Technology is the collection of human knowledge accumulated over centuries to improve upon the capabilities of human beings. The term itself suggests the process rather than the product. It is a combination of many different activities and ideas. There are several fields of technology:
Technology pertains to the application of scientific and technological advances to the improvement of human presence. The development of new and improved technologies is a result of the accumulation of human knowledge over time. Some areas of science have been particularized as fields of study including: physics, astronomy, genetics, computer sciences, and engineering. In the technological area of research, technology is measured by the number and variety of innovations that have been made. This measure can be used to evaluate progress in human presence.
Science and technology are the application of human scientific knowledge and scientific methods to the improvement of the quality of life through new technologies. Technology, when applied to human activity, develops new ways of doing things or modifying those ways so that they can be done more efficiently or more effectively. Technological systems are constructed to meet the needs of society by producing goods and services that are better, cheaper, or faster than those that were previously available. Some technologic systems are self-correcting; that is, they continually improve themselves. Other technologically developed systems are designed to have long-term consequences for society.
Technological systems are modified as a result of scientific and technological research. Modifications are sometimes desirable for the sake of improving the objectivity and reliability of a new technology. While these modifications may sometimes have undesirable side effects, society in general must accept the trade-offs involved in these modifications. In order to be prepared for new technologies, society must build and maintain technological systems that can successfully and reliably provide the services society requires.
Technological systems are constructed on a basis of scientific research and experimentation. Most of the technological developments that result from scientific research and testing do not need further modification after they have been tested. In fact, the very discovery of a new technological “super-efficiency” usually serves as a warning that further research and development is needed to refine or perfect the new technology. As a result, sometimes it can be relatively easy for new technologies to become obsolete within a relatively short period of time as society begins to realize the drawbacks of the innovations.
A great example of the usefulness of technological systems is the development of airplanes. Commercial air travel is a relatively recent development, having started in earnest during World War II. However, the advent of the jet engine and other new technologies has made commercial aviation relatively safe and reliable. The same is true for other types of engineering and applied science.
While the list of “key questions” regarding new technologies is not especially long, the list of “what are the implications?” must be even longer. In many instances, it is the long term effects of novel technologies on society and the environment that pose the most significant and pressing questions. These questions can be considered the “foreground” of scientific research and experimentation-the questions that scientists attempt to answer with their research.
In the case of engineering and applied science, new inventions that yield new benefits are often accompanied by significant questions about the impacts of those innovations on society, the economy, and the environment. Of course, the impact of a technological system is not limited to these three considerations. For instance, the introduction of new high-tech materials such as computers, power tools, airplanes, and other devices is also likely to have significant social and economic impact. These types of changes also frequently spawn new questions about the nature of engineering and applied science. New innovations may be capable of providing greater efficiency, but the impact they will have on society, the economy, and the environment may prove to be of substantial concern.