The Competitiveness of Nations

in a Global Knowledge-Based Economy

September  2004

AOA Homepage

Carl Mitcham *

Types of Technology

Research in Philosophy & Technology

Vol. 1, 1978, 229-294

* St. Catharine College



Lexicon of Distinctions

1. Technology as Object


A. Tools of doing and making

B. Meaning of ‘machine’

C. The engineering analysis of machines

D. On the phenomenology of tools and machines

E. Two final suggestions

2. Technology as Process

General comments

A. Invention, design, fabricating and using

B. Engineering as a function

Specific comments

A’. Invention and scientific discovery

B’. The ambiguities of “design”

C’. The methodology of design, engineering vs. art

D’. Invention and design

E’. Making and using

F’. Types of use

G’. Management as a technological activity

H’. Social and historical setting

3. Technology as Knowledge

(a) Unconscious sensorimotor awareness

(b) Technical maxims or rules of thumb

(c) Descriptive laws or nomopragmatic statements

(d) Technological theories


A. Technical maxims and technological theories

B. Ancient and modern technology

C. Technology and science

4. Technology as Volition


Footnotes (to follow)

HHC: Indexing added



The word “technology” has, in current discourse, a narrow and a broad meaning - which roughly correspond to the ways it is used by two major professional groups, engineers and social scientists.  It is important to recognize this at the outset, because tension between these two usages, which stretches out a spectrum of conceptual references, easily results in analytic confusion.

The engineering usage is more restricted.  The word ‘engineer” itself, coming from the medieval Latin root ingeniare, meaning “to cleate,” “to implant in,” or “to produce” (our words “engender” and “ingenious” have similar origins), readily connotes making or producing. [1]  Yet the engineer distinguishes between engineering and technology in his strict sense.  For the engineer is not so much one who actually makes or con-


structs an artifact, as one who directs, plans, or designs - as is indicated by such metaphorical usages as, “The general engineered a coup,” meaning he planned or organized it, thought it all out, not that he actually ever picked up a gun.  Of course, “engineer” has its own restricted sense, referring to one who operates engines - as in the expression “railroad engineer.” [2]  But generally, engineering is identified with the systematic knowledge of how to design artifacts - a discipline which (as the standard engineering educational curriculum shows) includes some pure science and mathematics, the so-called “engineering sciences” (e.g., strength of materials, thermodynamics), and is actualized by some social need.  But while engineering involves a relationship to these other elements, still it is design (and the technical ideal of efficiency which distinguishes engineering from, say, artistic design) that constitutes the essence of engineering; because it is design which orders or establishes the unique engineering framework to relate these other elements. [3]  The term ‘techriology’ is reserved by engineers for the process of material construction.

For engineers, “technologist” and “technician” are closely related if not strictly synonymous. [4]  Just as the adjective “technical” connotes a limited or restricted viewpoint, so the engineering technician works from a more limited standpoint than the engineer himself.  The technician or technologist might, for instance, know how to perform a test, operate a machine, construct or mass-produce a device (and even be involved in directing others who have a less comprehensive view of some particular operation or construction project), but not necessarily how to conceive, design, or think out such a test or artifact.  Consider, for example, the terms “lab technician.” “medical technologist,” “drafting technician,” etc. [5]  In each case the person referred to is designated proficient at performing some operation or construction, but not at fully organizing or understanding the activity with which he is involved.  This distinction, it may be noted, is confirmed by the classical name for the engineer - Latin: architectus; Greek: [HHC – Greek not reproduced) (first, master or director) plus [HHC – Greek not reproduced) (carpenter or builder).  That is, the architect or engineer is one with a superior or more inclusive view of a material construction than the carpenter or technical assistant.

For social scientists, however, the term “technology” has a much broader meaning. [6]  To begin with, it includes all of what the engineer calls technology, along with engineering itself.  This use has some basis in engineering parlance, as when an engineering school is named an “institute of technology.”  Yet this continues to limit technology to those making activities and operations which have come under the influence of modern science.  The art of potting, for instance, is not a conspicuous feature of the curriculum at MIT.  Social science usage, stimulated by recognition of the social significance of these modern scientific making


activities (vide the sociocultural reaction to, and now the sociology of, the Industrial Revolution), has desired to extend the term even further to refer to all making of material artifacts, the objects made, their use, together with their intellectual and social contexts.  Even arts such as potting become technologies in this loose sense, (a) because there are certain modern technologies (e.g., industrial ceramics) which grew out of potting, and (b) because the ways potting affected premodern society are presumed to embody principles continuous with those exhibited by the impact which modern technology has exerted on the social fabric, indeed, in the history of technology, which is the primary social science study of technology, technology has sometimes been defined so as to refer even to the making of nonmaterial things such as laws and languages - although in practice this definition has not been widely utilized.  Thus the tension between the narrow, engineering usage and the broad, social science usage given to the word “technology” seems to point, first, toward the conceptual primacy of the making of material artifacts then, second, toward a large number of elements and influences that go into and arise out of this primary process, determining its different forms.

My thesis, in Aristotelian language, is that “technology” is not a univocal term; it does not mean exactly the same thing in all contexts.  It is often, and in significant ways, context-dependent - both in speech and in the world.  But neither is it an equivocal like “date” (on a calendar and on a tree).  There is a primacy of reference to the making of material artifacts, especially as this making has been modified and influenced by modern natural science, and from this is derived a loose, analogous set of other references.  An initial need in the philosophy of technology is for clarification of this conceptual one and many, a conceptual one and many which evidently exists because it reflects a real diversity of technologies with various interrelationships and levels of unity.

