What is Technology?Alex Fields
What is technology? The word technology is made up of two root words—techne and logos. Both come from Ancient Greek. The first of these means “art, skill or craft,” while the second means “dialogue, discourse or study.” Techne is particularly concerned with human agency and artisanship–that which is applied to trades or skills which produce something–in other words, it’s about your business.
I propose that technology represents a human ideal—the ideal of ever improving creative agency (techne) through dialogue (logos). Namely, the extension of our individual and collective agency into ever greater and deeper dimensions than was previously dreamed possible. With technology, we work smarter, faster—more complexity made ever simpler—greater efficiency.
It is worth pausing here to let this sink in. Let us remember that the promise of technology is nothing short of enabling us to achieve our wildest dreams—and then some. If you can dream it, you can do it (and it may be easier than you think). A revised definition of technology then might be: the great human dialogue about potential and achievement of that potential.
So let me ask you something: Is your technology (and how you engage with it) shaving hours off of your working day, automating tasks and making your techne (i.e. art, skill, craft or trade) easier and/or better? Is it enabling you to reach your dreams, and then outreach them?
Are we feeling enabled by our various technological widgets and gadgets? Or suffocated by them? If the latter, we certainly need to reevaluate our assumptions about technology, and adjust how we are currently using the tools we call “technological.” In that case it will be up to each of us, individually, to replace those un-technolgoical habits with some alternatives that might better live up to the name. That is the first lesson.
The next lesson is more important than the first: the promise is also the danger. We will continue this discussion another time.
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