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Technology (Gr. τεχνολογια < τεχνη "craftsmanship" + λογος "word, reckoning" + the suffix ια) has more than one definition. One is the development and application of tools, machines, materials and processes that help to solve human problems. As a human activity, technology predates both science and engineering. It embodies the human knowledge of solving real problems in the design of standard tools, machines, materials or the process. Thus standardisation of design is an essential feature of technology.

The term technology thus often characterises inventions and gadgets using recently-discovered scientific principles and processes. However, even very old inventions such as the wheel exemplify technology.

Another definition — used by economics — sees technology as the current state of our knowledge of how to combine resources to produce desired products (and our knowledge of what can be produced). Thus, we can see technological change when our technical knowledge increases.


Technology in ideology

Very often, new is assumed to mean "better" in technology and engineering circles. The notion of appropriate technology developed in the twentieth century to describe situations where it was not desirable to use very new technologies or those that required access to some centralized infrastructure or parts or skills imported from elsewhere. The eco-village movement evolved in part due to this concern. Intermediate technology, more of an economics concern, refers to compromises between central and expensive technologies of developed nations and those which developing nations find most effective to deploy given an excess of labour, and scarcity of cash. In general, an "appropriate" technology will also be "intermediate".

Exactly contrary assumptions are made by those who promote transhumanism, posthumanism, technological singularity, which collectively were described as "Cosmist" views by Hugo de Garis. In these ideologies, technological development is morally good. These ideologies are seen as symptoms of scientism and mathematical fetishism by those who use those terms. Some consider them also to be symptoms of belief in capitalism.

In economics, definitions or assumptions of progress or growth are often related to one or more of the above assumptions. Challenging prevailing assumptions about technology and its usefulness has led to ideas like uneconomic growth or measuring well-being. These, and economics itself, can often be described as technologies, specifically, as persuasion technology — a concern covered in its own separate article.

Concepts in technology


  • Michael Adas, Machines as the Measure of Men: Science, Technology, and Ideologies of Western Dominance, Cornell University Press 1990
  • David Noble, Forces of Production: a social history of industrial automation, New York : Knopf 1984, Paperback Edition: Oxford University Press 1990

See also

Web Links

Confronting Technology

CTHEORY - international journal of theory, technology, and culture

Major fields of technology

Biotechnology | Computing technology | Electrical engineering | Electronics | Microtechnology | Nanotechnology | Biomedical engineering | Energy storage | Machinery | Space technology | Nuclear technology | Visual technology | Weapons technology | Telecommunication | Transport

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