The philosophical value of becoming more aware of this spectrum of conceptual references can be illustrated by two cases.  First, in discussions of the social and ethical consequences of technology questions invariably arise about whether or not technology can be done away with.  Partisans line upon both sides.  But much of the disagreement results from a failure to clarify differences in presumed definitions.  On the one hand, if what one means by technology is the making activity and the use of material artifacts in general, then obviously technology can never be abandoned, and is in fact coeval with if not prior to (since animals also make and use artifacts like bird’s nests and spider webs) the emergence of human life.  On the other hand, if what one means by technology is some particular form or social embodiment of this general human activity, then equally clearly technology is expendable; technologies have been abandoned over and over again throughout history, under both peaceful arid


violent circumstances.  Indeed, the sociology of technology depends on this interpretation of the word when it analyzes cultures in terms of their own technological changes.

Second, in philosophical discussion a large number of apparently incompatible definitions have been offered for technology.  Technology has been variously described as sensorimotor skills (Feibleman), applied science (Bunge), design (engineers themselves), efficiency (Bavink, Skolimowski), rational efficient action (Ellul), neutral means (Jaspers), means for economic purposes (Gottl-Ottlilienfeld and other economists), means for socially set purposes (Jarvie), control of the environment to meet human needs (Carpenter), pursuit of power (Mumford, Spengler), means for realization of the Gestalt of the worker (Jünger) or any supernatural self-concept (Ortega), human liberation (Mesthene, Macpherson), self-initiated salvation (Brinkmann), invention and the material realization of transcendent forms (Dessauer), a “provoking, setting up disclosure of nature” (Heidegger), etc. [8]  Some descriptions evidently differ only in the matter of words.  Yet even after this is taken into account there remains a wide variety of definitions, each of which - it is reasonable to assume - highlights same real aspect of technology in the general sense, but under the guidance of a tacitly employed restricted focus.  Thus argument over the truth or falsity of such descriptions too often hinges on the exclusiveness of a limited perspective.  The proper resolution of disagreement would be a structural and/or phenomenological analysis of technology, delineating its different types and their interrelationships.  Only such an analysis would provide a foundation for assessing the relative truth and significance of each individual description.

Such reflection on usage of the word “technology” leads me to suggest that the term be stipulated to refer to the human making and using of material artifacts in all forms and aspects.  Human making is only to be distinguished, in the Aristotelian sense, from human doing -e.g., political, moral, or religious actions. [9]  I am aware that neither does this reflect the etymology of the word itself (which became current in the nineteenth century to refer to the industrial arts), [10] nor does it always accord with various feelings and intuitions that are well entrenched in the English language.  Nevertheless, it does seem to me to demarcate what should be the full scope of a philosophical concern with technology, and to draw out what is unique about this study.  Traditionally, the philosophy of human action has concentrated almost exclusively on doing (such, for instance, is the province of ethics, political philosophy, etc.), at the expense of making - the only exception being some limited discussion in aesthetics.  Under the stress of contemporary problems and needs, however, man is called upon to reflect on his making in a more comprehensive and fundamental manner.  Henceforth, then, unless otherwise specified, I will use


the term in this general way, without wishing to presume or imply any distinctions or relationships.  Differences and unities can only be disclosed through an analysis of the types of technology and their structural characteristics.  Where I think analysis does warrant typical relations I would argue for denoting these either by qualifying adjectives attached to the general word (as with the expression “scientific technology”) or by distinct words properly defined (as with “technique”).  This, to my mind, sets forth the initial conceptual program for a philosophy of technology.


Lexicon of Distinctions

The full presentation of such a typology is, of course, beyond the scope of this paper. [11]  Moreover, as I conceive this, it is beyond the scope of a merely conceptual analysis; if not limited to a bare explication of conceptual contents it will ultimately involve anthropological, epistemological, and metaphysical reflections.  Let me nevertheless begin to treat this problem of the technological one and the technological many by putting forth a rough catalog, a kind of philosophical lexicon of distinctions which seem to be fundamental and in fact widely accepted - as a summary and restatement or the work and conclusions of others which points toward the synthetic resolution of some confusions.

Distinctions among technologies may be said to create a three-dimensional grid.  First, there are obvious subject or material distinctions between chemical technology, electrical technology, etc.  Second, there are functional or structural distinctions.  Third, there are social or historical distinctions - although in principle these should be able to be restated in material or formal terms when they are philosophically significant.

Subject or material distinctions are the least interesting philosophically.  In their common forms they are the basis of social science studies like Singer’s massive five-volume History of Technology and the Kranzberg-Pursell Technology in Western civilization. [12]  For philosophers it is fundamental differences that matter most, at least initially, because what philosophy seeks is a real definition of the essence of technology that can be seen to underlie or be exemplified in its various modes arid manifestations.  (Philosophers should not, however, belittle historical studies, for they are one necessary test of the generality of their own theses.)

Functionally, technology can be divided into that which goes on internally in man, that which is part of his bodily activity and thus his social involvement, and that which becomes in a sense part of and interacts with the natural world by taking on a life of its own independent of his immediate bodily action.  This corresponds to the distinctions between technology-as-knowledge, technology-as-process, and technology-as-product or thoughts, activities, and objects.  In the standard conceptual analysis, however, the anthropologically interior is restricted to an intellectual component, when actually the will is also involved in an element


which might be called technology-as-volition.  If this is taken into account, along with the recursive activity of use, we may summarize these basic distinctions with the following diagram (Fig. 1):

Figure 1. The Modes of Technology

HHC: not reproduced

I take this diagram and its distinctions to be more important than might first seem.  For instance, since what philosophers are searching for in a definition of technology is an essence or whatness which lies behind and is manifested in these various modes, one good test of any definition would be to describe just how it is exemplified in each of these functional differentiations.  Before suggesting other substantive implications, however, let me offer a catalog of the following further distinctions, and comments which seem appropriate to each category.  In doing this I will work from the outside in, as it were; from objects to ideas and intentions; from the realm of the most obvious and well discussed to the least.


