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Problems solving

Why do we study technology?

Maybe, at some point, you’ve asked yourself questions like: Why do we study technology? What do all the topics seen in this subject have in common? What’s the difference between technology and other subjects such as physics and chemistry, for example?

Technology is the set of knowledge that humans have been learning and developing for thousands, and even millions of years, as they solved the difficulties that arose at every time in history. The technological knowledge of the first humans only allowed them to manufacture tools, weapons, clothes… But, little by little, as society moved forward, the needs of people increased and new inventions emerged to improve their living conditions. If you want to remind, how technology has evolved during history you can have a look at the page What is technology?.

Therefore, to answer the first question, we study technology for two reasons:

  • First, to learn the technical knowledge of people who have lived before us. That is, to learn how to solve problems that others, before us, have already overcome.
  • Secondly, to be able to face the new challenges that arise in the future, for which solutions have not yet been found.

Answering the second question, all the contents that are studied in technology have in one way or another relationship with the resolution of people’s problems. For example, people need buildings to protect themselves from the cold, that’s why in one of the units of this course we study the different types of structures; people also need electronic devices to communicate, therefore another of the units is about electrical circuits; and so on.

Finally, why is technology different from the rest of science subjects, such as physics and chemistry, biology or maths?

Because all these subjects, and in general what we call science, aim to better understand the world that surrounds us (each in a certain area) not paying special attention to solving specific problems. On the contrary, although it always relies on scientific knowledge, technology always has a practical reason. Still, science and technology are closely related and very often one depends on the other, for example:

  • Sometimes, to achieve a technological advance, engineers (who are the people who study technology) look at the knowledge acquired by scientists (who are the people who study science). A good example is the satellites of the GPS system, which orbit at enormous speeds around the Earth and therefore must take into account Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, which only intended to give a better understanding of the universe.

  • And sometimes the opposite happens, science resorts to technology. For example, it was not until the telescope was invented that studying stars and other celestial bodies became possible.

In other words, sometimes a scientific discovery allows technology to develop and in other cases it is a technological invention that allows science to advance.

What kind of problems does technology solve?

Next, we are going to see some of the areas in which engineers from all over the world have worked or are still working in order to provide effective solutions to the challenges that arise every day.

Cleaner energies.

In a world in which the population is constantly increasing and therefore more and more goods are produced everyday, power generation is a challenge. The construction of power plants that pollute as little as possible but at the same time generate enough energy and in a more or less constant way is a fundamental field of research.

Better means of transport.

The development of safer, less polluting and more comfortable means of transport has been one of the most studied fields of research. A leading company in this area of technology is Tesla, which, among many other products, manufactures fully electric cars and investigates the possibilities offered by autonomous driving.

New materials.

Although sometimes they go unnoticed, materials play a fundamental role in the development of technology, since they often represent a limitation when it comes to moving forward. A good example is the use made of fiber optics in the field of telecommunications.

Already in the 1980s, the transmission of information through electrical copper wires was difficult when signals had to travel long distances, for example if they had to cross the Atlantic Ocean from Europe to the United States. In this case, the discovery that allowed progress towards faster communications was the use of very thin glass cables to transmit information with pulses of light. By using light and not electric currents, interferences and information losses due to distance were greatly reduced.

Nowadays, a great number of fiber optic cables, placed directly on the seabed, connect the different countries of the world through a complex network that guarantees the speed and reliability of the communications.

More efficient buildings.

Another area of technological research is the construction of more efficient buildings. The development of buildings that do not require excessive energy consumption and that use less polluting materials can help to take care of our planet. For this, it is necessary to develop materials that better insulate buildings, study the best orientations, use more resistant materials that allow to reduce the amount of raw materials…

An example of this type of construction is the Viettel Offsite studio, an office building built in Vietnam. It is designed in such a way that the concrete walls reduce the impact of sunlight but allow air circulation thanks to the small holes made in them. For more information about the project you can visit this web.

More precise machines.

Lastly, many of the latest advances in technology have occurred in medicine. A lot of technological devices allow less invasive surgeries or more precise disease diagnoses. A good example of the application of technology to improve health is the Da Vinci robot, which is a robot that allows the surgeon to work with a higher degree of precision and with more safety.