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What is technology?

What is technology?

To take control over technology means first to understand it. Clear language is key. Yet, in English, the word ‘technology’ is clumsily defined. Our current definition does not recognize the key defining properties of the thing we are trying to define.

“The first step in solving a problem is to recognize that it does exist.” – Zig Ziglar

Which brings me to the word ‘technology’.  What is technology?

WATCH: #AGContextTV Episode 4 – What is Technology?

Have you looked up the word technology in the dictionary.

Oxford Dictionaries says: “The application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry;” and “advances in computer technology.”

Merriam-Webster says “the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area : engineering“, and “a capability given by the practical application of knowledge.”

Dictionary.com states the word technology means, “the branch of knowledge that deals with the creation and use of technical means and their interrelation with life, society, and the environment, drawing upon such subjects as industrial arts, engineering, applied science, and pure science.”

I say, “meh”. All of these definitions miss the true and important definition of the word technology.

I feel that these definitions, miss the key point about technology being something external to the human mind.  That technology is something that we create using our knowledge and resources to solve some practical problem.  Once a technology exists it exists independent of the knowledge of the person who created it.

The keyboard upon which I type and the computer screen on which I am writing and you are reading these words exists without either of us having any idea about how they were created.  Could I create a keyboard or computer screen?  No way. Does that matter, no sir.

Technology, once created, can exist without the knowledge that created it.  There is a big difference between technology and knowledge.  Knowledge implies intelligences, technology does not.  Someone can have access to the most advanced technology in the world and still be … well … not very clever (many examples in politics come to my mind). The precursor to being able to control technology is to have knowledge about what it is.

These current English definitions of ‘technology’, do not nail the fact that technology and knowledge are very different things.  They are clumsy.

A better definition of the word is this:

Technology (noun): “any physical object created by the application of knowledge.”

Carl Sudholz is the founder at AGContext and specialist in the integration of information technology within organisations. He holds two degrees, is a certified Business Analyst and a Director of the Australia Chapter of the International Institute of Business Analysis. Carl’s expertise and experience spans 15 years serving public, private and non-for-profit organisations to take control over technology.