Technology is the application of science to the world of the practical via engineering. In modern society there has been a continual drive to advance technology in an effort to improve people's lives. Some would argue that this has been largely due to the drive to make money, but in the end, via the market mechanism, the effect has been beneficial. Technology has allowed for the manufacture of more goods and services at a lower cost in human labor as well as to the environment. Applied technologies and a market system have reduced wastes entering the air and water and at the same time made available a comfortable lifestyle to a growing segment of the world's population.
Modern (and not so Modern) Gadgets
Modern gadgets and the study of how they work has inspired inventors to continue the push into modernity. Young people today are amazed to learn that their great-grandparents lived in a time before the advent of flight, and their parents saw the general dissemination of the personal computer. It is hard to comprehend that before the 1940s even in the United States, running water was considered a luxury. Even the incandescent bulb has only been around for a few years over a century.
Yet we should remember that technology is not a recent development. Very important aspects of our culture have long been regulated by time and its measurement via clocks. The wheel has been around since ancient times. The control of fire was a technological advance of the highest moment. At the time, it allowed humans to cook food, keep warm, and ultimately to shape metals, and so on.
Although technology has made great leaps in industry, we tend to be more aware of it in the splashy area of entertainment. With televisions, satellite radio, and more. But even here, it is in the background that advances have improved quality. For example, equalizers smooth out sound systems, reducing and eliminating feed-back, making the listening experience all that much more enjoyable. At one time these were only used at public facilities, but equalizers have found their way into even small an inexpensive sound devices. Projectors are another device commonly used in public facilities that is finding its way into homes.
Use of Global Positioning Satellite technology not that long ago took the place of celestial navigation on ships and aircraft. Now GPS devices are an everyday part of modern life. They can be found in cell phones and on the dash of a large proportion of the nation's vehicles.
Yet there are two devices that have catalyzed the advance of science and technology. Telescopes are one of the ways we see the rest of the universe. They have allowed us to expand our horizons outward, from the place we are standing, to down the hill, to the moon, to Mercury and the Sun, out to Jupiter and Neptune, and ultimately to other galaxies, where the resources are, for all practical purposes, infinite. The microscope has, if anything, been more important to mankind, allowing humans to view the very small, advancing such fields as Biology and Medicine - extending human life.
Technology in war, from the first use of a spear or club up to the development of modern aircraft such as the F-15 has changed the way war is fought. Destruction can occur on a vast scale, yet pin-point weapons guided by GPS systems has minimized "collateral" damage of people and buildings in war zones.
In the end, it is good to remember that technology is merely a tool. It can be used for good or evil. Yet in a free and open society, it tends to be used for the betterment of mankind.