Technology is the application of knowledge to practical aims, especially to change and manipulate the environment. This can include anything from utensils and machines to information and communication systems. It is often used to promote human welfare, but it can also be abused. Examples of this are the many problems people have with addiction to new technologies, as well as their misuse and overuse by corporations for profit.
Technological innovation is driven largely by individual inventiveness, but social and economic forces strongly influence what technologies will be undertaken, paid attention to, invested in, and utilized. Such decisions occur both directly as a result of government policy and indirectly as the consequence of a society’s circumstances and values at any given time. These factors can include public acceptance, patent laws, the availability of risk capital, economic competition, media attention, government regulation, and a range of other considerations.
Many different technologies clamor for people’s finite attention and energy, and their adoption necessarily prioritizes some routes and ends over others. For example, digital cameras made analogue photography obsolete, deprioritizing that pathway’s inefficient but gratifying workflows and its painstaking culture of physically retouching images in darkrooms.
Increasingly, machines are being “smart,” meaning that they can be programmed to perform tasks more quickly and with more precision than humans could. The result is efficiency, quickness, and comfort for consumers, and profits for businesses that make the investments. It is a cycle that continues to accelerate as new combinations of existing technologies lead to further improvements, which then lead to even greater demand.