Technology and Society: A Basic Understanding

In layman’s terms, technology is the combination of any learned methods, skills, procedures, and techniques used in the creation of goods or services or even in the achievement of specific goals, like scientific research. Technological change is often a product of society, with new discoveries, inventions, or innovations leading the way. Technological change is inevitable and it is likely to continue for the next 100 plus years. If you are in a position where you can be an influence on the development of technology, you will most certainly want to learn more about this dynamic and ever-changing field.


The history of technology is marked by several important milestones. The first is science, which dates back to the era of ancient Greek wisdom. Science grew out of practical application of the natural world around them, rather than a system of pure intellectual knowledge. Examples of things like astronomy, mathematics, chemistry, mechanics, and thermodynamics are all examples of scientific knowledge.

In more recent years, technology has grown to include information and communication systems, information and communication technologies, complex and machine systems, energy, and transportation. Technological change can be classified according to three main areas: technological systems, technological devices, and cultural approaches to technology. Technological systems are those that fall under science and engineering, like electronics, computers, and industrial machinery. These have developed over time into complex systems requiring intricate programming languages, materials, electricity, and fuel to function. Examples include jet engines, nuclear power, automobiles, communications networks, global positioning systems, and other engineering feats.

Technology devices fall under the second analytical category. These are things like toys, calculators, television sets, radios, personal digital assistants (PDAs), handheld computers, video game consoles, and the Internet. These are all relatively simple devices that have changed how people live their lives. A good example is the iPod, which has revolutionized music distribution. The Internet has expanded beyond its initial scope to become one of the most vital and important influences in the world today. Entertainment and information are no longer the domain of the sophisticated, but rather of everyone with a computer and an Internet connection.

Culture also falls into the third analytical category and is related to both science and technology. This includes things such as art, literature, film, and music. The term culture is most often used to describe a set of practices and values related to society. For example, the practices and values of Eastern Europe are different from those of America, yet both Eastern Europe and America have produced some fantastic works of art and literature. Thus, Eastern Europe and America are both “culture” in the English language.

These three categories provide a useful framework for appreciating the relationship between twentieth century technology and society. By breaking down the term technology into its various categories, scholars have been able to develop a much more accurate picture of the relationship between science and society. In so doing, they have made it easier for us to understand the development of the arts and literature, and how the scientific revolution transformed the world. Further reading may be recommended to anyone who wants to learn more about the topics.