1. Technology-as-object

The class of technological objects has been divided (by Mumford) into utensils, apparatus, utilities, tools, and machines - without insisting that these are mutually exclusive or complete. [13]  Slightly enlarged and elaborated, this list would include:

(a) Utensi1s - e.g., baskets, pots; storage containers.

(b) Apparatus - e.g., dye vats, brick-kilns; containers for some physical or chemical process.

(c) Utilities - transformers; e.g., reservoirs, aqueducts, roads, buildings, lights.  One subdivision would distinguish power utilities such as railroad tracks and electric power lines, which function only through the operation of power machinery,

(d) Tools - instruments operated manually which act to move or transform the material world; implements which a worker uses to perform work.  Perhaps, though, two kinds of tools should be distinguished: those used for making and those used for doing.  A pencil is a tool which enables one to make letters, but the letters themselves are tools of communication, which can be (in song, for instance) a kind of doing.

(e) Machines - tools which do not require human energy input because of an outside source of power (wind, water, steam, electricity, etc.) but do require human direction; a device which operates, under direction, to perform work.  (Note the


equivocation on “work” here and in reference to tools.  Tools perform work and produce works, whereas machines operate and produce products.  When machine are spoken of as performing work, the definition of work becomes that of physics-force times displacement in the line of force.)  One subdivision would distinguish machines powered by naturally given energies like wind and water and both of these from machines driven by more abstract forms of’ power such as electrical, chemical, or nuclear energy.

(f) Automatons or automated/cybernated machines - machines which require neither human energy input nor immediate human direction.  Automated devices take part of their energy output and recycle it back into the instrument itself as a form of control.  The most simple example is. of course, a thermostatically controlled heater, where part of the heat output is used to operate a thermocouple.



A. Tools of doing and making: All of these artifacts are meant in some way to be used, lived within or operated.  Given the broad definition of technology there would seem to be at least two other types of technological object to be distinguished: that already mentioned under (d), tools of doing (letters, numbers, etc.) rather than making, and artifacts which are not meant to be used at all but only contemplated or worshiped, i.e., objects of art or religion.  The problem with the distinction between tools of doing and those of making is that it appears to be highly context dependent and not always clearly discernable in the object itself.  That is, sometimes numbers can be used for doing mathematics, at others for making money or even buildings.  But is this latter use not really a doing of mathematics for purposes of’ making money or house building?  Numbers themselves, as artifacts (it seems reasonable to argue) only realize their full potential or make the most sense when they are used for doing, even when it is possible - and, indeed, sometimes necessary - to subordinate this doing to a making, the doing becoming a means to some making.  Language may be used to conduct business, yet it finds its full realization in poetry.  This is so because a thing is defined, according to Aristotle, not by its innumerable possible uses but by what it can do only or best. [14]  Further example: A carpenter’s hammer is not in itself either an instrument for knocking out one’s mother-in-law or digging weeds in the garden, although it could perform both functions.  The problem is that one would fail to make sense of the claw, the other would fail to make sense of the mallet side of the head.  Only when used as an instrument for fabricating with (driving or pulling) nails can all of its qualities be recognized as fitting together. [15]


B. Meaning of ‘machine’: Machines pose complex conceptual issues, partly because the term has shifted its meaning from the antique hand-operated instrument for working to the modern non-manually operated instrument. [16]  Thus historically “machine” can mean at least three different things:

1. It can refer to the simple machines of classical mechanics - lever,


wedge, wheel and axle (or winch), pulley (or block and tackle), screw, and inclined plane (to give the traditional list) - or some combination thereof. [17]  Actually, since (as the science of mechanics has shown) the wedge = an adapted inclined plane; the pulley = a :form of’wheel and axle; and the screw = an inclined plane cut in a spiral, this traditional list of six can be reduced to three: wheel and axle, lever, and inclined plane.

2. “Machine” can refer to any implement or large-scale simple machine ‘which requires more than one man to operate it because of its energy requirements.  This is the definition found, for instance, in Vitruvius and applied to “projective engines and wine presses.” [18]

3. Yet even in this form these “instruments for transmitting force or modifying its application” (to quote a common dictionary definition of machine) are not machines in the specifically modern sense, but special kinds of tools.  Admittedly, as one author has observed, “the difference between the tool and the machine has never been clearly defined. [19]  But the common notion is that a tool is a hand-operated machine, or at least the man-related element of a mechanical device; while “machine” denotes an instrument in its human independence, or at least that aspect of the device which is not dependent on man. [20]  This corresponds to Hegel’s definition of machine as a “self-reliant tool,” tool being understood as any instrument of work, [21] and yields the third definition of machine as implement which does not depend on human energy - although it still requires some human monitoring or directing, “driving” in the sense that one “drives a car.”  (Note the two senses of “drive”: in one sense the motor “drives the car,” in another the “driver” does.)  Of these one can readily distinguish three types: those which depend on animal power (horse-drawn plow), those which employ direct mechanical energy from nature (windmill, water wheel), and those which use some form of abstract energy (electricity).  Of this last category there are also two types: those which generate or transform energy, and those which transmit power and perform work.  The former (as in the electric dynamo) is the uniquely modern machine [22] normally the latter will involve more intimate human direction.

