Technology and its meaning Definition and usage

Technology is a broad concept that deals with the usage and knowledge of tools and crafts, and how it affects the ability to control and adapt to the environment. In human society, it is a consequence of science and engineering, although several technological advances predate the two concepts. Technology is a term with origins in the Greek "technologia", "τεχνολογία" — "techne", "τέχνη" ("craft") and "logia", "λογία" ("saying").[1] However, a strict definition is elusive; "technology" can refer to material objects of use to humanity, such as machines, hardware or utensils, but can also encompass broader themes, including systems, methods of organization, and techniques. The term can either be applied generally or to specific areas: examples include "construction technology", "medical technology", or "state-of-the-art technology". Other species have also been observed to have created and used technology, including non-human primates, dolphins, and crows.

People's use of technology began with the conversion of natural resources into simple tools. The prehistorical discovery of the ability to control fire increased the available sources of food and the invention of the wheel helped humans in traveling in and controlling their environment. Recent technological developments, including the printing press, the telephone, and the Internet, have lessened physical barriers to communication and allowed humans to interact on a global scale. However, not all technology has been used for peaceful purposes; the development of weapons of ever-increasing destructive power has progressed throughout history, from clubs to nuclear weapons.

Technology has affected society and its surroundings in a number of ways. In many societies, technology has helped develop more advanced economies (including today's global economy) and has allowed the rise of a leisure class. Many technological processes produce unwanted by-products, known as pollution, and deplete natural resources, to the detriment of the Earth and its environment. Various implementations of technology influence the values of a society and new technology often raises new ethical questions. Examples include the rise of the notion of efficiency in terms of human productivity, a term originally applied only to machines, and the challenge of traditional norms.

Philosophical debates have arisen over the present and future use of technology in society, with disagreements over whether technology improves the human condition or worsens it. Neo-Luddism, anarcho-primitivism, and similar movements criticize the pervasiveness of technology in the modern world, claiming that it harms the environment and alienates people; proponents of ideologies such as transhumanism and techno-progressivism view continued technological progress as beneficial to society and the human condition. Indeed, until recently, it was believed that the development of technology was restricted only to human beings, but recent scientific studies indicate that other primates and certain dolphin communities have developed simple tools and learned to pass their knowledge to other generations.

In general technology is the relationship that society has with its tools and crafts, and to what extent society can control its environment. The Merriam-Webster dictionary offers a definition of the term: "the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area" and "a capability given by the practical application of knowledge". Ursula Franklin, in her 1989 "Real World of Technology" lecture, gave another definition of the concept; it is "practice, the way we do things around here". The term is often used to imply a specific field of technology, or to refer to high technology, rather than technology as a whole. Bernard Stiegler, in Technics and Time, 1, defines technology in two ways: as "the pursuit of life by means other than life", and as "organized inorganic matter." The term is mostly used in three different contexts: when referring to a tool (or machine); a technique; the cultural force; or a combination of the three.

Technology can be most broadly defined as the entities, both material and immaterial, created by the application of mental and physical effort in order to achieve some value. In this usage, technology refers to tools and machines that may be used to solve real-world problems. It is a far-reaching term that may include simple tools, such as a crowbar or wooden spoon, or more complex machines, such as a space station or particle accelerator. Tools and machines need not be material; virtual technology, such as computer software and business methods, fall under this definition of technology.

The word "technology" can also be used to refer to a collection of techniques. In this context, it is the current state of humanity's knowledge of how to combine resources to produce desired products, to solve problems, fulfill needs, or satisfy wants; it includes technical methods, skills, processes, techniques, tools and raw materials. When combined with another term, such as "medical technology" or "space technology", it refers to the state of the respective field's knowledge and tools. "State-of-the-art technology" refers to the high technology available to humanity in any field.

Technology can be viewed as an activity that forms or changes culture. Additionally, technology is the application of math, science, and the arts for the benefit of life as it is known. A modern example is the rise of communication technology, which has lessened barriers to human interaction and, as a result, has helped spawn new subcultures; the rise of cyberculture has, at its basis, the development of the Internet and the computer. Not all technology enhances culture in a creative way; technology can also help facilitate political oppression and war via tools such as guns. As a cultural activity, technology predates both science and engineering, each of which formalize some aspects of technological endeavor.

