‘Technology’ is a word that is often used to describe a wide variety of activities. It can be a synonym for a variety of things including computers, software, and networks. It can also refer to a number of physical objects or techniques that are used by humans. Depending on the context, a person might give technology a different meaning. For example, many people confuse technology with gadgetry, but this is not the case.
In general, technology is a tool used to solve a problem. A technologist uses a scientific understanding of the current world to decide how to proceed. He or she usually does so in a step-by-step process. During this step-by-step process, the technologist validates underlying ideas and develops a greater understanding of how to proceed.
Throughout the twentieth century, philosophers have sought to understand the role of technology in human society. They have examined technology’s impact on the culture and economy. The discipline has also focused on how technology affects society’s ability to control and adapt to the environment. However, technological reflection has not grown at the same rate as other disciplines of philosophy. Rather, new thought on technology has challenged and shaped the analytical categories and concepts of this discipline.
Historically, philosophers have made three important contributions to the philosophy of technology. The first is the doctrine of the four causes, which was developed by Aristotle. This doctrine explains the four causes of things by referring to artifacts and technical terms.
The second early contribution to the philosophy of technology was the theory of the operational principle, which is often associated with engineering design. This theory states that the overall collective of technology increases with time. As the collective of technology evolves, the opportunity niches increase and multiplies. As the system evolves, bursts of accretion ripple through the system. As a result, new combinations and combinations of combinations create further new combinations. The total collective of technology always increases.
The third early contribution to the philosophy of technology is the doctrine of the four causes, which is still found in modern discussions of the metaphysics of artifacts. It has implications for the formal structure of technology. It argues that institutions are technologies, and that they develop in a similar way to technology.
A fourth early contribution to the philosophy of technology is the thesis that technology learns from nature. This thesis is derived from the early works of Aristotle. In his Physics II.2, Aristotle said that people are occupied by a need to earn a living and that artisans are occupied by a need to make money. Similarly, Democritus claimed that house-building and weaving imitated nature. The resulting product was called a loom.
The central questions of the philosophy of technology are practical rationality and the relationship of science and technology to human action. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, philosophers and scientists had lively debates on these foundational issues. While some of these issues were never directly addressed by either philosophers or scientists, the close relationship between these two fields was clearly evident.