Technology is a term used to describe the various techniques, tools, and processes that are used in the production of artifacts and services that benefit humans. Technological processes are typically guided by the goals of achieving a specific function. A technology may be an instrumental process that aims to accomplish a goal or a technical fix that is designed to solve a problem. Various implementations of technology are likely to influence the values of society.
Technology is an important cultural force that holds together contemporary societies. New technologies often raise new ethical and societal issues. They also disrupt social hierarchies and are increasingly being criticized for their environmental and health impacts. Throughout the history of human civilization, technological progress has been significant. Although some new technologies have been harmful to individuals and groups, many have contributed to the improvement of the human condition. Modern technology requires specific and sophisticated training, and it involves complex manufacturing methods. These technological processes also produce unwanted by-products.
During the Middle Ages, technological progress was relatively high. The discovery of fire, for example, helped increase food sources and the ability of humans to control their environment. The invention of the wheel was another important milestone. It was the first technological tool that allowed humans to manipulate their surroundings.
In the Renaissance, people began to appreciate the creative efforts of the human race. However, there was a period of criticism over the pervasiveness of technology in society. This criticism was often referred to as Neo-Luddism, a movement that was born out of anarcho-primitivism.
Several philosophical debates have centered on technology’s future use in society. Some political approaches to technology, such as pragmatism, are inspired by discourse ethics. Other approaches to technology, such as techno-progressivism, are based on the notion that the continued use of technologies benefits human welfare.
One of the early contributions to philosophy of technology is Aristotle’s doctrine of the four causes. This doctrine suggests that the reason for the existence of an object is not the product itself but its author, purpose, and purposeful act. For example, Democritus, the Greek philosopher, claimed that weaving was the first technological invention. He claimed that by imitating nature, we could develop the ability to weave.
Another early contribution to philosophy of technology is the work of Francis Bacon. His book New Atlantis, published in 1627, articulated a positive viewpoint of technology. However, his ideas on the philosophy of science were less clear.
During the Industrial Revolution, philosophers such as Samuel Butler argued against the widespread use of machines. Their writings were influenced by the work of Charles Darwin in On the Origin of Species. Nevertheless, they did not stop their praise of technology.
Philosophical reflection on technology did not grow as rapidly during the nineteenth century. By the late nineteenth century, a critical attitude was dominant. Many representatives of the critical attitude had little firsthand knowledge of engineering practice, and were schooled in humanities and social sciences.