Technology is the human application of conceptual knowledge for achieving practical goals. It includes both tangible tools (like a piano or drain) and intangible ones such as software. It also refers to the process of using these tools, a concept known as technique. It is crucial to distinguish between these different meanings, because it helps avoid misunderstandings about what technology is and how it works.
A crucial point about technology is that it is intrinsic to a cultural system, and it reflects and shapes the values of a culture. This is why it is important to study the history of technology, as it demonstrates the development of civilizations, the way they use and create tools, and their social significance.
Although many technologies spread and disappear on the basis of free market forces, some technology innovations generate a lot of controversy, requiring public debates and even formal regulations. These are usually based on a number of concerns that range from the ecological to the ethical. Some technological designs may be able to accommodate some or all of these constraints, but identifying and balancing them requires considerable effort.
A common critique of technology is that it has become divorced from culture. This view, which is often expressed by pessimists, is tightly linked to an instrumental conception of technology that focuses on means rather than ends. Those who wish to rescue technology from its predicament must liberate it from this view of itself and also cultivate and popularize a cultural view of it.