Kranzberg’s Laws

on technological history and technical change.

Present an oral argument by fusing each author’s facts and recognizing these laws* that:

Technology is neither good nor bad -- merely neutral.
• Technology comes in big (complex) & small (simple) packages. {needs communication, or as Pacey suggests a dialogue}
Technological change alters the power of technocratic elites.
• Invention is the mother of necessity. Tectonic change drives ideas.
Technological change is not inevitable. Or tectonic progress can and does stop.


Especially, if people become poor thinkers who, due to distraction or ignorance, are unable to solve problems, the application of tools and techniques as a remedy to a cultural dilemma or social bind will become impossible.

For example, the ancient architects used a form of concrete to construct the dome of the Pantheon in Rome two thousand years ago, but the process was lost. Thus when Brunelleschi constructed the dome of the Cathedral in Florence in the 1450s, he had to rely on a different technique. Concrete we use today in construction is derived from a process not rediscovered until the late 1800s.


Brunelleschi's dome, on the right, rises above the Arno River valley in Florence. [ B. Siry, 2004 ]

Kranzberg’s Laws are the intellectual property of, the late, Melvin Kranzberg, historian of technology and culture at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The remains of the Berlin Wall, a technical achievement impossible without automated tools. The Berlin Wall built by the Soviet Union is now a model for the Israeli wall around the Palestinian settlements and the U. S. wall being constructed along the Mexican border. All are technological solutions to political problems and as such are evidence for Postman's thesis that we have surrendered our values to technical means. [ J. Siry, 2003 ]


Culture & Technology: A critique of this legacy of gadgetry.

“Lost in the mechanics of everyday life.” says Joan Didion. By that she means that often people, too many now, confuse fantasy and reality because of the power of technology to shape our imagination and captivate our dreams.

1. scattered among the gadgetry may be our loss of self worth, identity, & desire.
2. we organize our lives around accumulating materials, experiencing pleasures & avoiding responsibility.
3. burdened by a domestication of space, time, energy, & matter we have forgotten to nurture our craft.

Historical antecedents that have redefined our social and intellectual heritage, according to Pursell (Welcome to the Club), Postman, Eberhart and Kaku are due to events, discoveries, and discussions among small groups of people associated with these great writers.

People who brought about significant intellectual and behavioral changes in society. Their influences have been passed along from several generations to the next.

Cultural changes:

The Future of an Illusion. discussed in Postman.

Culture and society are different, but significant concepts.


cultural dilemma • the need to raise more crops and store more food to feed a growing number of children.

social bind • the problems created by the use of one set of technical implements or tool complex because it creates tension among people due to changes in how land is used, labor is allocated or capital is accumulated.



Examine your responses to these interpretations
of Kranzberg’s Laws and Simon Head as opposed to Charles Percy Snow as the analytical and synthetic parts of a formal essay that is your Final exam.

Take a summary of that essay and present an oral argument by fusing each author’s facts recognizing these laws.*

Make a verbal presentation using Head, Snow and Kaku with pertinent evidence from all the other authors to answer this: can we adapt or are we doomed to continuously confusing our fantasies with reality by the inexorable power of accelerating technical change to deceive us ?


NOVA: Science journalism for television.

Arnold Pacey, Technology in World Civilization

Pacey on Meaning | Pursell | Technology defined | Dimensions of Technology | Chronology


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