Technology is the application of knowledge to achieve practical goals involving people and machines. It includes not only the tools that are used in the processes, but also the ideas, concepts and principles behind them. Technology is a major focus of study for those who research, develop and implement new technologies, but it is also an important subject for those who use them in their everyday lives.
Technology has shaped human history and continues to influence the way we live. The development of farming improved the food supply; inventions such as fire, the wheel, and gunpowder lessened barriers to travel and communication; and advances in genetic engineering are enabling scientists to modify genes and improve human health. Technology is not neutral, however: it may have beneficial as well as harmful effects.
Technological systems are governed by the same forces that influence any complex human system. Individual inventiveness and creativity are essential, but the decisions about which technological options will be developed, pursued, promoted, invested in, and used depend on a broad range of social and economic factors. These include consumer acceptance, patent laws, economic competition, media attention, and government regulations.
The concept of technology is also quite diverse and can be applied to any type of machine or process that uses science in some way to improve our quality of life. Computers, for example, are considered a form of technology that has revolutionized the way we work and communicate. The automobile, the airplane, and other forms of transportation are all examples of technology that have improved people’s ability to move around the world and access goods and services.
Almost all of the things we do in our daily lives involve some kind of technology. Even the simple act of brushing your teeth can be seen as a form of technology because it relies on scientific concepts, such as gravity, inertia, and momentum, to function. Other examples of technology that is constantly evolving and changing include the Internet, mobile phone networks, digital television, and social networking sites.
As the nature of technology becomes increasingly complex, so does its impact on society. More and more of our work and personal lives are conducted using technology, and we are developing ever more sophisticated ways to control and manipulate the natural world. This is true both of the work we do and the tools we use: cars that drive themselves, computers that understand speech, and software programs that can analyze our emotions.
All of this means that the study of technology is becoming more and more important — not only for those who develop, design, and use new technologies, but also for the citizens of the world who must interact with them every day. Understanding the underlying principles of the technologies we use is critical to our continued success as a species. We cannot afford to ignore the potential negative consequences of the technological revolution that is sweeping through our societies. Moreover, we must remain aware of the impact that these new technologies are having on our environment and on the people and other creatures with whom we share this planet.