Technology is the human race’s ability to convert natural resources into tools and machines that solve real-world problems. It can be as simple as stone tools and as complex as a space station or particle accelerator. Technology also encompasses virtual tools and processes that don’t exist in physical form but still add value to society.
Technology has helped humans in numerous ways throughout history, including by providing them with better weapons to protect themselves and conquer new territories. It also allows people to communicate with others across the globe and has made it possible for businesses to operate on a large scale. However, not all technological advances have been for the good of the world, such as the development of ever-increasingly powerful weapons that can destroy entire cities or even the planet itself.
While individual inventiveness is essential to technological development, social and economic forces strongly influence which technologies are undertaken, paid attention to, invested in, and used. These decisions occur directly as a matter of government policy and indirectly as a consequence of the circumstances and values of a society at a given time. The availability of capital, patent laws, media attention, government budgets, and other factors can affect which technological options are pursued, which will succeed, and which will fail.
Technological developments are driven by the desire to solve real-world problems. For example, prehistoric human inventions such as the discovery of fire increased available sources of food and the wheel allowed humans to travel in and control their environment. Later innovations like the printing press, the Internet, and television reduced the cost of information and allowed individuals to interact on a global scale. Technology has also contributed to advances in science, from the invention of tools for collecting and recording data to the mapping of the locations of genes.
Some of the most common forms of technology are the electronic devices that we use daily, such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones. This type of technology is based on the principle of using electricity to process and transmit information, and it includes both the hardware (electronics) and the software that runs these devices.
Other types of technology include mechanical, such as gears and cogwheels that move machinery and the engines that power them. Communication technology uses tools and systems to send messages to other people, and it was first used about 30,000 years ago. Its modern-day counterpart is the Internet, which transmits text, audio, video, and other information at lightning speeds.
One of the most interesting aspects of technology is its evolution. It starts as an idea or invention and gradually improves through the efforts of many individuals and groups. Once an innovation has been improved enough, it becomes a part of the broader technology ecosystem and begins to influence other inventions in a feedback loop. This is known as the “technological spiral” and it is how our society continues to advance. This process can be accelerated by the actions of individual innovators, companies, and governments.