What Is Technology?

Technology is a broad term that covers many different tools, systems, and processes. It can encompass everything from the mechanical technology of gears in rotating machines to information technology that uses computer systems to store and send data. It can also include education technologies that help students work at their own pace and classroom communication technology that keeps lines open between teachers, parents, and students.

The word ‘technology’ stems from the Greek words techne and logos. The former refers to the art or skill of obtaining something; the latter refers to an idea, notion, or understanding. Thus, technology is the application of conceptual knowledge in practical goal-oriented ways. This includes both tangible devices, such as utensils and machinery, as well as intangible tools, such as ideas and understandings.

Every technological tool prioritizes some low-resistance path towards an end. It does so implicitly by neglecting other paths. Because humans have limited energy and attention, this necessarily involves some form of selection.

Modern technology is often complex and requires sophisticated training to build, maintain, and use. It also relies on the cooperation of many different people to develop and maintain it. The word ‘technology’ fills in the semantic void created when ‘arts’ and’sciences’ were narrowly defined to mean only applied science or industrial arts respectively. However, this new meaning of the word has exacerbated misunderstandings. It has been abused in a way that distorts and confuses its original meaning, and it is often used with a trite, catch-all quality.