Technology is a major force in human life. It can be used to improve our daily lives and create new products and services. However, it can also cause harm. Therefore, technology is a complex issue. There are many different types of technology and its meaning is determined by the individual’s perspective.
The term technology is often associated with science. Although the two fields are closely related, there are important differences between them. For example, there are hard and soft technologies. Hard technologies are related to chemistry and physics, while soft technologies are more related to economy and management.
Philosophers studying technology focus on issues involving the impact of technology on society. This includes the philosophical implications of the technological development of our culture and the meaning of technology to society as a whole.
The study of technology has grown during the last two centuries as a discipline. During the first half of the industrial revolution, a positive attitude towards technology persisted. Nevertheless, a critical attitude was evident during the later nineteenth century. During that period, philosophers were largely schooled in the humanities and social sciences. They were therefore unable to make firsthand observations of the practices of engineers.
One key challenge to the philosophy of technology is disentangling the descriptive from the prescriptive aspects of technology. Disentangling the two involves a comprehensive view of the scope of technology. A clear understanding of the nature of the technologies involved and their applications in the natural world are essential.
As a consequence, some philosophers have been tempted to consider technology as merely an applied science. These arguments are known as normative arguments.
Another powerful motivator is the prospect of great profits. Often, the greatest motivation to develop a technology is the prospect of creating a product that will sell well and earn money. Despite this, however, a lot of philosophical work has yet to be done on the best technology discovery process.
An early theme in the philosophy of technology is that technology is a form of learning from nature. In ancient Greece, the philosopher Heraclitus is one of the most prominent sources for this exemplary role of nature. Other philosophers may have held a similar view. But these early philosophers were likely blind to the difference in orientation.
Many analytic philosophers of technology are concerned with the questions that arise when technology is discussed in relation to society. Some of these issues include the role of technology in the production of new products, the effect of technology on our relationships with other people and the consequences of technology for future generations.
In the twentieth century, a second generation of humanities philosophers of technology has taken the work of the founding figures of this field to a higher level. While they continue to take inspiration from the work of the founders, they have begun to develop a more neutral view of technology.
Technology and its discoveries are subject to many constraints. Aside from money, time is a major constraint. Therefore, the technology discovery process is governed by the severity of these constraints.