Machine tools: Strictly speaking these are tools for metal cutting, tools used to make machines.  But in common speech they are not always distinguished from power-driven hand tools such as the electric drill and saw or the air-driven jackhammer.  A rotary electric handsaw is also quite different from the power-driven table or radial arm saw, i.e., stationary shop tools.

Finally, one should observe the resistance that is to be found in our uneasiness about calling an automatic device, which is constructed but neither energized nor directed by man, a machine.  At most we seem willing to refer to it as an “automated machine.”  Nevertheless, this con-


cept, as a natural extension of the previous conceptual development, does denote a fourth type of machine, the machine as cybernetic or self-regulating device.


C. The engineering analysis of machines: Classical mechanics is that branch of physics which deals with the motions of material bodies and the forces acting upon them. [23]  So defined, mechanics is subdivided into statics (dealing with bodies at rest) and dynamics (dealing with bodies in motion).  Prior to the development of vector analysis by Simon Stevin (1548-1620) mechanics consisted almost exclusively of formulas for the equilibrium of simple levers derived from Archimedes (third century B.C..).  The work of Galileo (1564-1642) on falling bodies laid the foundation for the modern science of dynamics [24] with its two main branches - kinematics, dealing with the motion of rigid bodies without regard to the forces involved, and kinetics, dealing with the relations between forces and motions.

In modern engineering, machines are analyzed and described by means of the science of dynamics.  Machines are, as it were, closed systems which can be analyzed in terms of motions (kinematics) and forces (kinetics).  As such, a machine is commonly defined as “a combination of rigid or resistant bodies having definite motions and capable of performing useful work.” [25]  If a machine-like device fails to perform useful work in the technical sense, it is termed a mechanism.  A clock or speedometer, for example, is a mechanism but not a machine. [26]  To say the same thing in a different way: While the science of dynamics includes kinematics and kinetics, the primary function of a mechanical device can be either the modification of motion or the amplification of force.  If the former, it is a mechanism; if the latter, a machine.  Furthermore, the way the parts of a machine are interconnected to produce a required output motion from a given input motion, even when the purpose is force directed to useful work, is known as the mechanism of the machine.  One can, for example, speak of the mechanism by which a steam engine, as a machine, works. [27]

This conception of a machine as “a closed kinematic chain” or “a combination of resistant bodies so arranged that by their means the mechanical forces of nature can be compelled to do work accompanied by certain determinate motions” goes back to Franz Reuleaux, Kinematics of Machinery (1875). [28]  Reuleaux’s definition was, however, formulated prior to the advent of electrical, chemical, and nuclear energies so that it does not strictly apply to, say, electronic “mechanisms” such as radios, car batteries, and computers - unless “kinematic chain” is interpreted very broadly to include the movement of electrons along a wire or within some chemical compound.  Thus a question might arise concerning the possibility of reformulating Reuleaux’s definition to make it suitably general, and within this genus to distinguish the various species of machines.


In fact, with the delimiting of the traditionally more general word “machine,” the engineering tern “device” has come to take its place as denoting any “mechanism, tool, or other piece of equipment designed for specific uses.” [29]  Device is not synonymous with artifact, for it denotes instrumentality and in most cases even dependence on some (internal or external) operation.  A device accepts some input and modifies it in some unique way to produce a desired output.  Thus devices are to be distinguished, for example, from structures; one would not normally speak of a house or a bridge as a device. [30]  The concept of device includes tools, machines, and automatons, but it is questionable whether it could refer to utensils, apparatus and utilities - not to mention tools of doing and objects of art - without becoming a metaphor.  “Device” roughly corresponds to what Heidegger calls Zeug, gear or equipment. [31]  As Heidegger argues, such an artifact is related in its essence to some functional totality which we might call a system.  The interrelation of devices in a system as understood by engineering raises philosophical questions about systems as possible technological objects. [32]  Conceived as systems, however, technological objects tend to collapse into processes.


D. On the phenomenology of tools and machines: The most common philosophical interpretation of machines (= early philosophy of technology) argues that tools and machines are extensions of man, organ projections.  The idea is hinted at first by Aristotle; but it is also part of the typology of such late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century studies as those of Kapp and Lafitte. [33]  Most recently it has been expanded to include even electronic media as extensions of the human nervous system (McLuhan [34]).  But not to mention other questions, one can ask, “extensions” in what sense?  There can be at least two kinds of extension:  A hammer, for instance extends, by way of enlargement, the power of the arm muscle, while it extends by way of abstraction and magnification the hardness and formal properties of the fist.  (The appeal here is to the distinction between the enlargement that goes on in a telescope, where light from a star is itself collected and concentrated, thus bringing one, as it were, nearer to it; and the magnification that goes on in a microscope which does not just bring one close to, but optically abstracts from, and transforms the visual properties of, an object.)  A pile driver, however, not only magnifies form, it also magnifies power, by placing at man’s disposal energies which he himself does not possess.  If tools or machines in the first (classical) sense increased man’s power, it was only by enlarging his own inherent energies.  If machines in the second sense (as tools operated by more than one man) did the same, it was only by uniting the energies inherent in a group of men.  Modern power machines achieve this effect in an entirely different way by making man the director of nonhuman energies.  Thus, whereas tools are single-function instruments which break


down, specify, distribute, or concentrate the total power resident in the hand, machines incorporate the hand as an instrumental link in man’s multifaceted directing or governing of non-manual energies.

