Technology in its entirety is a broad concept ranging from the invention of the wheel in the later Neolithic Age to space exploration and plans of forming colonies in outer space and many other advancements in the field over the years. In fact, one would not be wrong to say that technology existed even in the Stone Age.
When people talk about technology they think in terms of computers and hi-tech gadgets; however, simple things like wheels, locks, faucets, plumbing are technology too. Technology in simple terms is the application of knowledge and skills for a practical purpose, be it for home, industry, space or anywhere else.
To understand technology and how it developed and branched out into different types we have to start from the very beginning.
Although it has been in use from the early Stone Age in some form or the other, the term “technology” itself is about 200 years old. Prior to the 20th-century technology was better known as “useful arts” a term synonymous with skills and methods for manufacturing and craftsmanship.
The phrase, “useful arts”, used in the Victorian era, and even before, is now considered old fashion and outdated. In reality, it was a sort of antonym to phrases like ‘performing art’ and ‘fine art’ in that era.
The word technology is a derivation from a Greek word and a general description or definition would be “a collection of techniques, skills, methods, and processes used in the production of goods or services or in the accomplishment of objectives, such as scientific investigation” as explained by Wikipedia.
Other synonyms of technology include: automation, mechanics, machinery or mechanization, robotics, computers, telecommunications, applied science, electronics and its components, industrial science, scientific knowhow, Information technology, nanotechnology and many more.
So, what is the distinction between sciences, engineering in its different forms, and technology? Well, although one can have a separate definition for each of these terms the fact remains that they are all interconnected and interdependent.
For example, science uses different technologies and so does engineering, while technology itself is dependent on science and is the result of advancements made in different sciences including the science of engineering. It’s like the “chicken and the egg story – what came first?” or “where does the circle begin?” – It’s already making my head spin.
Let’s make this as simple as we can and discuss some categories and uses of technology available today leaving the ‘chicken’ and the ‘circle’ out of it.
Some of the major categories are:
Information Technology (IT) – In addition to application of computers and the internet to study, store, retrieve, exchange, manipulate and transmit information or data, it also includes other information distribution technologies such telecommunication, television, computer hardware and software, electronics, microchips, semiconductors, internet, telecom equipment, e-commerce, health care and other computer services.
Information Technology (IT) is the name of the game in every sphere of life and has become an indispensable and integral part of modern day living, businesses and industries ranging from agriculture to space exploration and in everything that comes in between.
Agricultural Technology – It comprises the use of machinery for farming and other types of agriculture ranging from hand tools and power tools to tractors and numerous farm equipments developed over the years.
Although the basics of land cultivation remain unchanged, in that, it involves sowing, growing and harvesting; the methodology, however, has changed over the years with advancement in agricultural technologies.
Computer monitoring systems, GPS locators, agricultural drones, self-steering advanced tractors and implements and other such technologies ensure precision, savings in terms of fuel, seeds, and fertilizers to name a few.
In the not too distant future, we should be able to see mass production of driverless tractors using GPS mapping and electronic sensors.
Then there is the agricultural bio-technology also called agritech which involves the implementation of scientific tools and techniques that involve genetic engineering, molecular diagnostics, molecular markers, vaccines and tissue culture with the potential to modify living organisms such plants, animals and microorganisms.
Medical/Health Technology – Health technology as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) is the “application of organized knowledge and skills in the form of devices, medicines, vaccines, procedures and systems developed to solve a health problem and improve quality of lives.”
As indispensible as it is, medical technology plays one of the most important roles, if not the most important, as it makes a difference between life and death.
Medical technology has improved by leaps and bounds in recent times and has been responsible for saving millions of lives, not forgetting the lives doctors of today whose jobs have become relatively easier in diagnosing and treating diseases.
