Technology refers to the application of scientific knowledge towards the practical aims of human life, especially as the manipulation and change of the environment. It also includes the tools and materials that are used to make such applications.
Almost every aspect of daily life is affected by technology. From the use of stones to make fires, to the invention of mp3 players, to self-driving cars, technological advances have created significant changes in our society. Whether these changes are positive or negative, they will continue to shape our lives for generations to come.
Technological development is a continuous process, allowing us to develop better ways of doing things. Often these improvements are based on the needs of the people using them. Some of these are aimed at increasing productivity or efficiency, such as the use of computers in business or a phone system that allows workers to work from anywhere in the world. Other technologies improve the quality of life, such as the ability to communicate and share information quickly over long distances. These include the Internet and cellular phones.
Most technological innovations spread or disappear on the basis of free-market forces. Occasionally, however, the use of a particular technology becomes an issue that is subject to public debate and possibly formal regulation. This has been the case with contour plowing, vaccination, genetic engineering, and nuclear power plants. In this context, the notion of appropriate technology developed to encourage a more cautious approach to new technology in some circumstances.
Technology is used in many ways, from simple computer programs to complex systems that can control the production of food or medical treatments. Some technologies are based on natural resources, such as the use of stones to create fires, while others are based on chemicals or other manufactured materials.
Although individual inventiveness is essential to technological innovation, social and economic forces strongly influence what technologies will be undertaken, paid attention to, invested in, and used at any given time. These factors include consumer acceptance, patent laws, the availability of risk capital, government budget processes, local and national regulations, media attention, economic competition, tax incentives, and scientific discoveries.
There are concerns about the role of technology in our society, including its effects on the environment, health, and well-being. These concerns are organized into four subthemes: something is rotten in the state of technology; the use of technology disconnects or hollows out a community; we need to catch up and better address the threats and opportunities of technology; and there is reason for hope in the future.