The Nature of Technology


Technology is the knowledge that enables people to make or do things, or to control and manipulate the natural world. It is also the means by which people communicate with and interact with other humans, each other, and nonhumans animals and plants. This knowledge is the basis for all human endeavors, including science, art, and the production of food.

Technology encompasses a broad range of devices, processes and systems. It includes everything from the handheld electronic devices like mobile phones and tablets to industrial machines that make cars and airplanes, along with communication systems like satellite networks and internet.

Technological development has been a major driving force of global change and continues to shape the world we live in. The nature of technological development varies by time, place and culture. Technology has been used for both good and evil, and a wide variety of applications exist. From the discovery of fire and the invention of stone tools to the development of weapons of ever-increasing destructive power, the role of technology has been profound in human history.

The meaning of the term “technology” is debated widely, with different people assigning different meanings. Some define it as the ability to manipulate or create materials; others see it as a set of tools and techniques used for specific purposes. The word is often equated with science, although the distinction is important. Science is concerned with necessity and universality, while technology is concerned with contingencies and contexts.

Technologists are concerned with creating and implementing new technologies that have potential to solve global problems and meet sustainable goals. It is important to consider how the use of technology impacts both individuals and the environment, as well as how social, cultural, economic, ethical, and legal issues are impacted by the development and use of technology.

As we look back over the history of technological development, it is clear that many technologies grew out of and were driven by societal changes. Trade and the mobility of craftsmen (such as metalworkers who traveled to trade their skills with other craftsmen) made it easy for new techniques to spread around the globe. The accumulating of technology has not always been a linear process; some societies have remained stagnant for long periods at quite advanced stages of technological evolution.

The development of technology is a complex process, and the emergence of new technologies usually involves the deprioritization of other paths. For example, as digital cameras became popular, they moved people away from film and darkrooms as the route to photographs. This was not necessarily a bad thing, but it did mean that other pathways were deprioritized and ultimately rendered obsolete. The complexities of technology are vast, and there is much to discover. We encourage scholars from all disciplines to join us in untangling these complexities and exploring their relevance in the modern world.