Technology is a collection of artifacts – physical objects, tools, or systems – that are used to produce things or provide services. Technological innovation has had a profound impact on our daily lives. From creating medical vaccines to sending astronauts to the moon, technology has altered our world and contributed to human welfare. But how does technology relate to philosophy?
A number of philosophers have argued for the inclusion of ordinary people in the technological design process. However, the history of the philosophy of technology is not as simple as it might seem. Instead, the discipline has emerged over two centuries. While it has been criticized for its environmental impact, new technologies have also made a difference in our lives. For example, GPS, mobile phones, and smartwatches have helped us navigate, communicate, and connect with others from around the globe.
There are two major schools of thought when it comes to the philosophy of technology. The first is a political model. This relates to the role of technologies in determining power relations in society. According to the political model, technologies are inherently normative, in that they embody a specific form of power.
Another school of thought is a cultural model. It is based on the notion that technology is not simply a tool, but is a cultural product. In addition, technology is a phenomenon that can be defined as a result of design and/or the underlying structure.
During the early twentieth century, there were several strands of philosophical thinking on technology. One of the most prominent was the use of a wheel to enable wider travel. Although some historians argue that the wheel is the earliest known technology, a stone tool has been found in prehistoric times.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, the philosophical reflection on technology was dominated by a critical attitude. Although some academics such as Ernst Kapp and Martin Luther had a clear understanding of the engineering practices, most representatives of this mindset had a distinctly humanist or social science background. They had no firsthand knowledge of the actual technologies in use, let alone the theoretical underpinnings of their inventions.
As a result, there is no single origin for the history of the technology, though there is evidence to support its existence at least as far back as ancient Greece. In addition to the wheel, the earliest known examples of the aforementioned technology include fire and language.
It should come as no surprise that a variety of technologies are used to achieve a variety of purposes. Software, for example, aims to make tasks more efficient. Mobile technology, on the other hand, is designed to enable easy communication.
Despite the plethora of ways in which technology has changed our lives, many people still misuse it. Corporations, for instance, tend to exploit this by using it in the wrong way, while naive individuals and stupid politicians squander their efforts with flimsy technological innovations. That said, it is important to understand the role of technology in our society.