What Is Technology?

Technology is the application of scientific knowledge to the practical aims of human life. It includes the use of tools, materials, and methods to change and manipulate the environment. It also refers to the development of essential products that allow people to communicate and interact with one another and the world around them.

Many of the most popular technologies in use today are smartphones and social media platforms. Other examples of technology include smartwatches, robots, and computer software. These technological advances have revolutionized how people conduct their personal and professional lives. The emergence of these products has helped increase efficiency and convenience for all. However, not everyone is happy with how technology has impacted society. Some argue that it has eroded interpersonal relationships, distracted students in the classroom, and made it easier for people to cheat during tests.

The Founders of Merriam-Webster define Technology as “the process by which humans create and apply tools and systems to achieve desired goals.” However, they go on to explain that it is not simply the use of science to solve problems. Technology must also prioritize some path to an end over others, which requires that it consider the contingencies and constraints of particular situations.

Technologists make decisions to prioritize certain paths over others by determining what constitutes a problem and how a solution can best address it. This process is fundamentally different from that of scientific discovery, which focuses on necessity and universality rather than contingencies and specificities.

It is often difficult to transfer a scientific discovery directly into technology, which must be developed and refined in stages. Each step provides validation of the underlying ideas, increases confidence in the research, and tests the idea against reality. In addition, a successful technology must compete with other technologies that offer competing routes to an end, which can result in the deprioritization of some pathways and the abandonment of formerly viable alternatives.

A common example of this is the transition from analogue film cameras and darkrooms to digital photography. Once the benefits of digital photography were established, they became more prevalent, displacing the former pathway and associated behaviors, which included an inefficient but gratifying culture of physically retouching images for hours.

In the 1900s, scientists found ways to fit the parts that make electronic products work onto tiny chips called integrated circuits. These inventions allowed them to produce portable computers, cell phones, and digital cameras.

Healthcare professionals also rely on technology to monitor patients’ health and status. For example, doctors use devices like smartwatches and specialized trackers to collect data about the patient’s heart rate, sleep quality, and other biometrics. They also rely on technologies like GPS, which uses satellites to pinpoint locations on earth.

The rapid growth of technology has led to a proliferation of new jobs and industries, such as coding and artificial intelligence (AI). Students can now learn specialized skills in these fields at school through a variety of programs, including MIT’s App Inventor and Shadowspect, which teaches children how to code with 3D puzzles.