Professor who summarized the impact of technology on society 30 years ago seems prescient now, in the age of smartphones and social media
Three decades ago, a historian wrote six laws to explain society’s unease with the power and pervasiveness of technology.
.. You’ve probably never heard of these principles or their author, Melvin Kranzberg, a professor of the history of technology at Georgia Institute of Technology who died in 1995.
1. ‘Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral’
.. Their enormous power means they have an obligation to try to anticipate the potential impact of anything they produce.
2. ‘Invention is the mother of necessity.’
.. the invention of the smartphone has led to the necessity for countless other technologies, from phone cases to 5G wireless.
3. ‘Technology comes in packages, big and small.
4. ‘Although technology might be a prime element in many public issues, nontechnical factors take precedence in technology-policy decisions.’
5. ‘All history is relevant, but the history of technology is the most relevant.’
The Cold War led to the buildup of nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them anywhere on Earth. That led to the development of a war-proof communication system: the internet. Many related innovations subsequently seeped into every aspect of our lives.
But does that mean we owe the modern world to the existential contest between the U.S. and the former U.S.S.R.? Or was that conflict itself driven by previous technological developments that allowed Hitler to threaten both nations?
6. ‘Technology is a very human activity.’
.. “Technology is capable of doing great things,” Apple Inc. Chief Executive Tim Cook said in his 2017 commencement speech at MIT. “But it doesn’t want to do great things—it doesn’t want anything.” The point, Mr. Cook continued, is that despite its power, how we use technology is up to us.