Technology is the application of scientific knowledge for practical aims. It can also be used to describe the process by which something is made or altered.
The earliest technological inventions, such as the stone tool and fire, helped human societies survive and grow. More recent inventions, such as the wheel, printing press, telephone, and Internet, have lessened the physical barriers of communication and brought us closer together. But not all of technology’s effects have been beneficial. For example, gunpowder and nuclear weapons have increased the power of humans to destroy each other.
Technological innovation is a dynamic and unpredictable phenomenon. As new technology options emerge, they compete with each other for resources and attention: some succeed, others fail. The choice of which technology to pursue and prioritize depends on the circumstances and values of a society at any given time, influenced by everything from patent law and the availability of risk capital to local government regulations, media attention, economic competition, social disapproval, and environmental concerns.
A technology’s design must take into account its constraints, including efficiency (only so much energy and attention are available), economic (the cost of development and maintenance), ecological (likelihood of disruption to natural environments), and social (disadvantages for some people). These constraints must be weighed against each other to strike a reasonable compromise between competing goals. Modern technologies are often complex enough that entire industries have developed to design, build, and maintain them. Their use requires sophisticated and extensive training.