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Technology and Science

As long as there have been people, there has been technology. On the whole, technology has been a powerful force in the development of civilization. In today's world, 4,5technology is a complex social enterprise that includes not only research, design, and crafts but also finance, manufacturing, management, labor, marketing, and maintenance.

In the broadest sense, 2technology extends our abilities to change the world: to cut, shape, or put together materials; to move things from one place to another; to reach farther with our hands, voices, and senses. 7We use technology to try to change the world to suit us better. 6The changes may relate to survival needs such as food, shelter, or defense, or they may relate to human aspirations such as knowledge, art, or control. 3But the results of changing the world are often complicated and unpredictable. They can include unexpected benefits, unexpected costs, and unexpected risks any of which may fall on different social groups at different times.

In earlier times, technology grew out of personal experience with the properties of things and with the techniques for manipulating them, out of know-how handed down from experts to apprentices over many generations. 4But just as important as accumulated practical knowledge is the contribution to technology that comes from understanding the principles that underlie how things behave that is, from scientific understanding.

3As technologies become more sophisticated, their links to science become stronger. In some fields, such as solid-state physics (which involves transistors and superconductors), the ability to make something and the ability to study it are so interdependent that science and engineering can scarcely be separated. New technology often requires new understanding; new investigations often require new technology.

7The component of technology most closely allied to scientific inquiry and to mathematical modeling is engineering. In its broadest sense, engineering consists of construing a problem and designing a solution for it. The basic method is to first devise a general approach and 1then work out the technical details of the construction of requisite objects (such as an automobile engine, a computer chip, or ar mechanical toy) or processes (such as irrigation, opinion polling, or product testing).

6(2Scientists see patterns in phenomena as making the world understandable; engineers also see them as making the world manipulable. Scientists seek to show that theories fit the data; 2mathematicians seek to show logical proof of abstract connections; engineers seek to demonstrate that designs work. Scientists cannot provide answers to all questions; 2mathematicians cannot prove all possible connections; engineers cannot design solutions for all problems.)

But 1engineering affects the social system and culture more directly than scientific research, with immediate implications for the success or failure of human enterprises and for personal benefit and harm. Engineering decisions, whether in designing an airplane bolt or an irrigation system, inevitably involve social and personal values as well as scientific judgments.

Date: 2016-03-03; view: 634

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