What Is Technology?


Technology is the products and processes that enable people to achieve goals, solve problems, meet needs or satisfy wants. It encompasses tools and machines that may be physical in nature (such as a crowbar, wooden spoon, or space station) but can also include immaterial objects such as computer software or business methods. It is sometimes used to refer specifically to the current state of humanity’s knowledge and abilities in a given field, such as “medical technology” or “space technology.”

The term is often contrasted with science and engineering. Science is the reasoned investigation of phenomena to discover enduring principles, while engineering is goal-oriented process of designing and making tools and systems to exploit natural phenomenon for practical human ends, using results and techniques from science. It is not uncommon, however, for technologies to draw on results and techniques from many different fields of study, including scientific, mathematical, linguistic, and historical knowledge.

One important feature of all technologies is their ability to intervene between scales. This is seen in the sublime of planetary science as well as in the mundane act of changing gears while driving a car. Investigating this intervening power is one way of opening up what it means to be a “technology,” and perhaps rethinking the definition.

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