Friday, April 25, 2008

Technology and Science

Technology is a major cultural determinant, no less important in shaping human lives than philosophy, religion, social organization, or political systems. In the broadcast sense, these forces are also aspects of technology. The French sociologist Jacques Ellul has defined La technique as the totally of all rational methods in every field of human activity, so that, for example, education, law, sports, propaganda, and the social sciences are scale, common parlance limits the term’s meaning to specific industrial arts.

The terms science and technology are often confounded. The confusion arises because so much of contemporary technology is based on the natural sciences, such disciplines an physics, chemistry, biology and other branches of knowledge that deal with the study, measurement, and understanding of natural phenomena. The achievements of the electronics, pharmaceutical, and plastics industries are based on a huge body of scientific investigation.

In simple terms, the concern of science is “why,” and of technology, “how.” The relationship between the two is actually much more complex, however, and it varies from industry to industry; some technologies are science intensive, whereas the manufacture of such items as cigarettes of furniture depends much less on science. In fact, much of modern technology developed without any scientific input whatever, and there are many examples of entire sciences arising from earlier technologies or developing in an effort to explain findings made by scientifically naive artisans. For instance, gunnery led to ballistics; the steam engine, to thermodynamics; powered flight, to aerodynamics; primitive metalworking, to metallurgy; and communications, to radio astronomy.

No comments: