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Defining Technologies – What is a Technology?

Hillary Cyril




Defining and describing ultimate technologies is a tough job. The meaning of technology is a subject for vigorous debate and one that is often subject to interpretation by different parties. Often, there are disagreements in definition even within the same technological domain. For example, while there is much agreement on the basic definition of a computer, most people will disagree on whether it is the computer or the Internet that is at the heart of the computer. Similarly, there is much agreement about what constitutes the term ‘networking’ but individuals would also disagree on whether this is a technology of networking. In addition, one would expect that in business circles, a particular technology would be accepted as being part of the market.

One approach used to determine whether a technology is a technology or not is to ask whether it can be done by existing technologies. If it cannot, then it is not a technology. This is similar to asking whether something can be done by existing technologies except in a modified form. Often, if the technology cannot be done by existing technologies, it is said to be a technology. However, one should be careful here because one does need to restrict oneself to technology that has been successfully done. Thus, you could say that technology is a technology which has been successfully done by technology is, only that today, technology y has been enhanced by science.

Thus, for a technology to be accepted as a technology, it needs to have been successfully done by earlier technologies. If such technology exists, then one is safe to say that such a technology is indeed a technology. Of course, this means that any new technology cannot be considered as a technology unless it can be done by technologies already existing. This also means that no technological jump can be considered to be a technological leap since it could be explained by the fact that existing technologies were superseded by newer ones.

This leads us to another important factor for determining a technology as a technology. The definition of a technology is usually dependent on its usefulness, which may not be useful to all industries in existence. Thus, while businesses would like to have the latest technology so that they can be ahead of their competitors, businesses that are already established would like to have the latest technology so that they can be able to provide more value to their customers. Thus, if you want to define technology as something that is helpful to all industries in existence, you would need to base it on industry-specific needs rather than general technical needs.

Finally, we will look at the other part of the definition. The area of potential uses for the technology. In defining a technology, it is very important to consider how other technologies can be used. For example, although lasers can replace torches, the applications of lasers are not limited to illumination. Lasers can be used to scan images and can even replace X-rays. Thus, while lasers may be very useful for one application, they might be useful for something else, which makes it more difficult to be called technology.

So the answer to the original question is dependent upon your definition of technology. If you want to know whether a given technology is vital in today’s world, then yes, it is vital. However, if you are looking to apply that technology to your industry, then perhaps technology x would be good to use. If you are interested in knowing whether or not a particular technology is going to have a place in your industry next year, next decade, or within the next five years, then perhaps technology x isn’t going to help you very much. Rather than trying to decide between technologies, perhaps you should just concentrate on applying them to your industry and see what you end up with.

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