Christian 'Values'

Previous Chapter: Introduction

Definitions of Technology


The word technology comes from two Greek words, transliterated techne and logos. Techne means art, skill, craft, or the way, manner, or means by which a thing is gained. Logos means word, the utterance by which inward thought is expressed, a saying, or an expression. So, literally, technology means words or discourse about the way things are gained.

Contemporary Usage

Lately, technology has come to mean something different. In one respect, the term has come to mean something narrower -- the above definition would admit art or politics as means of gain, yet though those activities are permeated by technology now, most of us would not consider them to be examples or subsets of technology. In another respect, this definition is too narrow, for when most of us speak of technology today, we mean more than just discourse about means of gain.

Working Definitions

In this essay I will refer to technology in five different senses. Following are some working definitions.
the technological process First, technology is the rational process of creating means to order and transform matter, energy, and information to realize certain valued ends. The significance of this definition will become clearer below.
technological objects Second, technology is the set of means (tools, devices, systems, methods, procedures) created by the technological process. Technological objects range from toothbrushes to transportation systems.
technological knowledge Third, technology is the knowledge that makes the technological process possible. It consists of the facts and procedures necessary to order and manipulate matter, energy, and information, as well as how to discover new means for such transformations.
a technology Fourth, a technology is a subset of related technological objects and knowledge. Computer technology and medical technology are examples of technologies.
the technological system Finally, technology is the system consisting of the technological process, technological objects, technological knowledge, developers of technological objects, users of technological objects, and the worldview (i.e., the beliefs about things and the value of things that shape how one views the world) that has emerged from and drives the technological process. This is what Ellul referred to as the technological system. In the remainder of this article, I will use all five senses, but when I use the term technology by itself, I mean the fifth and most comprehensive sense.

Next Chapter: Critiques of Technology

Return to Technology and Christian 'Values'