Furthermore, “the technical advance that characterizes specifically the modern age is that from reciprocating motions to rotary motion.” [35]  Modern machines, unlike tools, typically achieve their effect by means of rotary rather than reciprocating motions.  While this is most obvious in the rotary power saw as contrasted with the reciprocating handsaw, it is equally true of the pile driver, which develops its reciprocating power in a pneumatic operator which is dependent on the rotating shaft of some prime mover.  As the historian, Lynn White, Jr., has argued in reference to the discovery of the crank,

Continuous rotary motion is typical of inorganic matter, whereas reciprocating motion is the sole form of movement found in living things.  The crank connects these two kinds of motion; therefore we who are organic find that crank motion does not come easily to us.  The great physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach noticed that infants find crank motion hard to learn.  Despite the rotary grindstone, even today razors are whetted rather than ground: we find rotary motion an impediment to the greatest sensitivity.  The hurdy-gurdy soon went out of use as an instrument for serious music, leaving the reciprocating fiddle-bow.. - to become the foundation of modern European musical development.  To use a crank, our tendons and muscles must relate themselves to the motion of galaxies and electrons.  From this inhuman adventure our race long recoiled. [36]

Both kinetically and kinematically modern machines, as contrasted with traditional tools, involve a qualitatively distinct separation of man from his own body and its elemental awareness.  Not all extensions are the same. [37]

This is confirmed by two separate connotations of the adjective “mechanical.” in the traditional sense a “mechanical task” is one that has to be performed manually and is dependent on human energy. it is thus, in this special sense [HHC: Greek not reproduced], base or ignoble, for it focuses a man’s attention on his own physical powers which are extremely limited. [38]  It does not connect with higher, transhuman or spiritual powers but remains on the strictly natural plane.  In modern usage, on the other hand, a “mechanical task” is one done without attention, repetitively, routinely, or even ritualistically (in the bad sense of that word).  Modern machines, while connecting with nonliving physical energies, nevertheless are base or ignoble in a new sense.  They alienate man from his own sensorimotor, mind-body complex; his body acts and does not need his mind.  Consequently his attention is not focused at all, anywhere, and must be entertained by some extraneous sensations - music, colors, etc.,


as devised by industrial psychologists.  This is why, from the contemporary perspective, a return to mechanical operations in the primitive sense can be seen as a desirable thing, reuniting mind and body; and this desirableness in turn is the source of the difficulty we experience in appreciating the ancient critique of manual work.

Along this line, Mumford (and others) have argued that “the skilled tool-user becomes more accurate and automatic, in short, more mechanical, as his originally voluntary motions settle down into reflexes.” [39]  Such a generalization lacks experience with tools.  When an operation becomes mechanical, as in a machine, one loses control of it.  To take a simple example, a power-driven saw cannot respond as sensitively to a piece of wood - a knot, say, or stringy grain that easily splinters and damages a particular work - as a handsaw.  Admittedly, accuracy in one sense, the sense of following a superimposed, geometric line, becomes more fully realized; but only at the expense of a certain responsiveness to materials.  As Sōetsu Yanagi summarizes the experience of craftsmen:

No machine can compare with a man’s hands.  Machinery gives speed. power. complete uniformity, and precision, but it cannot give creativity, adaptability, freedom, heterogeneity.  These the machine is incapable of, hence the superiority of the hand, which no amount of rationalism can negate. [40]

And as carpenters are well aware, a power saw easily gets “out of hand”; and a handsaw wound is usually a lot less serious than one from a power saw.  It is no accident that finishing work or fine cabinetmaking continues to be done primarily by hand.  Surely an artist does not become less sensitive or even necessarily more accurate in the geometric sense as his brush stroke techniques become internalized in sensorimotor reflexes.  The loss of awareness at the level of technique increases the control of the artist at the level of his proper work.  Thus there seem to be important differences between so-called automatic operations with tools and with machines, and these should not be too facilely identified.  But such a phenomenology of use points away from technology-as-object and toward the category of technology-as-process.


E. Two final suggestions: Just as the relative proportions of these various types of technological objects available in some particular society will affect that society in various ways, so their presence can be one key to differences in types of technologies in general.  For instance, machines run by abstract power (electricity, etc.) dominate modern society but are not found at all in traditional or primitive societies.  This point is relevant to the contemporary discussion about so-called “intermediate” or “soft” technologies as opposed to “hard” technologies, and their social and


ecological impacts in underdeveloped (and developed) countries. [42]  But it is also important to remember that types will not always come in pure forms; usually there will be an admixture of various elements.  The real question will be one of proportion and degree, not simple presence or absence - as in the case with machines driven by nonliving sources of power.

Moreover, these differences in the phenomenology of use are related to differences in the characters of the objects produced, although these differences are not easily conceptualized.  Consider, for instance, the distinctions which the Mexican philosopher Octavio Paz draws among objects of fine art, industrial technology, and handicraft:

The industrial object tends to disappear as a form and to become indistinguishable from its function.  Its being is its meaning and its meaning is to be useful.  It is the diametrical opposite of the work of art [in which the meaning is to be useless but beautiful].  Craftwork is a mediation between these two poles: its forms are not governed by the principle of efficiency but of pleasure, which is always wasteful, and for which no rules exist.  The industrial object allows the superfluous no place: craftwork delights in decoration.  Its predilection for ornamentation is a violation of the principle of efficiency.  The decorative patterns of the handcrafted object generally have no function whatsoever; hence they are ruthlessly eliminated by the industrial designer.  The persistence and the proliferation of purely decorative rnotifs in craftwork reveal to us an intermediate zone between usefulness and aesthetic contemplation.  In the work of handcraftsrnen there is a constant shifting back and forth between usefulness and beauty.  This continual interchange has a name: pleasure.  Things are pleasing because they are useful and beautiful.  This copulative conjunction defines craftwork. just as the disjunctive conjunction defines art amid technology: usefulness or beauty. [41]

But such differences in the phenomenology of production, even when they are reflected by the objects themselves, point away from technology-as-object and toward the category of technology-as-process.

