What Is Technology?


Technology is the rational process of creating means to order and transform matter, energy and information to realize valued ends. It involves using a combination of knowledge, skill and the imagination to discover and develop new ways of doing things. Technology includes not just the tools and machines we use but also new processes like manufacturing, mining, metallurgy and even social or political systems like language, money, banking and democracy.

In other words, Technology is a way of doing things and a tool that helps us achieve our goals in a more efficient manner than we could do without it. It is an important concept because it underpins a lot of economic growth and development – one estimate suggests that about 88 percent of economic growth can be traced back to technological advances.

The term is most commonly used to refer to the products of the technological process, including all the tools and devices we use as well as software and other intangible technologies. But it also refers to the new methods and procedures created by this process, as well as the knowledge that makes the technological process possible.

Most technological innovations spread or disappear on the basis of free-market forces, but occasionally, the use of a particular technology becomes an issue that is subject to public debate and possibly formal regulation. These issues can be related to environmental, economic or ethical concerns. Some examples include contour plowing, vaccines, genetic engineering and nuclear power plants.

Regardless of its origin, all technological products have costs associated with their manufacture and operation. These costs must be compared to the benefits that will accrue to those who use them. In addition, a number of design constraints must be considered. For example, most technologies require specialized personnel to sell, operate and maintain them; this in turn entails training expenses that must be factored into the cost equation.

The optimum design of a technological product is reached by striking some reasonable compromise among these various constraints. This inevitably reflects the personal and social values of those who must make the decisions regarding what and how to use the technology.