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. Technologies are not usually exclusively products of science, because they have to satisfy requirements such as utility, usability and safety.

Engineering is the goal-oriented process of designing and making tools and systems to exploit natural phenomena for practical human means, often (but not always) using results and techniques from science. The development of technology may draw upon many fields of knowledge, including scientific, engineering, mathematical, linguistic, and historical knowledge, to achieve some practical result.

Technology is often a consequence of science and engineering — although technology as a human activity precedes the two fields. For example, science might study the flow of electrons in electrical conductors, by using already-existing tools and knowledge. This new-found knowledge may then be used by engineers to create new tools and machines, such as semiconductors, computers, and other forms of advanced technology. In this sense, scientists and engineers may both be considered technologists; the three fields are often considered as one for the purposes of research and reference.

Technology in our days

Rapid technological progress in developing countries has helped to raise incomes and reduce the share of people living in absolute poverty from 29 percent in 1990 to 18 percent in 2004. Despite these gains, the technology gap between rich and poor countries remains enormous, and the capacity of developing economies to adopt new technology remains weak, says Global Economic Prospects 2008.

“Technological progress increased 40 to 60 percent faster in developing countries than in rich countries between the early 1990s and early 2000s,” said Andrew Burns, Lead Economist and main author of the report. “Nevertheless, developing countries have a long way to go, given that the level of technology that they use is only one quarter of that employed in high-income countries.”

Subtitled “Technology Diffusion in the Developing World,” the World Bank report notes that recent progress reflects increased exposure to foreign technologies. As a share of GDP, high-tech imports and foreign direct investment levels have doubled since the early 1990s.

“Rising trade and investment contacts with high-income countries, often facilitated by migrant groups, have been central to technological progress in developing countries.” said Uri Dadush, Director, World Bank Development Prospects Group. “However, openness alone is not enough. To continue catching up, countries need to strengthen educational achievement, governance, basic infrastructures, and links to migrant groups.”

The report stresses that the weak diffusion of technology within countries holds back overall technological achievement in many countries. Thus, while major centers and leading firms in Brazil, India and China may operate close to the global technological frontier, most firms in these countries operate at less than a fifth of the top productivity level.

According to the report, improving capacity to absorb foreign technology is critical in low-income countries, as well as in those middle-income countries that have exploited low-wage comparative advantages rather than strengthened domestic competencies.

Most developing countries participate minimally at the global technological frontier. Their rapid economic progress has been achieved by adapting and adopting already-existing technologies. This will likely persist, given the large technology divide.

Technology now spreads much more quickly between countries. In the early 1900s, new technology took over 50 years to reach most countries; today it takes about 16 years.

Technology tends to spread slowly within countries. Main cities and leading sectors use more sophisticated technologies than the rest of the economy. For example, the IT-enabled services sector in urban India employs world-class technologies, but less than 10 percent of the country’s rural households had telephone access in 2007.

Use of some new technologies, such as mobile phones, has risen quickly. Nevertheless, some technologies have spread only slowly. Three-quarters of low-income countries have 15 or fewer personal computers per 1,000 people, and a quarter have fewer than five.

Governments should strengthen domestic technology dissemination channels as a high priority. These include transport infrastructure and the capacity of applied R&D agencies to orient themselves to markets through improved outreach, testing, and marketing.

Weak basic infrastructure systems limit the range of technologies that can be employed in many countries. Policies should ensure that critical enabling services such as roads and electricity are widely available, whether delivered by the private or public sector. In Sub-Saharan Africa, just 8 percent of the rural population has access to electricity.

Ineffective or uneven access to quality education also restricts countries’ ability to exploit technologies. Even simple technologies can have big impacts. For example, relatively simple skills are needed to build rainwater collection systems, which improve access to clean drinking water and reduce infant mortality by lowering the incidence of diarrhea.

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