Technology is a system for the use and control of materials, energy, information and communications. It is a broad category that combines the elements of a science of nature with an engineering approach to its application to human activities and needs. It includes the conversion of natural resources into tools and machines; modification of the environment for human use; and the use of computers for advanced research in fields such as weather systems, genetic patterns, demographics, and more.
Unlike the science of nature, which focuses on generalities and universals, technology is concerned with contingencies and specifics. The development of any piece of technology is typically a step-by-step process, with each new phase validating the underlying ideas and providing more knowledge about the behavior of the product in its real-world context. The engineer also has to deal with a number of constraints: economic, political, social, ecological, and more. A good design identifies all of these constraints and strikes a reasonable balance among them.
Another drawback of technology is the potential for side effects, both positive and negative. This is true not only for large technologies such as nuclear reactors and agriculture, but also for ordinary, everyday technology, such as refrigerators that cause the leakage of a small amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
As we develop and apply technological solutions, the ways that we speak about them often evolve. There are two sharply diverging traditions in talking about technology: one, which is closer to an interpretive sociology of technology and a restart for the philosophy of technology, tends to focus on how people gain new capabilities and what they need from those capabilities; the other, which emphasizes the way that a technology prioritizes a particular route or end over others.