Technology encompasses a wide variety of tools, devices and systems that help make human activity easier, more efficient or safer. Technological development can benefit the lives of humans through increased prosperity and comfort, medical progress and social advancement, but it can also disrupt social hierarchy, cause pollution and alienate people. Philosophical debates have centered around the extent to which continued technological progress is beneficial or harmful. Proponents of ideologies such as neo-Luddism and anarcho-primitivism argue that pervasive technological development harms the environment and human society; proponents of ideologies such as transhumanism and techno-progressivism argue that continued technological progress improves human life.
The word ‘technology’ has its roots in the Indo-European word tek, which is similar to the Greek word techne, originally referring to woodworking but soon broadened to specialized skill and knowledge, the ability to do things that weren’t possible before. It was a technical, artificial kind of knowledge, which was distinct from ‘natural philosophy’ or ‘the arts’, which were largely concerned with the natural world.
Modern technology often requires significant training and education to build, maintain and use, and entire industries have developed to design, manufacture and support more advanced technologies. Many new technologies fail to reach the marketplace, but others become so successful and pervasive that they change the way we live.
Computers are arguably the most ubiquitous form of technology, and they have greatly changed our societies. In order to function properly computers require a large amount of complex software, which can be categorized as information technology (IT). This consists of all the programs that a computer uses to perform its tasks. It includes everything from word processing to games to the hardware that supports them.
Another important type of technology is communication technology, which enables us to communicate with other people over long distances. We use communication technology every day in the form of computers, phones, fax machines, email and messaging tools to communicate with friends and family. Businesses also rely on communication technology to keep their employees and clients informed of updates, and to promote products or services to targeted customers.
The final category of technology is the ‘enabling’ kind of technology, which makes it possible for us to do things that were not previously possible. This could be something as simple as turning on a light to illuminate a room, or more complex such as using GPS to navigate a city or country. This kind of technology is what we typically think of when we talk about the term, and it is what most people mean when they say ‘technology’.