What is technology and what does it actually do? That’s the question I started with as I penned down this article. Technology, as a dictionary definition, is the creation of artefacts made through a systematic application of knowledge and used to reach practical goals.
As a concept, technology is nothing new. A simple boat was once considered revolutionary. Today, we can find artefacts of these ancient technologies housed in many museums under the umbrella of ‘heritage’. When it comes to the tech industry, revolutionary breakthroughs become history very quickly.
Technologies have always widely used in a variety of different industries: from science to communication to transportation. The term technology itself is used to describe tangible objects such as computers as well as intangible tools like software.
Throughout the course of history, technological advancements have led to sweeping societal changes. It is what reassembled and rearranged our societies. It is what created new jobs and destroyed old ones. This led to many stories, especially in the genre of science fiction, that discussed and forecasted technological utopianism as well as dystopianism.
Technological utopianism, in particular, refers to the belief that technological development is a moral good which can and should bring about a utopia. The goal: a society in which laws, governments and social conditions serve the needs of all its citizens as opposed to only those in power.
Practical applications of this belief include: post-scarcity centred economic theories, life extension, mind uploading, cryonics and the creation of artificial superintelligence.
Light and sound
After a recession at the end of the 1830s–which led to a slowdown in major inventions–the Second Industrial Revolution would herald an age of rapid innovation and industrialisation. It started in the 1860s and lasted up until World War I.
The 19th century bore witness to astonishing developments in transportation, construction, manufacturing and communication technologies. It was this era that catapulted forward the rapid development of chemical, electrical, petroleum and steel technologies that were backed by strong and highly structured research in technology.
Telegraphy–the science and practice of using and constructing communication systems for the transmission or reproduction of information–was developed into a practical technology in the 19th century to help run the railways safely. After telegraphy came the telephone, which enabled us to speak to people who were miles and even continents away.
In the 1870s, incandescent light bulbs became practical for general use. A company founded by Thomas Edison–with financial backing from Spencer Trask–built and managed the very first electricity network.
Electrification was rated the most important technical development of the 20th century as it laid down the foundational infrastructure for our modern civilisation. This invention had a profound effect on the workplace because factories could now have second and third shift workers.
And the world has never been the same since… Especially for night owls such as me.