Furthermore, there are what may be called material or imaginative distinctions among technological objects as opposed to the formal distinctions mentioned so far.  To take an example that has been made the object of a well-known historical study, the stirrup (part of a tool for horse riding) is capable of an indefinite number of material embodiments while retaining its basic formal (or technical, functional) properties.  Just as the concept of a triangle is capable of being imagined and drawn as red or green, isosceles or scalene, so is the idea of a stirrup as footrest attached to saddle capable of many different types of reification.  The figures in the Appendix are designed to show this in a graphic way, since by its nature this distinction is easier to see than to conceptualize. [HHC: images not reproduced]  Thus one could postulate an argument between Platonic and Aristotelian views of


technology-as-object - the first maintaining that a stirrup is a stirrup on the basis of form or function alone, never mind its material embodiment; the other maintaining that a simplified English riding stirrup is substantially different from an ornate Spanish vaquero stirrup.  The point is that in some abstract functional sense these objects are the same, but at the level of actual material realization there are significant class distinctions (not just individual distinctions) to be made on the basis of materials used and formal ornamentation which reveal differences in use contexts and cultural attitudes.  Technological objects are subtly modified by specific use, even when there exist more universal functions.  Once again, though, this points away from the object itself and toward technological processes.


2. Technology-as-process

The processes of making and using are commonly discussed in terms of four main kinds of human activity, although here there is less definiteness than in the distinguishing of artifacts.  These are: (a) invention, (b) design, c) making in the sense of materially fabricating), and (d) using.


General comments:

A. Invention, design, fabricating and using: Although these appear as the basic types of technology considered as a human activity, (a) and (b) are less essentially involved with bodily action than (c) and (d).  Thus invention and design as activities already point back toward technology-as-knowledge or as-volition, leaving making and using as the root distinctions within technology-as-process.  This priority is indicated both by the gerundival character of (c) and (d), and by the fact that in some sense invention and design are themselves aspects of making and using.


B. Engineering as a function: Actually, this basic typology is a simplification of the distinctions within engineering analyzed as a function.

i) Invention is sometimes broken down into research and development.  Applied research = using scientific and mathematical knowledge plus experimentation to synthesize new materials or create new energy-generating or transforming processes.  Development = utilizing these materials and energies to design and fabricate prototype products to solve particular problems or meet special needs.  (Industrial research = development. [43])

ii) Design can be considered an activity of development or an activity in its own right ordered toward construction and production,

iii) Making can be subdivided into construction (of stationary structures) and production (of moveable devices).  (Another general classification is fabrication; types of fabrication = artistic, craft, industrial, mass, etc.)


iv) Operation and management denote types of use, as do testing, service. maintenance, sales, etc., - although testing can also be construed as part of development and design

v) The functions of planning, teaching, consulting, and systems engineering cut across these various distinctions. [44]


C. This typology of processes is also amenable to elaboration or reformulation in other directions, usually depending on some extrinsic relationships.  Examples:

i) From an economic point of view the following technological processes are sometimes distinguished: labor saving (capital intensive) processes. capital saving (labor intensive) processes, neutral processes; [45] potential vs. realized technology; invention vs. innovation; and material vs. social technology. [46]

With regard to the invention-innovation distinction: in contemporary usage, innovation is the broader term, denoting “any thought, behavior, or thing that is new because it is qualitatively different from existing forms” [47] or the activity of engendering such thought, behavior, or thing.  This readily includes invention or the creation of new material objects.

As terms of contrast, invention = creation of a new artifact; innovation = the economic development and exploitation of some artifact, new or existing, by means of a reorganization of goods, methods of production, sources of supply, industrial structures, marketing. etc.  (Does this include political development and exploitation as in warfare or the U.S. space program?)  Innovation is thus a kind of using, technological using.  Hence potential technology = a technological invention awaiting economic (or political) exploitation by innovation or technological use.  One further distinction along this line: invention vs. technological change.  Invention commonly implies novelty; technological improvements of existing hardware based on what is already known do not qualify as inventions.  For example, the original four-stroke-cycle internal combustion engine (the Otto Silent Engine, 1876) was an invention, combining two or more four-stroke-cycle cylinders into one engine was merely technological change.  (Patent law, an instrument of political economy, usually protects the former but not the latter.)

ii) Aristotle hints at another distinction of technological processes, one between cultivation and construction. [48]  Cultivation = helping nature to produce more perfectly or abundantly things which she could produce herself (e.g., medicine, teaching. and farming).  Construction forcing nature to produce things she would otherwise not be able to produce (e.g., carpentry).  As Van Melsen characterizes this distinction: In farming, “although man performs all kinds of preparatory tasks, such as clearing, plowing, and sowing, nature itself has to do the rest.  Once his preparatory task is done, man can only sit down and wait.  It is the inner growing power of living nature which performs the work.”  In contrast, “the craftsman gives natural materials forms which would not naturally arise in them.  The technical object is something which is not cultivated but constructed, i.e., its component parts are arranged


in an artificial pattern.  The fashioning of these parts forces them into forms and functions which are not naturally present in them.”  Thus “in the work of construction there is a far more direct intervention in the natural order than there is in the work of cu1tivation.” [49]  Note, too. that this difference could be stated in terms of intention or volition.  Another distinction along the same line: those technological activities which are in some sense in harmony with nature and those which are not - with harmony being given biological, ecological, or other interpretations.


