The Conceptualization of Technology and Its Application


The Conceptualization of Technology and Its Application

Technology is the collective term for the myriad ways things are made, such as electronics, information technology, computer sciences, and so on. The word “technology” was first used in connection with science and engineering in engineering textbooks in 1900. Technological change is the result of human intervention with machines or the environment. It is also the outcome of changes in economic organization and of course in cultural practices. This change has affected all aspects of life, including education, communication, government, finance, and even marketing. As globalization continues to affect the business world, the meaning of technology has become much more vague.

Today it has become necessary to distinguish between knowledge based on factual observation and knowledge based on abstract theory. The former is called factual knowledge, while the latter is called abstract knowledge. For instance, to learn how to drive a car you may observe others driving a car, but abstract knowledge about the car’s design, function, etc. is not learned by comparing the facts with your knowledge, but by applying that knowledge to the real world through applied science.

The process of learning must be both efficient and relevant. We learn by doing, not by studying. Thus, both theoretical and practical purposes for learning must be understood. What drives a person to learn is obviously personal: to acquire new skills or to learn how to perform a particular task is usually to increase one’s net value. But that gain does not stop there: learning must be relevant to one’s occupational and social goals; it is not enough to learn merely for its sake.

Learning must be relevant. How? By comparing what is being learned to theoretical knowledge and comparing that to practical ends. Applying theoretical knowledge to real-world situations requires knowledge about science, technology, engineering, and math (or similar fields); applying that knowledge to practical ends requires practical skills. Therefore, if one is seeking practical knowledge about a specific technical matter, he should expect to learn scientific and technological facts, not general or abstract knowledge about the subject. For example, if one wishes to learn more about mechanics, one may expect to learn more about mechanics, not about the parts of a vehicle, or about engines.

However, what is relevant to social scientists (and other members of the humanities who seek knowledge about how society works) is not simply the facts. This is because the facts are abstract, while the aims of social science are concrete. It is not abstract, therefore, for a social scientist to ask: “How is science and technology relevant to my goals?” Rather, this question belongs to the realm of practicality: how science and technology can help me achieve my ends. This practicality thus directs the quest for knowledge about the specific practical applications of science and technology. By contrast, when looking to abstract the theoretical knowledge about science and technology, the questions asked are: “What do I need to know in order to know and apply this knowledge to my ends?”

The second way that theoretical knowledge about science and technology refers to its practical application is through the knowledge about human actions and the corresponding technological applications. For example, scientific knowledge refers to general laws and the general theories about the relationship between these laws and human actions. Practical knowledge on the other hand refers to the particular applications of the laws that have been studied. For instance, knowledge about gravity can be studied as a set of laws and its effects on terrestrial and aerial crafts, and its effect on humans in particular.