Defining Technology

I would like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey; a journey into the mind of a professional geek-girl who’s been gear-heading for the past thirty years (gasps at her candor revealing her age, in part).  As I grew up, I was surrounded by a myriad of time-tested and nascent technologies alike.  But to encapsulate all of technology as a singular ideology, I could only do technology any service at all by prefacing the definition with a statement about definitions.  The only definite thing about the universe is that nothing within it is definitive.

That being said, I cautiously define technology as a social construct of perception which encompasses practically everything that can be used as a tool of any sort, with or without concepts of pomp or piety, good or bad, right or wrong, holy or evil, economically profitable or altruistic, simple or complex, creative or destructive, profit or loss on part of any number of persons, and most certainly with or without preoccupation with antiquated or contemporaneous.  This causes humans to be inextricably a part of technology, both in its development or destruction, and in its continuously changing definition or disassembly.

Technology is a state of being, at a certain time, in a certain place, and is limited to the knowledge of the people who create it and use it, and is also limited by the resources, tangible and intangible (intellectual, emotional, psychological, religious, etc.), available to those same people, and in addition, this same technology, in its implementation and development of a set of tools.

For example, in the United States, we have managed to use technology to speed up the food preparation methods to the point of being able to deliver a hot meal with a cold drink to a customer within moments of their having ordered the food.  A secondary creation to this marvel of high-speed technological advent is heart disease.  We then use medical technology to circumvent this issue by increasing knowledge and improving tools to repair the heart and sustain the customer suffering the secondary response to fast-food technology so that they can continue spending their money on still more rapidly prepared food.  This customer will find themselves contributing to the medical technology both through advancing the understanding of the cardio vascular system through medical facility personnel repairing and treating the malfunction experienced in the heart and arteries, and by contributing large amounts of currency to the pharmaceutical companies, the government and their doctors for the sake of sustaining their own biotechnology.  This has tertiary benefits to the US economy – a technology that influences most others – and the growth of insurance companies as well.

In countries such as China, however, by implementing American fast-food technologies, they were introduced to the economic potential for fostering their own brand new flavor of heart disease; a medical condition the Chinese had never even heard of prior.  The same goes with Austria, Italy, and other countries that refuse to eat foods that are not carefully selected from organic and legacy options.  These options employ much older technology, but do not yield the adverse side effects that newer technology has on human internal organs.  The technology for economics in those countries relies more heavily on what healthier individuals are able to create, display, and sell to tourists.

In Ethiopia, the technology of mere fire, one of the most archaic yet still effective means for producing heat, energy, or smoldering piles of rubble out of nearby rain forest, was deployed without moderation to expand farmable land.  An unexpected ecological response to this was the loss of the rain and soil nutrients produced by the once-lush tropical rain forest and jungle.  The Ethiopians had perceived that this antiquated jungle was in the way of progress, so they used their tools, their farming equipment, their torches, and cleared the way for the earth to create a brand new desert.  Obviously, the ancient jungle and rain forest were of a far superior time-tested technology of nature’s devise for the earth and for the humans and animals it nourished and sustained.  New farming and immolation technology seemed to be superior, but destroyed the resources needed to produce crop yield and livestock nourishment.

Technology is a tool.  It is an idea.  It is a philosophy.  It is a common perception of how best to exist and/or succeed (success also being measured by individual adaptation to the technological hegemonic) in a progress-oriented social framework.  I agree that people can also be used as technology.  I conjecture that human-labor technology built the great pyramids of Egypt.  Just make some huge blocks, make some strong ropes, get some humans and some Brontosaurs and you have the technology to forge a pyramid without gas and electric powered cranes.  Gutenberg’s printing press technology transformed the entire world with paper, ink and ingenuity, and by enabling religious tools to improve the lives of countless millions of people through the mass distribution of the King James I sanctioned translation of the ancient Hebrew, Jewish, and Greek texts into the canonical sixty-six books of the Holy Bible.  Nothing had transformed society on a global scale so significantly as the combination of those two technologies since the fall of the Roman Empire.

Volti offers a popular definition for technology.  Here is a simplified quote to represent his deduction:

“A system based on the application of knowledge, manifested in physical
objects and organizational forms, for the attainment of specific goals.”

His definition is just as open-ended and yet, precise, as my own.  It suggests the integral component of humans, suggests resources are required for manifestation of the physical result of the application of human knowledge to their environment.  Goals are inevitable, whether attained or not.  Humans with knowledge will seek to organize and control the world around them through the invention and implementation of tools, objects, fences, or the study and replication of nature’s method for producing food and shelter.  Some goals are essential for survival.  Beyond that, it is all about personal gain.  Organizational forms already exist within nature.  Humans use those pre-made tools to survive, exploit them to profit above other humans, or destroy them to create what they consider to be more efficient forms.  In essence, I believe Volti agrees with me that technology is a tool without allegiance.  He doesn’t state what is manifested, nor in or out of what objects or organizational structures.  Volti’s definition, much like my own, is a guideline by which you can create your own personal definition of technology within your given environment.

