Why Defining Technology Is Difficult

In a world where nothing seems to be as it once was, people tend to retreat into certainties of the past. This trip down memory lane may create a supposed security, but it is very fragile. However, when we try to orient ourselves towards the future, we privy to use "old" certainties and common understandings as a foundation. Therefore, this article will deal with such a central common understanding: We all know and use technology. Or maybe, our understanding of what technology is is possibly not that clean-cut after all?


The Application of the Sciences to the Useful Arts


Coined by Jacob Bigelow (who is often credited with providing technology's present-day utilization), this definition (which is the title of this paragraph) of technology remains in the head of many scientists today. However, the descriptions, uses, and understanding of technology has varied tremendously since. Technology is the entirety of strategies, aptitudes, strategies, and forms utilized within the generation of goods or administrations or the achievement of destinations, such as logical examination. Innovation can be the information of procedures, shapes, and such. It can be inserted in machines to permit for operation without a point by point information of their workings. Frameworks (e.g., computers) applying innovation by taking an input, changing it agreeing to the system's utilization, and creating a result are alluded to as innovation frameworks or innovative frameworks.


Agreeing to Brey (2009), in spite of the fact that it is difficult to create a definition for technology, individuals do indeed know what it is. They can observe between things that are human-made and those that occur naturally. A brief investigation into this articulation uncovers the precise relationship between knowledge of innovation and one’s capacity to distinguish between that which occurs in nature and that which is made. In other words: The knowledge about technology allows one to distinguish between what is natural, which therefore is not technology, and what is made by humans, which is technology. Furthermore, it is striking how technology and innovation have become closely connected, sometimes even functioning as synonyms (implying that human-made technology is innovative per se - which: is it really? How do you feel about that?).



Distinction Between an Anthropocentric, Ethological, and Instrumental Perspective of Technology


While the anthropocentric point of view provides definitions and answers to how humans use technology, the ethological perspective uncovers other aspects by looking closely into "how technology is used." Answering these questions might be valuable to a certain extent, giving more answers to the "how," however, only touching on the "why."


In perspectives on ethics of AI, David J. Gunkel writes: "One says: Technology is a means to an end. The other says: Technology is a human activity." The instrumental theory approach provides us with an understanding of why there is technology and why it is always innovative: Technology solves the problem of the user. It is this third perspective that gives us the full picture of how technology can be defined. I argue that it is essential to find common sense and understanding of the various aspects the word "technology" entails to be able to classify the effects that technology has driven forward accordingly.


Technology as the Key to Understanding Our Current Time


Influential philosophers such as Heidegger have dealt intensively with technology because they hoped that it would provide answers to explain world events. For them, technology was the key to understanding the world as such. Heidegger, therefore, notes the following three ‘claims’:

  1. Technology is “not an instrument,” it is a way of understanding the world.

  2. Innovation is “not a human activity,” but creates past human control.

  3. Technology is “the most noteworthy danger,” at the risk of perceiving the world exclusively from a technological way of thinking.

So, even in uncertain times, we have to deal with technology to a certain degree if we want to deal with the world. The way we understand it and want to drive innovation is tied to our understanding of technology. There are more definitions and approaches to the term technology, which I will be happy to discuss in another blog post if you are as passionate about the topic as I am. Let me know!


For now, I would like to give the following sources, which I used for this short introduction:

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