Technology is the application of conceptual knowledge for achieving practical goals, especially in a reproducible way. The word technology can also mean the products resulting from such efforts, including both tangible tools such as utensils or machines, and intangible ones such as software. Technology plays a critical role in science, engineering, and everyday life.
Technological advancements have led to significant changes in society. The earliest known technology is the stone tool, used during prehistoric times, followed by the control of fire, which contributed to the growth of the human brain and the development of language during the Ice Age. The invention of the wheel in the Bronze Age allowed greater travel and the creation of more complex machines. More recent technological inventions, including the printing press, the telephone and the Internet, have lowered communication barriers and ushered in the knowledge economy.
While technology contributes to economic development and improves human prosperity, it can also have negative impacts like pollution and resource depletion and can cause social harms like technological unemployment resulting from automation. As a result, there are ongoing philosophical and political debates about the role and use of technology, the ethics of technology and ways to mitigate its downsides.
Technology is a term dating back to the early 17th century that meant ‘systematic treatment’ (from Greek Τεχνολογία, from the Greek: τέχνη, romanized: tékhnē, lit. ’craft, art’ and -λογία, ‘study, knowledge’). It is predated in use by the Ancient Greek word tékhnē, which used to mean ‘knowledge of how to make things’, which encompassed activities like architecture.
Starting in the 19th century, continental Europeans started using the terms Technik (German) or technique (French) to refer to a ‘way of doing’, which included all technical arts, such as dancing, navigation, or printing, whether or not they required tools or instruments. At the time, Technologie (German and French) referred either to the academic discipline studying the “methods of arts and crafts”, or to the political discipline “intended to legislate on the functions of the arts and crafts.” Since the distinction between Technik and Technologie is absent in English, both were translated as technology. The term was previously uncommon in English and mostly referred to the academic discipline, as in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In the 20th century, as a result of scientific progress and the Second Industrial Revolution, technology stopped being considered a distinct academic discipline and took on its current-day meaning: the systemic use of knowledge to practical ends.
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