What is technology?

Atualizado: 17 de Out de 2019

There is so much talking about tech going on, but not much discussion about what technology is.


When you think of technology, what comes to your mind? Most people will probably start talking about a range of electronic devices and appliances, from smartphones to microwave ovens. In spite of that, technology does not need to be powered by electricity, neither be high tech. Stone tools were humankind's first tech solutions. Even today, when you use a kettle to boil water to make tea or coffee, you are making use of an artifact of tech with an ingenious low-tech mechanism for telling you when the water is boiling and ready to be used - a steam-powered whistle, with no electric energy involved. And it works seamlessly. Sometimes, technology is not about crafting a new machine or object but creating a more reliable and efficient method for achieving the same outcome. For instance, finding it is possible to grow vegetables in water or when creating new forms of spoken communication. We can accomplish these two missions only by using our imagination and by changing the way we react to the world around us. By using the same process, we even have been able to transform ourselves.


For this reason, every time we change our surroundings to create a new perceived reality, we are using technology. It could be an old trick or a brand-new one. Consequently, we can define technology by everything the luminosity of the human mind can create to transform himself or herself and its surroundings.


While it may be true that we use technology to create an outcome for us, in many situations, this outcome might not be beneficial at the level we expect or even could undermine our human qualities. It is within the power of the creator to decide. For example, we could design a software application to be highly addictive and with not much opportunity to help others or ourself, or we could develop the same app to empower the user to help other human beings or in becoming a better version of himself and at the same time, valuing the users' time and attention as limited resources.



A Machine Project Draft


But who is to blame? People or Tech


Sometimes, we witness situations that roughly no one is getting a positive outcome from tech. Who should we blame? The user or the technology. With the widespread use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), the correct answer is probably getting closer to both of them, but in the end, we can trace back the root cause to humans, both end-users, and tech industry executives. People are the problem because technology has no underlying meaning. Think of a hammer as an example. Nothing is technically preventing you or me from calling it a chair and hanging it on the wall as art. But that is not the way most of us imagine a hammer, and instead, we use it as a tool. Technology is no different.


Should we give up using technology?


With so many problems arising regarding the use of technology, should we still care for technology as part of our lives? The answer is Yes, and there are two main reasons: First, at this point, we rely so much on technology that it would be nearly impossible to live without it. Secondly, we are entirely capable of keeping a healthy relationship with technology, one that could benefit both our community and us. We need to raise the bar for our awareness of the many ways technology affects us and also empower people - and not the industry - in better deciding when and what tech we should be using.


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