What is Technology?
Technology is the collection of skills, techniques, systems, and procedures utilized in the development of products or services or in the achievement of specific goals, including scientific discovery. The history of technology is marked by a constant intermixing of discoveries, innovations, and technologies that have transformed life and society. While certain fields of technology such as engineering and science have received more recent attention from the public, many other sectors of society continue to rely on a wide variety of practices, materials, and devices utilised in everyday life. As with any part of human endeavour, technology has also had an enormous impact upon society, especially in terms of the creation of new employment opportunities and possibilities for the creation of different types of wealth. It is this impact that people should be most aware of, especially when considering the implications of technology can have upon society today.
Technology in general can be regarded as a progressive phenomenon, one that goes hand-in-hand with the ongoing progress of mankind. One of the most dominant forces shaping the technological evolution in recent centuries has been the discovery and application of new and powerful tools and equipment, which have greatly increased the productivity and effectiveness of modern industry. The industrial revolution, as it came to be known, transformed the world of work in many ways. Technological change is generally categorized into two broad areas, with a distinction being made between the categories of technological change impacting the economic activity of individuals and the categories of technological changes that impact the external environment.
Economic activity is generally measured in terms of the value of output and the amount of inputs required to produce that output. The scope of economic activity therefore covers a range of activities, including production, distribution, consumption, and financial accounting. Technological change, by contrast, takes into account the extent to which technological systems are able to perform the tasks that are required of them. The scope of technological change therefore encompasses a much broader range of activities, including scientific research, application of scientific methods and development of new knowledge, as well as the construction of new and more efficient tools and machinery.
In the early part of the twentieth century, the term technology was used to refer to any set of practices and objects that were developed to improve upon, enhance or make available previously existing procedures or equipment. For example, the term technology referred to the progress made in textile manufacturing during the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century. At that time, textile manufacturing involved the process of spinning, weaving, and pressing fabric. The processes involved then were very different from those employed in manufacturing other items such as shoes, automobiles or even computers. The processes involved then were very labor-intensive, involving long hours of working in an indoor workshop, making fabric and spending precious time, effort and money on processes such as lacing and tailoring.
In the later part of the twentieth century, however, the term technology was applied to refer to the human capacity to produce durable and efficient goods and services by means of scientific and technological innovations. A good example of this is the field of industrial arts. At that time, it also referred to artistic inventions and improvements, such as the art of photography or the art of cinema. Another example is the field of computer technology, which, in its most popular form, refers to the use of computer software to design and develop software applications. These software applications, include games, operating systems, office applications and communication tools. Computer systems are now a very important part of the information technology domain and, therefore, the term technology now encompasses the entire gamut of the human endeavor and, as such, has become the single most important word in any language.
As one can see, both terms have undergone considerable change over the course of the twentieth century. On one hand, there has been a tendency towards increased professionalism and technologist terminology, especially in business circles. At the same time, certain aspects of classical liberalism, especially the ideas of John Locke, Thomas Hobbs and Jean Bodeker de Ruit, have been revived as right wing ideologies. The arguments put forward here are not the views of modern intellectuals but the views of nineteenth century classical liberal thinkers, whose influence on the later generations of western political philosophers, political scientists and social thinkers can be easily traced.