Technology is the application of knowledge to reach practical goals. The word technology may also mean the product of such an endeavor.: 117 The use of technology is widely prevalent in medicine, science, industry, communication, transportation, and daily life. Technologies include physical objects like utensils or machines and intangible tools such as software.
Many technological advancements have led to societal changes. The earliest known technology is the stone tool, used in the prehistoric era, followed by fire use, which contributed to the growth of the human brain and the development of language in the Ice Age. The invention of the wheel in the Bronze Age enabled wider travel and the creation of more complex machines. Recent technological developments, including the printing press, the telephone, and the Internet have lowered communication barriers and ushered in the knowledge economy.
While technology contributes to economic development and human prosperity, it can also have negative impacts like pollution or resource depletion, or cause social harms like technological unemployment caused by automation. As a result, philosophical and political debates have arisen over the role and use of technology, the ethics of technology, and the mitigation of technology's potential downsides. Historical and contemporary movements like neo-Luddism and anarcho-primitivism criticize technology's pervasiveness, while adherents to transhumanism and techno-progressivism actively support technological change, viewing it as emancipatory. Many negative impacts of technology can be mitigated through technological innovations like renewable energy in transportation and industry, genetically modified crops to address soil depletion, and space exploration to mitigate global catastrophic risks.
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