What is Technology?

Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

Technology is a broad term that refers both to artifacts created by humans, such as machines, and the methods used to create those artifacts. More broadly, the word can be used to refer to a way of doing something or a means of organization: for instance, democracy might be considered a social technology. The term comes from the Greek technologia, which is a combination of “techne,” meaning “craft,” and logos, meaning “saying.” As a result, technology might be considered the articulation of a craft. The word is also used to describe the extent to which a society can manipulate its environment.

Radio telescopes can detect electromagnetic waves that have been emitted by distant celestial objects.
Radio telescopes can detect electromagnetic waves that have been emitted by distant celestial objects.

When the word is used today, it is most often used to refer to high technology — computers, cell phones, rockets — rather than things created by humans in general. When anthropologists use the term, however, they go all the way back to the controlled use of fire (from about 500,000 – 1 million years ago), the invention of the wheel (c. 4000 BCE), and beyond. The first technological tools were simple hand-axes made by our hominid ancestors millions of years ago.

An example of high technology is a smartphone.
An example of high technology is a smartphone.

The earliest technological divisions are from mankind’s early history, divided into the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age, depending on the primary tool and weapon-making material at the time. Each building material is superior to the one before it, but more difficult to develop requisite metallurgical techniques. The Iron Age began in about 1400 BCE.

Since the debut of the scientific method, technological progress has been advancing rapidly and has included the development of powerful scientific instruments, such as the microscope.
Since the debut of the scientific method, technological progress has been advancing rapidly and has included the development of powerful scientific instruments, such as the microscope.

Since the formulation of the scientific method in the 15th century, technological progress has apparently been accelerating. Just a few of the technologies developed since then are the telescope, the microscope, the clock, the engine, the electric generator and electric motor, radio, nuclear power and weapons, television, computer, and many others. Technological development continues strongly today, fueled by the multibillion-dollar economies of the world’s most prosperous nations. The hottest developments are happening in computers, nanotechnology, materials science, renewable energy, entertainment, space travel, and medicine.

A man using an axe, a type of basic technology.
A man using an axe, a type of basic technology.

Philosophers as well as laypeople often debate whether or not technological progress is, on the whole, a good thing for humanity. On the pro side of the spectrum are techno-progressivists such as transhumanists, while on the anti side are anarcho-primitivists, and Neo-Luddites.

Aerospace technology put a man on the Moon.
Aerospace technology put a man on the Moon.
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

Michael is a longtime EasyTechJunkie contributor who specializes in topics relating to paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism. In addition to being an avid blogger, Michael is particularly passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. He has also worked for the Methuselah Foundation, the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and the Lifeboat Foundation.

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Discussion Comments


Many people think that technology is like a little machine because lately they have been coming out with more technology these days.

And you can do about anything with your phone, computer, or laptop.


Is this for KV students only?


@anon130886: Don't be such a stickler. With technology there comes certain things we must lose. Sure it sinks that nature/the environment is beginning to deteriorate, but someone will eventually find a way to balance it out.

Technology is needed every day in our lives. You wouldn't be able to use lights in your house, cook food, etc., otherwise. You really want to live like that? You'll tell the difference immediately after you give up on "technology." Heck, you can say even a campfire is considered technology. How exactly is a fire created?

Technology is great, and it makes our lives so much more simple and easier. I don't watch TV as much as other people, but I really enjoy using my PC quite a bit. Without it, I really don't know how I'd be able to do certain things.


@anon130886: I agree, but it's funny that you post a message from your computer, that is most likely powered by a coal plant, which is much worse than a nuclear plant.

We shouldn't rely so heavily on these things, but since we already are, perhaps we should just learn to be responsible and conscious of our footprint.

At the very least remember your statement the next time you buy a new piece of tech that you have to have.


Technology is the solution in our daily lives, but what about our environment? These technologies really have a big effect on our environment. And that's our big problem!


With technology, the first thing that comes in my mind is a computer. However, if you look at the wide perspective, you will realize that it is not only about human artifact creation, but in general issues such as science, industrial or social responsibilities.

The 21st century has really abruptly developed and so many inventions have come along the way. Everyone's crazy about developing some inventions that may be useful in the future.


Technology simplified the way people can make life, enhanced social relationships and living standards through the application of sophisticated methods of production and communication. but the world need not be optimistic of these merits. more focus should be on analyzing detrimental effects that are likely to be caused by technology advancement.


i think technology stinks because it's ruining the world. You people think its good because it makes life easy, fun, and sophisticated.

People don't live simply anymore and soon there will be nothing natural. I love nature and the way people used to live like the indians.

Our country is vulnerable because we run off computers. Oh and the worst part of it all is the nuclear power plants. You guys are worried about the atmosphere but what about the ground? People and animals. The nuclear radiation rods that the factories put in the ground are poisonous, but hey that's just me.


is it really true that everything including machines are all technological machinery? i thought so, but i still have the idea that all machines are technological equipment.


Let the eyebrows be raised - there's a lot more to technology than material artifacts.


Many people think of technology as machines and of late computers and information technology tends to dominate the idea of technology. People would raise eyebrows if you talked about social or cultural technology.

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