What Is Technology?
Technology is the application of knowledge to achieve practical goals in a human environment. It involves the use of a combination of human creativity and machine tools to change and improve the natural world, as well as to solve problems in business or daily life. Technological advances have brought great benefits to society, including medical breakthroughs, more efficient businesses and a higher standard of living for many people worldwide. However, there are also concerns about the impact of technology on health and social interaction.
Every technological design operates within constraints that must be identified and taken into account. Some of these are absolute, such as physical laws (e.g., the conservation of energy) and material properties. Others are flexible, such as financial limitations (only so much money can be spent), political concerns (local, state, and national regulations) and ecological considerations (likely disruption to the natural environment). An optimum technological design strikes some reasonable compromise among these constraints, balancing them against benefits to humanity and the environment.
It is also important to consider what resources are needed for a new technology to be developed and then implemented. This includes the availability of human talent to make it happen, and the availability of material and energy resources that will be required to manufacture and operate the technology. In addition, it is necessary to determine how the technology will be used by humans and what effect it might have on the environment once it has been discarded or worn out.
In addition to the above, technology is also the means by which scientific discoveries and inventions are translated into applications that benefit society. Scientific discovery provides the motivation and direction for theory and research, but technology is what enables and transforms scientific discoveries into applications that meet human needs.
For example, the ability to transcribe sound into written words using a computer allows scientists and engineers to share their work with the wider public in ways that were not possible before. Similarly, the ability to turn digital images into three-dimensional objects via Virtual Reality allows viewers to experience and learn about places and events they might otherwise not be able to visit.
In terms of the workplace, technology has become a crucial tool in helping to streamline business processes and increase productivity. However, it is not without its drawbacks – data breaches are becoming more commonplace and employees may feel overwhelmed by the complexity of technological systems. In some cases, it can even lead to distractions and a loss of focus on core tasks. Nevertheless, in most businesses, the advantages of technology far outweigh the disadvantages. This is especially true as new technologies continue to be developed at a rapid pace. To keep up with these changes, it is crucial for employees to understand the basic concepts behind technology. To this end, The Open University is offering a series of short courses on Understanding Technology. You can find out more information about these courses and sign up here.