Carter Liou




Although most people do not know of Melvin Kranzberg, his work in the field of technology has had a significant effect on the way society thinks of it.  Although the term technology is often associated with computers and other various other electronics, the term correlates to a much wider range of innovations ranging from the modern automobile to the invention of the chair or wheel.  One of Kranzberg’s most well known publication were his 6 laws of technology.  In essence, these laws should be seen as the Hippocratic Oath for those who are trying to develop influential technology.  Although many different technological innovations adhere to a multitude of these laws, very few adhere to all of them; one in particular was the invention of the atomic bomb.  


In 2000, Time Magazine released a list of the top one hundred most influential innovations of the the century; at the very peak of their list was the development of the atomic bomb.  The question then is, how does this technology abide by all of Kranzberg’s laws? The first law says that technology is neither good or bad; nor is it neutral;  by this Kranzberg is trying to convey the importance of context.  This is emulated perfectly in the development and usage of the atomic bomb.  By itself the bomb is harmless, it takes the detonation and an urbanized setting for the weapon to become destructive.  Furthermore, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki can be seen from both ends of the spectrum; from one end they were devastating and killed thousands of innocent civilians, but from the other they forced the Japanese government to surrender potentially saving millions of lives.  The second law states that invention is the mother of necessity.  Essentially Kranzberg is denoting that with the development of any great technology comes the need for other technologies to aid in its function.  The atomic bomb is no exception; without the redesigned Boeing B-29s, the bombs would have never been able to make it to Japan.  The third law exclaims that technology comes in packages big and small.  Literally, it perfectly describes the atomic bomb, however, what Kranzberg is referring to is the idea of how technology is usually composed of smaller more intricate pieces.  The fourth law states that although technology may take a prime element in many public issues, nontechnical factors take precedence in technology-policy decisions.  Kranzberg is saying that the usage and development of technology is highly affected by social factors which placed a lot of pressure on the US government to end the war quickly and without American casualties.    The fifth law states that all history is relevant, but the history of technology is the most relevant.  This law in itself is rather straightforward and a statement on which I agree.  Knowing the history how the atomic bomb came to be and how it was used can help explain a lot of history before, World War Two and US-Japanese relations, and after, the Cold War and the US-Soviet arms race.  The sixth and final law says that technology is a very human activity, and so is the history of technology.  This statement is heavily accurate with respect to the atomic bomb.  Although designed for mass destruction, the bomb itself presents no danger without human activity.  This essentially applies for every piece of technology that has been created; its only with the human influence that its purpose is fulfilled and its significance is observed.  


Although all of Kranzberg’s laws are important to take to heart, one in this instance surpasses the rest.  That is the fourth law.  While the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were horrible and tragic, their story and the history of the atomic bomb help us to comprehend the power and influence that nuclear warheads possess.  Today, we face a serious predicament with the North Korean government who are threatening to eradicate neighboring countries such as South Korea and Japan with their arsenal of nuclear missiles.  To understand the history of nuclear warheads is the understand the present problems that pose a threat to humanity and how we can prevent them.  As George Santayana once said, “those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it.”