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

Technology and its Unwavering Pertinence

Melvin Kranzberg’s fifth law of technology states that “all history is relevant, but the history of technology is the most relevant.” At first this statement might seem as though there must some sort of bias behind it. To simply label all other fields of history except technological history as inferior with one heavy sentence seems ridiculous. But upon further dissection, one begins to see the truth in this loaded statement.

Kranzberg’s fifth law does not outright say that history not pertaining to technology is unimportant, it still acknowledges the importance of other areas, but it does emphasize the area of technological history above all others. Some may disagree with this statement, but I happen to agree and can see where Kranzberg is coming from. Human history can be looked at as the events that have transpired since humans have been on earth, but in terms of what has made humans the way they are today and shaped society, technology is easily the most important factor to consider. The way humans interact with one another and create history is important, but the driving force that pushes mankind forward collectively as a society is advancement in technology. The first Homo sapiens to walk the earth did not survive by settling with what the earth gave them. They were capable of thinking and reasoning and innovating effective survival tactics. The timeline of the human race can be organized chronologically by each era’s contributions to furthering the longevity of humanity through their respective advancements in technology. We have progressed so far that survival is no longer at the forefront of our priorities, as it is for nearly every other form of life on earth. Now we can focus on making technological leaps once thought impossible, like populating Mars or perfecting artificial intelligence. Human history not only revolves around technology, it is made possible by it.

The idea of technological history being the most relevant type of history can tie into Kranzberg’s second law of technology, which states, “Invention is the mother of necessity.” New inventions and innovations spur on the need to invent more technology to solve whatever complications may arise from them. One example of this is the invention of cell phones. Cell phones, when first introduced, were a major milestone in technology, allowing people to communicate with others no matter where they were. One problem with them was that they would easily break if dropped, creating a need for the invention of a phone case to protect it. Along with this, people did not simply invent cell phones and settle with the very first prototype ever made. The invention of the cell phone created competition between companies to innovate and expand on the idea. This is the reason we’ve ended up with extremely advanced handsets like iPhones and other “smartphones” as they are categorized today. As such prominent part of our current everyday culture, cell phones serve as a prime example of how technological advances throughout history are the most relevant and influential.

Though human history can be conveyed or examined through many different lenses, when looking at it through the technological perspective, one can find a cohesive correlation to advances in technology, and the shape of historical events along the timeline. History can be best seen when put into the technological context of the period in question, making the history of technology the most relevant.

 

 

The Network of Networks: First Law

“Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral,” historian and professor Melvin Kranzberg once declared in his elaboration of the history and analysis of technology. Rather, its impact is determined by the societal constraints under which it is placed during its time of use; that which is considered a “bad” technology in one culture may be an undeniably “good” technology in another culture. Indeed, all technologies come with their benefits and consequences, but each culture weighs these consequences differently depending on the matters that the culture is facing.

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Rise of the AI

Most of us have seen the Terminator? A classic. Skynet, a super-powerful sentient artificial intelligence has taken over the world. When put like this, this idea sounds completely in the realm of sci-fi. Most wouldn’t believe it if they were told about the number of experts and influential people in the field that are concerned about such a scenario and taking it very seriously. I want to explore this issue and develop it in such a way so it can be linked with and challenge Kranzberg’s first law. As mathematics falls apart when dividing by 0, I say artificial intelligence is the point where technology picks a side between good and evil. Continue reading

Technology, how will it Affect us in 50 years

Chase Holding

2/15/18

STS W1

Professor Fleming

Technology, how will it Affect us in 50 years?

