TECHNOLOGY: the rendering obsolete of comfortably familiar artifacts

One grows up and becomes comfortable with those artifacts that are available to us and which prove useful. When a new technological artifact is developed and introduced however, there will inevitably be feelings of regret and nostalgia about the redundancy of the old ways, because the old skills and familiarity will probably not be at all appropriate for the new. The skills acquired in using a steel axe to cut down trees are only vaguely relevant when confronted by the necessity to learn how to operate a chain saw. The expert swordsman, confident and assured in possession of a skill developed over hundreds of hours of practice is rendered almost ineffective in the face of a firearm. There will always be the reality that if a new technology is to prove useful, it will find its main acceptance amongst the new generations.

Technology is the control of materials, tools, and energy, in applying an area of knowledge to the creation of an artifact. The range and complexity of such behaviour is considerable. At one end of the scale, the manipulation of materials alone by various individual animals merits recognition as a technology... it seems mean-spirited to deny that bird-nests, spider-webs and beaver dams are not examples of technology. For humans, the use of fire, stone and metal tools, boats, sails and steam engines, are all typical technologies that progressively augmented their environment and capabilities. The cultural activities of painting, sculpture and music, are also as much the product of technologies as are pharmaceuticals, armaments, and atomic power. In fact of course, artistic creativity has always depended upon technology... there were no cave paintings until the technologies of light sources and pigments were developed, and there were no piano concertos until the problems of constructing a piano had been overcome. At the other end of the scale, there are those complex objects like jet aircraft, mobile phones and computers which involve technologies and elaborate social contributions beyond the comprehension of most solitary individuals. In very many cases, the introduction of the technology was so effective that it marked the beginning of a revolution.

A little wry hair-splitting is not entirely without justification. Technology resides in the skill involved in producing an artifact, not in the artifact itself. It is a profound delusion to casually assume that one is using the technology when using a device like a motor-car, laptop or digital camera. It is the product of a technology that is being used, not the technology. The technology is used to produce the artifact. Using the artifact is not using the technology. Most individuals do not have the remotest idea as to what technological knowledge would be used when producing a modern complex digital device. The reality is that most citizens are becoming technological imbeciles.

Technology is by no means a universal benefit. Although a technology is usually portrayed as somehow benefiting progress... whatever that may mean... it is never-the-less ironic that, as often as not, it is a significant threat. Much technology results in many individuals becoming vulnerable to previously absent hazards. The development of micro-electronics resulted in an exponential explosion of derivative devices, but the technological benefit to a family watching the latest video presentation, comes to a very sudden end when their home is hit by a guided missile. Many chemical products have quite astounding properties when used in one context, but turn out to be disastrous pollutants when they uncontrolledly get into sensitive environmental situations.

New technologies can contribute significantly to an increased understanding of the nature of the physical world. X-rays, magnetic-resonance-imagining and infra-red telescopes have revolutionised the human perspective. Aeronautical design engineers have normally modelled the wing lift of aircraft by considering the differential pressures caused by airflow over wingfoil sections, but transport operators... using numerical financial models... have been able to demonstrate quite conclusively, that aircraft are in fact supported entirely by an adequate flow of money .