Specific comments:

A’. Invention and scientific discovery: Invention, depending on what it is contrasted with, can take on one or more of the following meanings: As opposed to scientific discovery, technological invention refers to the creating or generating of something new (although there are problems with the concept “new”) rather than the finding out of something already there but hidden.  Bell invented the telephone; Newton discovered the laws of gravity.  The telephone did not exist prior to Bell’s work; gravity existed but was not conceptualized in the form of scientific law prior to Newton.  To generalize: invention causes things to come into existence from ideas, makes world conform to thought; whereas science, by deriving ideas from observation, makes thought conform to existence.  Indeed, it is precisely this bringing together of ideas and materials - this uniting of a transformation which takes place first at the level of conception or thought with experiential confirmation in practical fabrication and operation - which is the essence of invention.  Sir George Cayle (1773-1857), founder of the science of aerodynamics, arrived at an accurate conception of the airplane, but its invention (dated from the first successful flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903) had to await both the development of a suitable power plant and the Wright brothers’ technical skills (of fabricating and operating). [50]  Did Leonardo invent the parachute merely by conceiving it, or did Lenormand by constructing and testing it?  Invention may begin in some conceptualization, but it does not finally take place until an artifact is operationally tested and discovered to be able to perform its assigned task.  It is this active, worldly engagement which keeps invention (despite strong ideational components) from becoming just an element of technology-as-knowledge - although the kinds of ideas involved certainly require epistemological analysis, i.e., some conceptual distinguishing from scientific ideas. [51]

This notion of invention as a conscious process originating in the mind and confirmed by the activity of some individual is, however, a distinctly modern notion. [52]  As with scientific discovery, the process of invention can take place over a short period of time or be prepared for through gradual evolutionary development.  Some observers especially emphasize this evolutionary character of invention as a counterbalance to popular notions. [53]  With this second kind of invention, however, one can almost


never speak of an individual inventor.  Instead, one speaks of national groups or historical periods as having invented such objects as the astrolabe or compass.  Indeed, the process or activity of invention in the second case is probably quite different from that in the first. it originates not so much in the mind seeking its practical satisfaction in material objects as in a haphazard alteration of the matter and form of artifacts over the course of time and the eventual recognition of something useful. [54]  It is truly evolutionary in the sense of being a natural selection of chance mutations.  As such it is almost wholly devoid of the act of designing, a conspicuous aspect of the modern inventive process.

As opposed to design, invention refers to a process which proceeds by nonrational, unconscious, intuitive, or even accidental means.  Invention is, as it were, accidental design - and as such highlights the element of insight which plays an important role even in highly systemized design.  Modern engineering design, as an attempt to rationalize and systemize the creative process, has been called the “invention of invention” (Whitehead). [55]  Also, there is a sense in which invention connotes a singularity of creation, whereas design takes an invention and adapts it to circumstances of, say, mass production.  Although some inventors have been engineers, generally speaking the engineer is not concerned with novelty; if existing materials and processes are able to meet his task he will design around them, only with such refinements as circumstances immediately suggest.


B’. The ambiguities of “design”: A design specifies some material object in sufficient detail to enable it to be fabricated, in designing (from the Latin designare, “to mark out”) one can thus be concerned primarily with the formal properties of the object to be fabricated (as these must needs be expressed in the design) - as is the case in art and architecture; [56] or one can approach a design as the end term of some specific process - as in engineering.  In the latter case, design readily becomes shorthand for the activity of designing.

“Engineering design is the process of applying the various techniques and scientific principles for the purposes of defining a device, a process or a system in sufficient detail to permit its physical realization.” [57]  Or, alternatively, engineering design is “an iterative decision-making activity to produce the plans by which resources are converted, preferably optimally, into systems or devices to meet human needs.” [58]  So defined, design in this sense may be described as the attempt to solve in thought, on the basis of available knowledge, problems of fabrication that will save work (as materials and/or energy).

Consider, for example, the construction of a foundation for some specific structure.  If a contractor builds it on the basis of his experience and intuitions alone he is almost certain to do one of two things: either he


will make it too weak and the building it should support will eventually collapse and have to be rebuilt; or he will make it too strong, using more steel and pouring more concrete than is actually necessary.  In either case more work will have been expended than need have been.  Were an engineer to design this same foundation, he would attempt to calculate the weight of the building and other relevant stresses, then using the principles of physics plus engineering geology (i.e., geological knowledge interpreted in terms of what kinds of structures various earth formations can support), and a socially specified safety factor, he would describe a foundation that would be neither more nor less than what was needed to suit the particular situation.  It is somewhat paradoxical, but the right construction (like Aristotle’s golden mean) is difficult to attain; it takes effort.  But when this effort is expended at the right time, in the long run it saves effort.  Engineering design is thus an effort (primarily of a mental sort) to save effort (of a physical sort). [59]

This mental effort is, however, something distinct from knowing or coming to know in a scientific or theoretical sense, because it terminates not in an interior act experienced as inherently valuable, but in construction (if not production).  The scientist often experiences a tension between his knowledge and what he can express; he makes a discovery and then has to push himself beyond what he feels is his proper sphere in order to write it up.  But such tension is not a normal feature of design experience, because the construction of drawings or models (which are also means of communication) is intimately bound up with the design process. [60]  Engineering drawings, with their unique language and system for abstraction and representation, are not just means for communicating results arrived at by interior activity; they are part of the process and the means by which the results themselves are reached. [61]  To say the same thing in a different way: although the actual execution of a plan is not designing, except insofar as the plan may continue to develop in order to meet originally unanticipated situations, such continuing development through actual execution is in fact a normal situation; on large construction projects a draftsman will be continuously at work revising drawings in the light of exigencies and changed circumstances, thus seeking to anticipate their further consequences.  Drawing is a kind of testing or interrelating of various factors [62] by miniature building.  It is not thinking in the sense of conceptualizing or the relating of concepts; it is thinking as picturing or imaging, and the relating of specific materials and energies.  The designer solves problems of relating parts the way an artist does, by seeing them in practice.  It is action or process, only on a reduced sale, made as free of physical labor as possible, but nevertheless not entirely free.  It is still an effort (of a miniature’ physical sort) to save effort (of a gross physica1 sort).  (This particular miniaturization of construction is, how-


ever, intimately related to a kind of knowledge in a way which remains to be considered.).