The other definitions I solicited from the internet are more specific.  I chose them for that reason intentionally, to show how the non-definitive becomes convoluted with perception and ideology to form iconoclasts and language structures that define progress within aspects of the umbrella term, “technology”.

Princeton’s WordNet defines Technology as follows:
·  S: (n) technology, engineering (the practical application of science to commerce or industry)
·  S: (n) engineering, engineering science, applied science, technology (the discipline dealing with the art or science of applying scientific knowledge to practical problems) “he had trouble deciding which branch of engineering to study”

Deardorffs’ Glossary of International Economics defines Technology as follows:
1. The complete set of knowledge about how to produce in an economy at a point in time, including techniques of production that are available but not economically viable.
2. The set of production functions available to an economy.
3. Referring to industries that are experiencing, or recently have experienced, technological progress.

The dreaded Wikipedia defines Technology by the following:

Technology is the usage and knowledge of tools, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organization. The word technologycomes from the Greek technología (τεχνολογία) — téchnē (τέχνη), an ‘art’, ‘skill’ or ‘craft’ and -logía (-λογία), the study of something, or the branch of knowledge of a discipline.[1] The term can either be applied generally or to specific areas: examples include construction technology, medical technology, or state-of-the-art technology or high technology.

The definitions above demonstrate the close association between technology and science with the goal of economic gain.  Thus, many will see technology as a means by which to make money.  Technology makes it faster, easier, more economical, “greener” to improve one’s financial situation.  Devices that speed up individual life, ergonomics on the assembly lines, robotics, microwave ovens, long-life fluorescent light bulbs, are all advents of technologies that enable companies and individuals to preserve resources and save money.  Economics is thus at the very core of technology by today’s standards.

Secondly, convenience is the shell of the core.  It would be inconvenient to run out of fossil fuels for cheap energy.  It would be inconvenient to have only polluted drinking water.  It would threaten survival of humans to decimate animal, plant and fish populations; which then also becomes an inconvenience.  Loss or lack of resources inhibits progress, which compromises technological development.  Technology becomes harder to deploy, more expensive, and initially less effective and subject to disrepair.  Money thus fuels the economy, which then contributes to science for the purpose of developing improved technology, hopefully with the goal of creating a better environment and social structure for humans and nature and wildlife!

And finally, I would like to reference Kip Dynamite’s wedding song to help illustrate perception of technology.  You will need to view this short video clip if you haven’t seen it already.  Kips shows us a whole new concept of technology when compared to everything else in this essay.  He used computer and internet-based communications technologies to establish a long distance relationship with a woman with whom he was compatible.  The two came together in physical manifestation of their relationship, and the chemistry of very-old-school biological science took over from there.  True love was born.  Was love true when non-physical communication was the extent of their relationship?  Could they truly know one another without having met “in person”?

That is the subject of copious debate in psychology, sociology, and Virtual Realm development in computer communications code-grid technology.  Kip connects technology to love to relationships to contemporary socialization in his quaint little song backed by a rudimentary beat box.  Then, in rides Napoleon Dynamite, his brother, late for the wedding, on a powerful white equine!  Sure we still measure the power of a combustion engine by the pull-strength of a horse, but here, Napoleon relied upon an outdated mode of transportation to reach the wedding site and because of this was late.  However, one cannot help but to marvel at the indismissible elegance and power of a man riding in on a horse (whooo).  The contrast of technologies may or may not have been intentional, but I saw one in the film and giggled incessantly about it.  The two technologies and the two brothers didn’t dismiss one another; they augmented one another.  To me it was a reminder that no matter what “tech-nique” you use to express undying love and devotion to someone, the emotional connect begins with your partner’s heart and the objects of hope, joy and association you find there.

Citations:

WordNet Search 3.0, Princeton University. Retrieved September 3, 2010, from: http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=technology
Alan V. Deardorff (2001 – 2010), “Deardorffs’ Glossary of International Economics”, University of Michigan.  Retrieved September 3, 2010, from:
http://www-personal.umich.edu/~alandear/glossary/t.html
Wikipedia.  Retrieved September 3, 2010, from:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technology
Otaku (2006), MySpace Videos post, film clip taken from, “Napoleon Dynamite”.  Retrieved September 3, 2010, from:
http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=2713385
Volti, R (2005).  “Society and Technological Change, 5th Ed.”, Worth Publishers.

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