WSJ – The Six Laws of Technology Everyone Should Know

  • In 1985, Dr Melvin Kranzberg, Prof of History of Technology, Georgia Inst of Tech, presented six laws to explain society’s unease with the power and pervasiveness of technology. Taken from the Cold War, these laws remain a cheat sheet for explaining our current era
  • ‘Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral’
    • technology depends on its geographic and cultural context, which means it is often good and bad—at the same time
    • tech companies have an obligation to try to anticipate the potential impact of anything they produce
  • ‘Invention is the mother of necessity.’    
    • “every technical innovation seems to require additional technical advances in order to make it fully effective,”
  • ‘Technology comes in packages, big and small.
    • To understand any part of a technological package requires looking at its interaction with and dependency on the rest of it – including the human beings essential to how it functions
  • ‘Although technology might be a prime element in many public issues, nontechnical factors take precedence in technology-policy decisions.’
    • “technology has to be motivated by political power or cultural power or something else.”
  • ‘All history is relevant, but the history of technology is the most relevant.’
  • ‘Technology is a very human activity.’
    • “Technology is capable of doing great things. “But it doesn’t want to do great things—it doesn’t want anything.”
    • how we use technology is up to us
  • businesses must think of the consequences of their actions as well as how they profit from them
  •  “Many of our technology-related problems arise because of the unforeseen consequences when apparently benign technologies are employed on a massive scale.”

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