While the title might sound like an About.com topic, when I ask the question: “what is technology?” how wide or how narrow do we choose to focus our search? For me, technology is everything that’s man-made and not just the newfangled stuff, with PCB’s (Printed Circuit Boards) and microprocessors…
You see, the perception (or common misconception?) is that technology is new stuff, like computers, energy-efficient light bulbs, high-speed trains, space flight, nanotechnology, genetics, crazily tall buildings and stupidly long bridges.
When in actual fact, technology is glazed drinking mugs, the three field system, mass-produced cloths, glass windows, zip fasteners, the bow & arrow, central heating and the printed word.
Technology is the evolution of an idea. It’s the thinking of a man or woman who sees before them an opportunity to improve a process, or to create a device or object that facilitates, improves or aids something or someone else.
Technology is about a unique inspiration given the remit of creativity and the notion to express that idea as something real and tangible.
However, the motives for this spark of creativity aren’t always as laudable and arguably lamentable. Take for example any example of a weapon, or a chemical agent created to hinder or hurt another. Whatever their reason for being, they are technology none the less.
As a species, we’re gifted with sizable brains and opposable thumbs, both of which afford us a near-unique ability to make real the innovations that we imagine.
Technology is always greener on the other side of the millennium
Or, an alternate sub-title would be: “When good technology goes bad!” which is punchier, but cheap. In any case, therein lies the theme I had in mind.
An example of good (as in transformative) technology would be the automobile. You could argue that a further distillation of that particular line of reasoning would take us towards the external and internal combustion engines, but that would make this topic too narrow.
The car and the roads they run upon — for the most part, at least — really did change everything. The train was a sign of things to come, but the car was when things really changed. Our lives were impacted in an almost immeasurable way, and I do mean that in both a very literal and in a very broad sense.
Many things have been said of cars in particular, sometimes bad things. But the way I see things, there’s no such thing as “good” or “evil” technology. Those are whimsical notions, not much welcome in these here parts:
“So here’s my take on things: technology is not evil, nor is it good. Technology is needs-driven and is ultimately the product of a market niche being identified and then filled with one gadget or another to fulfill the needs of that market … When I hear this kind of thing, it puts me in mind of some James Bond Ubervillain intent on inflicting mass, world-wide misery on each and every one of us. Needless to say, it’s nothing like that.”
While you have only a few tens of thousands of cars per nation, you’ve got a manageable situation. But once you’ve got tens of millions of cars per nation, then you’ve got a dilemma.
You have stress being placed on natural resources, on land usage, on air quality, and on the people living amongst cars in their everyday lives.
On the one hand, you’ve got a nation whose needs for mobility need to be satisfied, yet the needs of their environment and pressures placed upon that environment weigh greater with every passing year.
This is where we need to collectively put on our thinking caps and innovate our way out of a possible environmental and climatological disaster.
Moving forward in reverse
So technology’s got us into a right old mess? No, that’s not quite right. Good technology usually meets its design brief to the letter. What got us into a right old mess was and still is the lack of forethought and planning with regards to how any given technology might impact on its environment.
But the thing is — and it’s an ironic thing at that — the biggest ‘innovations’ need to come from the regular people. We need to think beyond our own immediate conveniences and start to adopt more environmentally-aware schemes, such as car sharing, public transport, or even walking and cycling.
While I truly believe we all need to play our part in creating sustainable living, there are things that I firmly believe are not our responsibility, where big business and the governments should play a more pro-active role in the environment.
Sometimes, you’ve just got to go backwards a few steps before you can go forwards. Our current thinking is one of ever-evolving technology that gets smaller and solves our every ill and ail.
That might not change, but as these technologies continue to evolve, our minds eye must be thinking of those technologies and how they will impact a world that we see as growing ever green…
Maybe you have your own ideas what technology is? Why not share your ideas on our Page over on Facebook?