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Technology is the making, modification, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems, methods of organization, in order to solve a problem, improve a preexisting solution to a problem, achieve a goal or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, machinery, modifications, arrangements and procedures. Technologies significantly affect human as well as other animal species' ability to control and adapt to their natural environments. The word technology comes from Greek te???????a (technología); from t???? (téchne), meaning "art, skill, craft", and -????a (-logía), meaning "study of-".[1] The term can either be applied generally or to specific areas: examples include construction technology, medical technology, and information technology.

Definition and usage

The use of the term technology has changed significantly over the last 200 years. Before the 20th century, the term was uncommon in English, and usually referred to the description or study of the useful arts.[2] The term was often connected to technical education, as in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (chartered in 1861).[3] "Technology" rose to prominence in the 20th century in connection with the second industrial revolution. The meanings of technology changed in the early 20th century when American social scientists, beginning with Thorstein Veblen, translated ideas from the German concept of Technik into "technology." In German and other European languages, a distinction exists between Technik and Technologie that is absent in English, as both terms are usually translated as "technology." By the 1930s, "technology" referred not to the study of the industrial arts, but to the industrial arts themselves.[4] In 1937, the American sociologist Read Bain wrote that "technology includes all tools, machines, utensils, weapons, instruments, housing, clothing, communicating and transporting devices and the skills by which we produce and use them."[5] Bain's definition remains common among scholars today, especially social scientists. But equally prominent is the definition of technology as applied science, especially among scientists and engineers, although most social scientists who study technology reject this definition.[6] More recently, scholars have borrowed from European philosophers of "technique" to extend the meaning of technology to various forms of instrumental reason, as in Foucault's work on technologies of the self ("techniques de soi").

Science, engineering and technology The distinction between science, engineering and technology is not always clear. Science is the reasoned investigation or study of phenomena, aimed at discovering enduring principles among elements of the phenomenal world by employing formal techniques such as the scientific method.[13] Technologies are not usually exclusively products of science, because they have to satisfy requirements such as utility, usability and safety.


The use of tools by early humans was partly a process of discovery, partly of evolution. Early humans evolved from a species of foraging hominids which were already bipedal,[17] with a brain mass approximately one third that of modern humans.[18] Tool use remained relatively unchanged for most of early human history, but approximately 50,000 years ago, a complex set of behaviors and tool use emerged, believed by many archaeologists to be connected to the emergence of fully modern language.


The discovery and utilization of fire, a simple energy source with many profound uses, was a turning point in the technological evolution of humankind.[26] The exact date of its discovery is not known; evidence of burnt animal bones at the Cradle of Humankind suggests that the domestication of fire occurred before 1,000,000 BC;[27] scholarly consensus indicates that Homo erectus had controlled fire by between 500,000 BC and 400,000 BC.[28][29] Fire, fueled with wood and charcoal, allowed early humans to cook their food to increase its digestibility, improving its nutrient value and broadening the number of foods that could be eaten.

Clothing and shelter

Man's technological ascent began in earnest in what is known as the Neolithic period ("New stone age"). The invention of polished stone axes was a major advance because it allowed forest clearance on a large scale to create farms. The discovery of agriculture allowed for the feeding of larger populations, and the transition to a sedentist lifestyle increased the number of children that could be simultaneously raised, as young children no longer needed to be carried, as was the case with the nomadic lifestyle. Additionally, children could contribute labor to the raising of crops more readily than they could to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

Metal tools

Continuing improvements led to the furnace and bellows and provided the ability to smelt and forge native metals (naturally occurring in relatively pure form).[38] Gold, copper, silver, and lead, were such early metals. The advantages of copper tools over stone, bone, and wooden tools were quickly apparent to early humans, and native copper was probably used from near the beginning of Neolithic times (about 8000 BC).[39] Native copper does not naturally occur in large amounts, but copper ores are quite common and some of them produce metal easily when burned in wood or charcoal fires. Eventually, the working of metals led to the discovery of alloys such as bronze and brass (about 4000 BC). The first uses of iron alloys such as steel dates to around 1400 BC.

Medieval and modern history (300 AD —)

Innovations continued through the Middle Ages with innovations such as silk, the horse collar and horseshoes in the first few hundred years after the fall of the Roman Empire. Medieval technology saw the use of simple machines (such as the lever, the screw, and the pulley) being combined to form more complicated tools, such as the wheelbarrow, windmills and clocks. The Renaissance brought forth many of these innovations, including the printing press (which facilitated the greater communication of knowledge), and technology became increasingly associated with science, beginning a cycle of mutual advancement. The advancements in technology in this era allowed a more steady supply of food, followed by the wider availability of consumer goods.

Technology and philosophy


Generally, technicism is a reliance or confidence in technology as a benefactor of society. Taken to extreme, technicism is the belief that humanity will ultimately be able to control the entirety of existence using technology. In other words, human beings will someday be able to master all problems and possibly even control the future using technology. Some, such as Stephen V. Monsma,[43] connect these ideas to the abdication of religion as a higher moral authority.


Optimistic assumptions are made by proponents of ideologies such as transhumanism and singularitarianism, which view technological development as generally having beneficial effects for the society and the human condition. In these ideologies, technological development is morally good. Some critics see these ideologies as examples of scientism and techno-utopianism and fear the notion of human enhancement and technological singularity which they support. Some have described Karl Marx as a techno-optimist.

Skepticism and critics of technology

On the somewhat skeptical side are certain philosophers like Herbert Marcuse and John Zerzan, who believe that technological societies are inherently flawed. They suggest that the inevitable result of such a society is to become evermore technological at the cost of freedom and psychological health.

Appropriate technology

The notion of appropriate technology, however, was developed in the 20th century (e.g., see the work of Jacques Ellul) 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 emerged in part due to this concern.

Technology and competitiveness

In 1983 a classified program was initiated in the US intelligence community to reverse the US declining economic and military competitiveness. The program, Project Socrates, used all source intelligence to review competitiveness worldwide for all forms of competition to determine the source of the US decline. What Project Socrates determined was that technology exploitation is the foundation of all competitive advantage and that the source of the US declining competitiveness was the fact that decision-making through the US both in the private and public sectors had switched from decision making that was based on technology exploitation (i.e., technology-based planning) to decision making that was based on money exploitation (i.e., economic-based planning) at the end of World War II.

See also

. Bernard Stiegler
. Golden hammer
. Critique of technology
. History of science and technology
. Knowledge economy
. Lewis Mumford
. List of years in science


1. a b "Definition of technology" . Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2007-02-16.
2. For ex., George Crabb, Universal Technological Dictionary, or Familiar Explanation of the Terms Used in All Arts and Sciences, Containing Definitions Drawn From the Original Writers , (London: Baldwin, Cradock and Joy, 1823), s.v. "technology."
3. Julius Adams Stratton and Loretta H. Mannix, Mind and Hand: The Birth of MIT (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2005), 190-92. ISBN 0262195240.
4. Eric Schatzberg, "Technik Comes to America: Changing Meanings of Technology Before 1930," Technology and Culture 47 (July 2006): 486-512.
5. Read Bain, "Technology and State Government," American Sociological Review 2 (December 1937): 860.
6. Donald A. MacKenzie and Judy Wajcman, "Introductory Essay" in The Social Shaping of Technology, 2nd ed. (Buckingham, England : Open University Press, 1999) ISBN 0-335-19913-5.
7. Franklin, Ursula. "Real World of Technology" . House of Anansi Press. Retrieved 2007-02-13. 8. "Technology news" . BBC News. Retrieved 2006-02-17.

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