Technology is the set of tools and machines that are used to solve real world problems. It can be as simple as a crowbar or wooden spoon or as complex as an industrial robot or particle accelerator. Regardless of its complexity, all technology shares one key feature: It is a path to an end, not an end in itself.
When we talk about technology today, it’s easy to think of the gadgets we use on a daily basis – mobile phones, computers, hi-fi, TVs and cars – but when it comes to business, the definition is often much narrower and more sector specific. Usually, the term relates to technology in business and IT, which stands for Information Technology.
In general, most people agree that technology is a tool to achieve some practical goal. It may be to make things easier, or to achieve a certain result. It can be to protect something from the elements, or to produce a product or service more efficiently. It can even be to communicate with others, or to gain knowledge about the world and our place in it.
The word ‘technology’ derives from the Latin teto, meaning ‘method’ or ‘way of doing something’. It is also related to the Greek tekne, which referred to skills of working with wood. From this, it later became associated with artificial, or engineered, things. The field of study devoted to the technology is called science and technology studies, or STS.
A key aspect of technology is that once a new path has been found it can be applied to a number of different problems. For example, advances in space technology have provided significant benefits for Earth’s economy. These include advances in light yet strong materials, advanced automation and electronics design. In the area of health, technologies such as smartwatches and devices implanted directly into a patient provide sophisticated monitoring capabilities to healthcare professionals.
Construction technology is an important area of application for many types of technology. Buildings, which are enclosures that contain humans and their products and equipment from the elements, and heavy engineering structures such as sky scrappers and shopping malls, all use technology. Technology is also used to plan these structures and during their construction to ensure that they can withstand the forces of gravity and other environmental conditions.
Another important aspect of technology is that it often scales the kind of behavior it facilitates. When television first exploded in popularity, for example, it exponentially scaled the behavior of zoning out in front of a screen, hypnotized by constant visual stimulation. Similarly, social media websites often encourage the occurrence of one-way parasocial relationships that have few redeeming qualities. Despite these concerns, technology is a valuable resource for businesses and their clients, and can be a powerful tool in the quest to achieve business goals. A key question, then, is whether and how we should regulate its impact on society. This is a topic that has generated many controversial arguments.