January 7, 2024

Technology, Earth, and Society

The term technology, a combination of the Greek technē, “art, craft,” with logos, “word, speech,” combined it means “Science of Craft”. It is a term that means techniques, methods and processes to produce goods or services or to fulfill theoretical objectives such as scientific investigation. So, How did we come to associate the term technology with complex systems and processes that can only be understood by specific groups?

Technology can be correctly used to refer to methods ranging from complex biochemical engineering and information technology that has emerged since the 1980s to as simple as using stone tools to start and sustain a fire. Essentially, finding techniques and methods to reach a desired outcome is a characteristic learned by man to -physically and metaphorically- push the wheel, and life, forward. During the bulk of the Stone Age, man has developed a system to create tools for survival, food preparation, clothing, and hunting. So by virtue of our innate nature as toolmakers, man is a technologist from the beginning. Even though in modern times, technology has turned into a sort of measure and force for economic growth and means to drive political power and wealth, the history of technology always and will always encompass the entire evolution of mankind.

On a grander scale, man is not the only technologist or system engineer on planet Earth. Other species build artifacts, have systems to create elaborate shelters and know how to benefit from resources to achieve a desired outcome. Bees, for example, use a system to construct their honeycomb. They use their glands to convert sugar into wax that is produced through minuscule pores on their abdomens. These flakes of wax are then chewed until they become moldable. The largest honeycomb in the world weighed 10.4 kg. Mapped into man world, this is similar to making cement for construction. Beavers, on the other hand, excel in making dams, they first start by diverting the stream to lessen the water’s flow pressure. Branches and logs are then driven into the mud of the stream bed to form a base. The largest beaver-made dam, found in Alberta, Canada, measures over 500m in length. Some species of birds, on the other hand, not only use their own system to build nests, they have a unique technique to develop their own phonetic language. These are all remarkable instinctive reactions put into different species and will always be present in them. Man, in contrast with other species, does not possess highly developed instinctive reactions but does have the capacity to think more systematically and creatively about techniques.

In taping resource potential to devise techniques and modify the environment, man has tackled problems other than those of survival; and has learned to utilize it to generate wealth, sustainability, and power. Where did man excel in deploying technology and creating systems? Man has learned how to utilize technology to advance and move forward, and while doing so he learned that in order for a technological innovation, with its different types, to be successful or widely adopted it must integrate social involvement in three points: social needs, social resources, and the norms of social interaction. What are the direct and indirect societal effects that drive technological development? It is believed that the beginning of societal formation prehistorically is what drove the development of technology and the advancement of innovation. When man started to create permanent settlements, all of a sudden he had to figure out a way to make water available, he had to develop a method or a system to farm sufficiently, he had to have the tools to build a robust shelter for his family and so on. Technological changes, therefore, affects and is affected by the society and the people.

Technology therefore is not a set of complex systems. Technology is driven by the purest form of humankind development: using creativity to address social needs with the help of society.

Eng. Zainab Al-Sowaigh CoFounder

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