Medical technology basically involves two categories, diagnosis and treatment, and technological advancement in both areas has been tremendous and there are numerous examples in both categories.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Basic medical technology has been in existence for some time now such as the stethoscope, hypodermic needles for blood analysis, X-Ray machines etc. However, in recent times the medical technology has become much more advanced and complex enabling early detection of diseases and prompt treatment before a disease can grow to untreatable proportions.
Here is a list of some of these medical marvels of today and the near future:
The MRI scanner, Heart monitors, Ultrasound, PET and CVT scanners, Medical Algorithm, MelaFind Optical Scanner, to name a few diagnostic technologies.
The future of medical diagnosis and treatment looks even more promising with major breakthroughs that will enable precision in medical diagnosis and treatment and have an impact on medical practice as a whole.
Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Fibretronics, Sphygmomanometers, Smart Algorithms, Analyzing Wearable Data, Near-Artificial Intelligence in Radiology, Food Scanners, Humanoid Robots, 3D Bioprinting, Internet of Health Things At Home, Theranos, and Brain-Computer Interfaces etc. are just a few examples of ongoing progress in the medical world.
To go into the details of each would require medical expertise which the writer does not possess – one can refer to medical journals and other medical sites for detailed information on these technologies.
Educational Technology – the Association for Educational Communications and Technology headquartered in Bloomington, Indiana, defines educational technology as “”the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources.”
When we talk about educational technology it does not just mean the use of machines to promote education; in addition to tangible hardware, educational theoretic and methodology are also an integral part of educational technology.
Some of the tangible or physical technologies in education are computer based teaching or training, M-learning or Mobile Learning which involves the use of personal electronic devices, especially in distance learning.
M-learning devices include handheld computers, e-Notebooks, MP3 players, smartphones, tablets and maybe other supportive gadgets. The basic purpose of M-learning is to provide mobility to learners with the help of portable devices.
What is noteworthy about M-learning is that it is not just restricted to educational institutes for students. It plays as significant a role in M-learning for work, M-learning at and through work as well as Cross-contextual M-learning.
Another advantage of M-learning, worthy of mention, is Mobile-Assisted-Language-Learning (MALL) which involves the use of handheld computers, smartphones, and podcasting.
Learning Management System (LMS) also known as e-learning is another technology that demands a mention when talking about educational technologies. It is a software-based learning method or rather a software application, for the “administration, documentation, tracking, reporting and delivery of electronic educational technology.”
Space Technology – Man’s fascination with space and the universe has been around for centuries which led to the development of many technologies in man’s quest to conquer the unknown and endless expanse of our universe.
It was this fascination with stars, planets, galaxies and the universe as whole that has brought space technology from the invention of the telescope to where it stands today and the quest continues.
Space scientists and the aerospace industry, over the years, has brought this technology to a stage where entrepreneurs with the help of aerospace scientists have made heavy investments in space exploration to the extent that space colonization, commercial space travel and other space ventures, which were science fiction of the past, have almost become a reality.
NASA’s role in space technology needs a special mention with regards to pioneering and partnering many space exploration expeditions, its role and involvement in International space stations, its contribution to the aerospace industry including spacecraft, spaceflights, satellites, space stations, support infrastructure, equipment and procedures, its collaboration and expertise made available to entrepreneurs in their space ventures and its ongoing programs and future missions.
Assistive Technology (AT) – In short Assistive Technology is based on the concept of employing technology for the purpose of helping people with disabilities. With this technology people with different kinds of disabilities are able to perform certain tasks independently which was previously unheard of.
Assistive technology is basically a combination of other technologies like mechanical, electronics, and microprocessor technologies thereby enabling the disabled to be more self-reliant and improve the quality of their lives.
One can go on and on about technology and its numerous variations; however, the truth is that it’s an ongoing process and will continue to be that way for generations to come.
Science fiction of yesterday is the reality of today and what we consider Sci-Fi today may an indispensable technology of tomorrow.
We salute all those who have contributed to science and technology in the past and those who are continuing the legacy moving ahead, providing us with exciting new developments and a future to look forward to.