessity”


“every technical innovation seems to require additional technical advances in order to make it fully effective,”


The second of Kranzberg’s laws is that “invention is the mother of necessity”, while it flips the conventional thinking on its head to a certain extent it points out a crucial point to be taken into account as we introduce the internet and other devices into the developing world. Often brands will market these endeavors with a humanitarian guise but realistically it is just a step towards expanding their market size in the long run. The list of self-sustaining local markets is rapidly decreasing into nonexistence as the recent globalist revolution nears full swing however the concept remains true. It is easy to imagine a largely agriculture-based market that produces everything it needs within a certain travel radius around a market center, where everything can be traded for its value in a relative market, where the scarcer would naturally be valued higher and everyone can go home with enough to live off of. When one introduces new technology to “undeveloped” areas it creates a dependence that is economic as well as technological. Cell phone/satellite tv and other modern commodities might seem like essentials to the contemporary American but do they necessarily improve the quality of life for these communities? It is no doubt that improved equipment and other investments into existing local businesses can increase the value from trade of surplus as well as tourism however recreational technologies create technological and economic dependence that can slowly deteriorate the market and have a profound affect on the culture in the long term.

While it is apparent that Kranzberg is talking about this law in a more macro level, the same theory applies when just talking about technologies entering a new space. Cars need gas, tv needs satellite, phones need service, and even at a good price, the “market center” for these goods is thousands of miles away. Even when these technologies create jobs for servicing and repair that is only a percentage of the money going out of the market that ever makes it back. From an economic stand point the introduction new technologies and the constant improvements on them can slowly drain a self sustaining market and affect a cultures preservation and development in a much greater sense than merely having everyone in front of a TV. As the traditionally valued goods whether it be foods/ingredients, live music/instruments, artisanal products, etc start to be increasingly expensive relative to the technological goods these aspects of the culture begin to die out. I think if they understood the repercussions, many groups of people would much prefer maintaining their culture and pride living as they have for hundreds of years rather than becoming dependent on inventions from the advanced world. As highlighted by this rule, technology itself is a slippery slope and can end up creating a dependence on further technology that can end up doing a lot of damage as a 3rd party in established markets.

From Cloth to Coal: A look at the Paleotechnic Era

Could you imagine walking into a dark room and lighting an oil lamp in order to see? Or that each chair you sat in came from an artisan woodworker with natural materials, as opposed to the average plastic swivel chair seen in every office in America?  Lewis Mumford, an early 1900’s philosopher broke down the evolution of technology throughout human history into 4 time periods. Until around 10,000 B.C, humans were making tools out of stone and bone as a means for survival. As civilization progressed through the agricultural revolution, we learned to harness nature’s energy to help meet specific needs. Steps like domesticating animals, getting energy from water mills, and capturing wind to push us across the globe were not only significant because of the advancement they spurred; they helped people of this time lived in a harmonious balance between labor, science, and nature.

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Technology: A Necessary Survival Tool?

When reading David E. Nye’s “Technology Matters” I came across a quote which, I believe, summarizes the role in which technology plays in our society. The quote reads “Technologies are not just objects but also the skills needed to use them.” Nye’s interpretation focuses on the idea that an individual is incapable of using technological devices without a deeper understanding of the way in which they function. I will argue that Nye is incorrect in this belief. Instead I believe that our society has shown that overtime, as our species has become more familiar with technology, the skills we need to operate them becomes instinctive.

When first reading Nye’s writing I began to think not about the technology in which I come into contact with in my daily activities but rather who is behind the screens. In my daily activities I realized that most of the technology which surrounds me has a younger user behind the screen. This common theme made me consider when does one actually learn how to work their devices. Do people read manuals or is the use of technology second nature at this point? I think the answer to this question can be answered simply. Technology has become a part of what makes us human. Due to our heavy reliance on technology we as a species have become so dependent on our devices that we are forced to learn how to use them in order to survive.

Another point which needs to be considered is the generational gap that has formed due to the presence of technology in our society. Tasks such as sending a text or taking a photo can be done in an instant for younger generations. However, as the generations become older in age these tasks are more time consuming and exhausting. The Huffington Post conducted a study to see how adolescents use technology versus how adults prefer to use their devices. What they fond is that the generation gap is “never is it more evident than in the field of technology” and the way in which various age groups depend on technology. Another important thing which stood out from the study is that younger generations not only use their devices more but own more than one device. While elder generations might struggle with the usage of a single device, youngsters “thrive” with the presence of multiple technological devices.

However, while younger generations have become more proficient in the usage of various technological devices, they lack other basic skills. For example, students in elementary school are no longer taught how to write in cursive nor do they know how to write a proper check due to a lack of need. Such basic skills have now been replaced by the presence of technology. In addition, younger generations lack some of the basic social skills which were once common knowledge. For example, when eating in a restaurant if a child is bored during a meal a parent often offers them a technological device rather than a book or crayons. Technology is often seen as the solution to ones problem. However, younger generations have become so dependent to technology that they are ignorant of the downfalls.



Is technology dehumanizing us?

In Technology Matters, David E. Nye argues that one major issue in defining technology is that we can only imagine humans pre-literature and not pre-technology. Throughout Nye’s essay, he emphasizes that we cannot hide from technology – it lingers in our lives and we are shaped by it. Nye grapples with the fact that the history of humanity can only be understood as a sequence of technical systems. He claims, “Technologies are not foreign to human nature, but inseparable from it,” which implies that technology plays a dominant role in shaping who we are as individuals. Put simply, he suggests that technology makes us human. However, I defend the opposite: Technology dehumanizes us. Continue reading

Kranzberg and the Development of Safety Technology

Society’s approach to safety technology and regulations illustrates Melvin Kranzberg’s fourth and sixth laws: that non-technical factors are weighted heavier in technology policy, and that technology is a human activity, respectively. New technology that makes day to day life safer is always being introduced, but the demand for safety technology doesn’t align with the areas where it would do the most good. We prioritize safety in areas that seem threatening or dangerous, regardless of how dangerous they actually are. Human perception of danger plays a larger role in the development of safety technology than actual data and statistics. Continue reading

Relationships, History, and Technology

People can be categorized into two different groups: the thinkers and the doers. These people are interdependent, or reliant on each other. This relationship is essential to the development of technology throughout history. That is why Kranzberg’s fifth law, “all history is relevant but the history of technology is most relevant” is most important. This truism studies not only the history and relevance of technology to society, but also the relationships between homo sapien sapiens and homo farbers.

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