 

After a long day of class or work, many people in the world choose to set aside their technology in order to momentarily break away from its everlasting grasp. This behavior is more common with older generations who grew up without cellphones and laptops at young ages and believe these times were better. As someone who grew up during the era of the iphone and has always had access to the internet, separating from technology has never crossed my mind. While I admit it is relaxing to occasionally travel without my cell phone or computer, the 21st centuries technology dominant culture has entrapped me and will continue to dominate my life for as long as I live. As the generations who grew up without technology slowly fade, the question remains: How will technology affect us in 50 years? Continue reading

Technology: The Death of Humanity

      From basic spearheads and the discovery of fire, to firearms and the Internet, the coupling of humanity’s exceptional brain power and technology has led us to be, easily, the most dominant species on earth. Technology has helped us fend off predators, and, in turn, become predators. It has given us the power to harness electricity, travel long distances, and achieve various other feats we now take for granted.  Without it, we certainly would not have become the world’s most dominant species, with the lives of leisure we now possess Yet, while technology has allowed us to become so powerful, it also poses a significant danger to us. It is very feasible that humanity could meet its end as a result of nuclear warfare, artificial intelligence, or climate change.

       Nuclear weapons  could annihilate all life on earth, and several world leaders can control them with a press of a button. There are now enough nuclear weapons, largely controlled by the U.S. and Russia, to blow up the world several times over (Fung, 2013). The fact that our technology has advanced to such a degree that it literally has the capability of destroying all of humanity, along with the majority of earths biota, is terrifying, and nuclear weapons may be used for that very thing. Communications between U.S. president Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un have repeatedly involved nuclear threats. In response to one of Jong Un’s threats, Trump retaliated with “Will someone […] please inform [Kim Jong Un] that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his and my Button works!” (Baker, 2018). Why our country has allowed arguably the most devastating form of technology created to be a button’s press away from an arguably insane man is unconscionable and exceptionally dangerous. Nuclear weapons are extremely excessive; one blast could destroy an entire city with ease, and yet there is a robust supply of this technology. These bombs must be dismantled and destroyed before an emotionally irrational world leader presses a button and sends the world up in flames.

      It is also very possible for technology to end the world without any intentional human aid. Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has repeatedly claimed that artificial intelligence could spell the end of humanity. He points out that, already, humans have begun to rely on the intelligence of computers, meaning that if these computers ever became sentient, they could outsmart humanity, and eventually take over the earth (Martin, 2017). Artificial intelligence seems to be on the verge of becoming a reality with the invention of programs such as Siri. It is very likely that a slightly more advanced program could have the capabilities of thinking for itself, which could lead it to rebel against its creators, causing a “Terminator” type apocalypse.

      Another, highly probable cause of human demise, is climate change, which is a result, almost entirely, of man-made technology. The burning of coal and gas has caused global temperature increases, which in turn is causing catastrophic weather patterns, droughts, and various other dangers. As a result of climate change, storms are become more powerful on a regular basis, leading to instant mortality in affected areas. A slower but no less significant effect of climate change is rising sea levels. Sea levels will rise up to four feet in the next eighty years, which could leave many coastal areas, such as New York City, underwater. Contrary, changing weather patterns are causing droughts, which is stripping areas of viable drinking water and agricultural resources, both essential to life (NASA, 2018). While technology has been used to aid human beings, it is also beginning to cause our demise, increasingly rapidly, as a result of climate change. “We’re in the midst of the greatest crisis humans have yet faced” (McKibben, 2017). Action needs to be taken to combat climate change, whether it be through a new form of technology, such as solar panels and wind turbines, or withdrawal from technology entirely. It is clear, however, that the technology we use in conjunction with fossil fuels needs to be eradicated to avoid dire consequences.

      Whether through nuclear weapons, climate change, or artificial intelligence, technology can easily cause the extinction of our species, along with many others. The solutions to these problems have varying levels of complexity. With regard to nuclear weapons, the most straightforward answer is to dismantle all of them immediately, before even one is used in combat. Artificial intelligence is a more complicated issue, as computers provide so much for society. It is wise to continue using computers, but computer scientists and engineers need to institute and control programming to eliminate any chance of AI becoming a reality. Climate change is the most complicated issue to address. Humanity needs to take drastic action to combat these changes, through both governmental policies and renewable energy. However, sadly due to the position we have put ourselves in, that may not be enough to combat all the effects of climate change. 

Literature Cited

Baker, Peter, and Mark Tackett. “Trump Says His ‘Nuclear Button’ Is ‘Much Bigger’ Than North Korea’s.”The New York Times, 2 Jan. 2018.

