The Definition of Technology

Technology is a subset of the application of scientific and technological knowledge to solve a problem. The word “technology” was coined in a 1977 U.S. Congressional Record debate between then Representatives Whitfield andopleanderphasis on the word technology was prompted by the Ford Motor Company’s (then Ford Motors) decision to build a car that could drive without gas. Technological change is a gradual process, adding new tools or techniques as old ones are superseded or outdated. It is a systemic approach that occurs over time rather than all at once. Technologists determine the scope of technological change and identify the sources of potential improvement, while managers determine the means to implement those improvements.


Technological change is measured using a variety of metrics, including frequency and magnitude of change, the impact on competition, and the impact on costs and performance. Technological systems are consistently defined as those techniques, processes, and tools utilized in the achievement of specific objectives, including scientific research, technological development, and the application of social science to technology. A spectrum of technologies may be categorized, with high end systems representing the cutting-edge of modern technology and low end systems being commonly-used tools that are not advancing as rapidly as the higher end systems.

Technological change is a subset of information technology, and thus information technology has been a subset of technology since the dawn of the computer and internet age. While information technology continues to advance its own understanding of how things work and how people interact, information technology as a whole is defined by the progress of IT systems, especially those that are networked and interconnected. This broad definition encompasses many different subtopics, including internet and computer networking, social networks, digital media, digital technology, and more. This definition is inclusive of many different fields of study, including anthropology, business, engineering, computer science, and sociology.

In order to understand the technology, it is important to view it as a collection of technologies interacting with one another, rather than viewing it as a static system. A good definition is described as a system that has built-in interfaces for communication, data storage, processing, management, control, and output; with which technologies, interactions, and systems emerge. Therefore, technology can only be understood through an appreciation of these interactions and their relationship to one another, as well as how these interactions provide a solution to some problem or another. More specifically, it is important to pay close attention to technology concepts such as functionality, design, process, format, machine, communication, feedback, human-machine, hardware, software, location, memory, networking, user, and user experience. The closer a technology can be located to each of these key concepts, the easier it becomes to understand the technology and what it does.

It should also be noted that these definitions are not definitive and that future technologies may redefine some of the older ones. Also, some of the most important and influential technologies of the past century may not be used to define new technologies, because they were already obsolete at the time they were first developed. It is important, however, to recognize when these technologies no longer adequately describe the technology domain, and to make changes where necessary.

Finally, it should be noted that the definition of technology has become more vague in recent years as more technologies are developed with specific functions in mind, rather than to solve technological problems. In fact, in many ways technology has become an abstract and generalized term, with many practitioners using different technologies to address different problems. This situation has resulted in a much vague list of technology categories, including software technology, engineering technology, knowledge technology, and even computer technology (which are probably too broad and confusing). Because of this situation, it is likely that the schatzberg index will continue to change over time, as technology develops more specific problems and uses more specific terminology to address them.