Technology – The Origin Story

Technology-Origin Story

Technology is ubiquitous in today’s world. As a not very tech savvy person, I am worried about the constant intrusion of technology in my daily life and wonder how to deal with it. Working in a job that requires me to not only update myself on a regular basis on technology, but also pose as some kind of technology expert, worries me. I don’t know how many of you out there find themselves in  the same predicament.

So, I decided to take the problem head on. To begin at the beginning. As a humanities person who understands the why of technology more than the what or how of technology, I searched the web and could not find any source which simply expounded where technology came from what are its various aspects, how it evolved and where it is going. A history of technology as it were. To get a real understanding of the current technologies, I believe we have to gain knowledge of how it all began and evolved. That I guess would put today’s technology in perspective. Hence, the technovice blog.

If, like me you wondered what the word technology means here’s the answer. According to the online etymology dictionary, the word technology appears (circa 1610) to have come from two Greek words techne and logos, and meaning literally “systematic treatment of an art, craft, or technique”. Contemporary definition of technology is much narrower. It is defined as “study of mechanical and industrial arts”. It was first recorded in 1859.

As the Oxford English Dictionary has it,  technology as a branch of knowledge dealing with the mechanical arts and applied sciences first appeared in 1787. Its first recorded use was in 1859. The title of the draft charter for Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was “Objects and Plan of an Institute of Technology”, was drafted in October 1860.

Whenever we think of technology, we always think in terms of science and technology. The words science and technology are often used interchangeably in today’s lingo.

However, science is derived from the Latin word scientia ( meaning knowledge). It  is a system of acquiring knowledge based on the scientific method. Its goal is the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake. Technology on the other hand is the concept that deals with the usage and knowledge of tools and crafts, and how it affects our ability to control and adapt to our environment.

According to encyclopaedia britannica the history of technology is longer than the history of science. While technology is more practical, science is more conceptual and depends upon the comparatively sophisticated skill of literacy and numeracy. Since, this skill became available only with the emergence of the great world civilizations, science began with those civilizations, some 3,000 years BCE, whereas technology is as old as humanity itself.

Judged in terms of efficiency, the achievement of modern technology has been admirable. This has resulted in technology becoming a dominant influence in society. In the mid-19th century the non-technologists were almost unanimously enchanted by the wonders of the new man-made environment growing up around them.

However, a few voices of dissent such as Ralph Waldo Emerson’s ominous warning that “Things are in the saddle and ride mankind” could be heard. For the first time it began to seem as if the artifacts made by man in his campaign of conquest over nature would come to dominate him.

Jacques Ellul, (French philosopher, sociologist, lay theologian, and professor) of the University of Bordeaux, in his book The Technological Society expressed the theme of technological tyranny over individuality and traditional patterns of life. He asserted that technology had become so pervasive that man now lived in a milieu of technology rather than of nature. He characterized this new milieu as artificial, autonomous and self-determining.

Technology, today has become so powerful and ubiquitous that other social phenomena such as politics and economics have become a part of it rather than being influenced by it. The individual, in short, had come to be adapted to the technical milieu rather than the other way round.

So, technology over the years has attracted both raptures and criticism. But, its impact has never been as powerful as it is in today’s world. Let us not waste any more time in diving into learning about the history and the implications of technology. I am going to concentrate more on information technology and the internet and mobile technologies. So, the articles in the future will be less abstract. But, you will have to wait a couple of more articles for that. Watch this space for more.

Disclaimer: This is basically content curated from sources on the net, to make technology less intimidating and more interesting.

Leave a Reply