Earth Science Communications Team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “The Consequences of Climate Change.” Edited by Holly Shaftel, NASA, 13 Feb. 2018.

Fung, Brian. “The Number of Times We Could Blow Up the Earth Is Once Again a Secret.”NTI, 2 July 2013.

Martin, Sean. “Humanity’s days are NUMBERED and AI will cause mass extinction, warns Stephen Hawking.”Express, 3 Nov. 2017.

McKibben, Bill. “The New Battle Plan for the Planet’s Climate Crisis.”Rolling Stone, 24 Jan. 2017.

Perception of Technology

What really is technology? Upon hearing the word “technology”, a jumble of fancy computer equipment, wires, cables, and medical devices appears in my head. However, my brain quickly hones in on the computer, and from there it focuses on the internet. Why is it that when people think of technology, they quickly bypass most of the great physical feats technology has allowed us to accomplish and focus only on computers, the internet, and social media?

I think the tendency for people focus particularly on this area of technology speaks to Kranzberg’s sixth law of technology, which states that “Technology is a very human activity”. The computer and the internet are the part of technology that people use when they are thinking and “interacting”. These technologies allow us to connect with others in a new and inventive way, and people seem inherently drawn to what they perceive to be valuable social interaction. Humans have a tendency to be social, therefore they are naturally drawn to the part of technology containing the internet and social media. This drawn is uncannily strong, captivating people in a way no other technology has been able to accomplish. It is rather shocking and puzzling, actually, that people often prefer the company of this technology to real life social interaction. “Social” media is actually pulls people away from communicating face-to-face in many situations, as it is not uncommon to walk into a room of people each staring at their own technological devices. Yet somehow, people cannot overcome this influence, as they are constantly pulled to their devices like a magnet, because they somehow continue believing that it is more than a superficial experience.

But why is it that we latch on to this idea of technology so strongly, practically ignoring most of the impressive inventions that allow us to live and thrive in our present state? Why is it that when students are asked to write a piece on the subject of technology, they universally gravitate towards the subjects of the internet, social media, and iPhones? This is still somewhat a mystery to me, that we are not able to recognize the full impact of technology’s influence in our lives, in nearly every action we perform. However, the source of this tendency to define technology in such a confining way is undoubtedly rooted in Kranzberg’s sixth law, and tendency of humans to focus on the social and human aspects of technology. We are most actively and socially engaged in this small portion of technology, so therefore we tend to take much of the influence of technology in our lives for granted.

It is unfortunate that the great realm of technology goes largely unnoticed. There are so many amazing, and regrettable, feats that technology has allowed us to accomplish. From our advanced medical technology to the industrialization that led to global warming, it is important for people to be aware of this technology and its overwhelming influence in our everyday lives. Technology extends so far beyond iPhones and computers, and people need to recognize this in order to engage in our rapidly evolving world.

The Trigger Doesn’t Pull Itself

Melvin Kranzberg’s first law of technology says “Technology is neither good, nor bad; nor is it neutral.” What he means by this is that the degree of goodness of technology depends on its context. As an example, he discusses the employment of DDT. For Western, industrialized civilizations the damage that DDT did to ecological systems outweighed its benefit as an insecticide. Conversely, India, not having the technological means to keep productivity levels high without it, viewed DDT as their best, and therefore a good option. Context in this specific situation seems to refer to developmental status and overall wealth. Other contextual factors that affect the way technology is perceived could include geography, moral views or governmental policy. Each could lead to many varied opinions forming around the same technology. Continue reading

With or without technology, how hard a decision can it be?

In any era, technology must face obstructions to their advancement. In the past when it was firstly introduced, or now, when it is perceived to be on the rise. Technology advocates do not fully have the power to direct the path where they want technology to head to. This is reflected in the fourth law among Kranzberg’s six laws of Technology. Indeed, there are non-technological guidelines that technology must follow if it is to be approved by society. They are, however, not always too supportive of technology.

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