In his essay, “The Question Concerning Technology,” Martin Heidegger says that the primary question concerning technology is the question of “what it is.” Many answers have been given to this question and there is not a definitive answer to the question. There is, however, agreement about many aspects of what technology is. The rest of this essay is going to explore various answers to the question.
A Definition (or Two) of Technology
One definition of modern technology given by the authors of Responsible Technology is
“a distinct human cultural activity in which human beings exercise freedom and responsibility in response to God by forming and transforming the natural creation, with the aid of tools and procedures, for practical ends and purposes.”
Carl Mitcham’s theory of technology includes four parts or, rather, four ways to view technology.
- Technological objects (e.g., automobiles, hammers, computers, pencils, plastic bags, medication, chain saws, etc.)
- Technological activities that produce these objects (e.g., designing, inventing, manufacturing, etc.)
- Technological knowledge required to perform these activities (e.g., techniques, theories, rules of thumb, etc.)
- Technological volition (the human desire to create these objects)
Under his view, a human with both the requisite technological knowledge and the will or desire can perform the technological activities required to produce technological artifacts.
While there may not be a clear distinction between technology and non-technology, the first definition is useful for giving us guidelines to help identify what technology is. The second definition is useful for helping us think about technology in different ways. Both definitions shows technology to be multifaceted. The first definition sees technology primarily as an activity (Mitcham ‘