When delving into the very broad topics of science and technology, one would believe that researching a word’s etymology would shine some light onto the definition of such words. 

However, technology or the idea of technological advancements has been around for a long time, as tekhnologia or *teks-na- (Online Etymology Dictionary). As the term “name” has involved so has the meaning of the word, and its application within society.  The generality of such terms provides a problem that can only be solved by investigating the current use of the term and applying it to the past to expand and revise its meaning

History plays a large role onto what we can define as technology, not only when thinking about the word’s origin but what constitutes something as technology.  For example, as David E. Nye discusses in “Can We Define Technology”, primitive tools used by Homo erectus seem to be the birthplace of technology as we deviated from working to obtain necessary provisions to evolve socially (Technology Matters: Questions to Live With).   By delving into the past and applying society’s current use of the term technology, Nye was able to not only expand the description of technology but also place its origins within our society.  If technology can be seen as any tool that can be used to facilitate an activity, then the term’s umbrella gets broader, while still allowing us a definition that makes sense.

When trying to understand technology’s broad definition we can look at how philosophers of science have tried to define the similarly broad field of science over time.  Karl Popper plays a huge role in the defining of science as his ‘problem of demarcation’ provides the philosophical means for distinguishing science from other subject matters ( Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge).   However many other philosophers of science, such as Thomas Kuhn, believe that Popper’s demarcation theory focuses too much on falsifying a theory rather than advancing a scientific discovery (Professor Lijing Jiang).   This discourse between leaders of philosophy mark a startling revelation as to whether science can be a defined subject or if there are some topics that fall between two subject matters.

If the discourse between philosophers of science has been so endless then how do we begin to define technology, a means for scientific advancement.  As an ever-growing field one can imagine that the term’s definition will continue to be shaped and changed over time to accommodate society’s needs.  Just as technology was invented under the guise of necessity, it will keep involving, along with its meaning, to meet future needs.


David Nye, “Can We Define Technology?” Technology Matters: Questions to Live With(The MIT Press, 2007), 1–16.

Karl Popper, selections from “Science: Conjectures and Refutations,” in Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge(London: Routledge 1963), pp. 33-39.

Professor Lijing Jiang, “Understanding S, T, and S” (lecture), Colby College, Waterville, Maine, September 10, 2018.