What does the word ‘technology’ mean to you?

1 min read

I’ve been moaning for years to anyone who might listen about what I believe to be the growing misuse of the word ‘technology’.

In 2013, for example, I noted that a newspaper article implied that payday loan organisation Wonga was a technology company.

It’s a discussion that doesn’t look like it's going away; in fact, I was involved in an email discussion on the topic only yesterday afternoon . I’d been invited to attend a start up event and pointed out that I didn’t consider most of those involved to be ‘technology’ companies.

My correspondent, with his tongue firmly in his cheek, said: “They all have hardware; that’s technology, isn’t it?”

I replied: “There is a debate to be had in which the person in the red corner will contend enthusiastically that applications are, indeed, technology. The person in the blue corner will say ‘bah’, ‘humbug’ and similar.

“The sad fact is that nobody cares any longer about the base technology – it’s a Raspberry Pi, an Arduino or whatever. ‘Technology’ is now understood to be the application. So I would be entirely enthusiastic about such things if I was editing ‘things that run on an iphone.com’ …

“Look at the BBC’s technology pages: A story about EE overcharging its customers isn’t, IMHO, about technology; that’s a business story.

“Unfortunately, ‘technology’ is now equated with ‘Facebook’.”

By coincidence, an industry contact, Helen Duncan, has just posted this comment on Facebook.

“At the risk of ruffling a few feathers, I’d like to ask the question ‘what do we all think the word ‘technology’ means?’.

I’ve always taken it to mean any practical application of scientific principles and, therefore, to include all kinds of engineering, but especially electronics. At this point, obviously, I have to declare a bias as my degree is in Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

Increasingly, though, people are using it to describe only the end products of technology – mobile phones, tablets and so on – and the use of them, including apps, coding and software.

The Oxford English Dictionary definition, below, appears to back up my perception, but am I fighting a losing battle?”

  1. The application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry
  2. Machinery and devices developed from scientific knowledge
  3. The branch of knowledge dealing with engineering or applied sciences

So what do you think? Do you agree the word ‘technology’ has been hijacked? If so, let’s try to reclaim it.

As always, we'd love to hear your views.