Technology is a broad term that refers both to artifacts created by humans, such as machines, and the methods used to create those artifacts. More broadly, the word can be used to refer to a way of doing something or a means of organization: for instance, democracy might be considered a social technology. The term comes from the Greek technologia, which is a combination of “techne,” meaning “craft,” and logos, meaning “saying.” As a result, technology might be considered the articulation of a craft. The word is also used to describe the extent to which a society can manipulate its environment.
When the word is used today, it is most often used to refer to high technology — computers, cell phones, rockets — rather than things created by humans in general. When anthropologists use the term, however, they go all the way back to the controlled use of fire (from about 500,000 – 1 million years ago), the invention of the wheel (c. 4000 BCE), and beyond. The first technological tools were simple hand-axes made by our hominid ancestors millions of years ago.
The earliest technological divisions are from mankind’s early history, divided into the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age, depending on the primary tool and weapon-making material at the time. Each building material is superior to the one before it, but more difficult to develop requisite metallurgical techniques. The Iron Age began in about 1400 BCE.
Since the formulation of the scientific method in the 15th century, technological progress has apparently been accelerating. Just a few of the technologies developed since then are the telescope, the microscope, the clock, the engine, the electric generator and electric motor, radio, nuclear power and weapons, television, computer, and many others. Technological development continues strongly today, fueled by the multibillion-dollar economies of the world’s most prosperous nations. The hottest developments are happening in computers, nanotechnology, materials science, renewable energy, entertainment, space travel, and medicine.
Philosophers as well as laypeople often debate whether or not technological progress is, on the whole, a good thing for humanity. On the pro side of the spectrum are techno-progressivists such as transhumanists, while on the anti side are anarcho-primitivists, and Neo-Luddites.