Right in the basic intention of design, then, we have a desire or will toward efficiency.  Indeed, engineers often describe their work as the pursuit of an equilibrium of forces (stress and support in the case of a foundation), which says the same thing in different words.  This efficiency (conceived in terms of force equilibrium), which constitutes the technical ideal, further manifests itself in varied forms in the various engineering activities classified according to their subject matter.  As Skolimowski has argued, efficiency in surveying is accuracy of measurement; in civil engineering it is durability of structures; in mechanical engineering it comes out as the mathematical ratio of physical energy output over physical energy input, with the mechanical engineer always striving for a value of one. [63]  Electrical engineering (to extend Skolimowski’s argument) uses the same principle of efficiency, only with a different form of energy; ditto for chemical engineering.  Thus the principle of engineering design, the volition which, as it were, founds it or makes it a consistent action: Never use more material or energy to solve a particular problem than is absolutely necessary.


C’. The methodology of design, engineering vs. art: In its most general description, designing is a process which takes place as a result of human intentions interacting with the world as it is given (when that given does not immediately satisfy the intentions) in such a way as to produce an otherwise unavailable object or course of action.  In contemporary theory of design, the structure of this interaction or process is thought to be describable as a method, differing from yet analogous to the scientific method of knowing - that is, as a method of practical action.  As such it has been argued to underlie all practical activity not only in engineering but in business, education, law, politics, art, etc. - if not simply all human action.  The method is one, the only differences are in goals pursued and, perhaps, materials used.  One designs works of art (from poems to paintings) for beauty, production and sales ventures for financial profit, engineering products for technical efficiency.  At the same time, it is primarily within the engineering field that the methodology of design has been most seriously investigated. [64]

Without going into detail regarding the discussion of the exact character of this method itself or its relationship to the method of science, perhaps I can make a few relevant observations by considering briefly the question of the relationship between engineering and art.  Initially, one distinguishes engineering from artistic design on the basis of ideals or ends in view (sometimes psychologically stated as volitions).  The ideal of artistic design, in contrast with engineering efficiency, is beauty.  Beauty is not so much a question of materials and energy efficiency as one of form.  About


this the whole subject of aesthetics has more to say, whereas it is ethics or politics which would incorporate a philosophical evaluation of efficiency.

Yet the difference between these two types of design does not remain at the level of ideals; it penetrates to the design process itself.  This is apparent once one notices that in fact the ideal of efficiency refers to a process, is the directing criterion of an activity or a functioning product, whereas beauty is the ideal of a product or object in itself.  Does a potter aim at efficiency in creating a beautiful pot?  No, his aim is a good work, one of proportion and harmony; efficiency in production, while not to be wholly ignored, is a distinctly secondary consideration.  For the engineer, on the other hand, it is beauty which is of secondary importance; while not to be ignored, beauty is judged, in industrial design, in terms of its contribution to function or efficiency. [65]  Even more clearly: the ends of artistic design must be formal whereas the final causes of engineering processes are readily susceptible to verbal articulation in terms of human needs, wants, desires, etc.

A further observation: Engineering design limits itself to material reality (speaking metaphysically, matter and energy are both matter as contrasted with form).  This is to be grasped or approached, however, by means of a mathematical calculus of forces which is derived from classical physics (Galileo and Newton) and its specific mathematical abstraction.  The picturing or imagining that goes on in engineering design is done, as it were, through the grid of this physics - the grid itself being articulated as the engineering science of mechanics.  This view of matter and energy through the grid of classical physics gives to engineering design a rational character riot to be found in art.  Engineering images, unlike other images, are capable of mathematical analysis and judgment; this is their unique character and one which sometimes leads people to confuse them with thinking in a deeper sense.  (It also accounts, perhaps, for the fact that design is ignored as a kind of knowing in all major epistemological studies.)  For art also is concerned with design and imagining, but its images cannot be rationally analyzed, are not subject to any well-developed calculus.  Thus art, in contrast to engineering, appears as both more intuitive and more dependent on the senses.  Although the artist, too, is concerned to design artifacts, [66] he necessarily does so in drawings and models which remain close in being to the final product.  (Compare, for instance, a Rembrandt sketch for a painting with an engineering drawing of a building.)  Needless to say, though, such remarks are no more than speculative suggestions about a very complex subject.


D’. Invention and design: On the phenomenological difference between invention and design: Invention and design are sometimes contrasted by saying that an inventor creates whereas a designer plans or at most discovers.  Often it is said that the designer remains within the familiar and systematic; he does


not deal with the unknown but only orders the known along well-established methodological lines, so that, given a clearly specified problem, two equally competent engineers will arrive at approximately the same solution.  Design, like science, is impersonal; it is capable of objective or inter-subjective confirmation.  Whereas the inventor is supposed to work with the unknown and to bring forth from it unique creations, acting alone.

Dessauer, however, has argued that invention or creation also involves the experience of discovery. [67]  Indeed, the word “invention” itself, from the Latin invenire, means “to come upon, find, or discover.”  Moreover, invention seems to be capable of objective confirmation - as is evidenced by such things as the independent invention of the airplane by the Wright brothers in America and the Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont (1873-1932) in Europe and, indeed, by the fact that these two airplanes can be judged by a common standard which rates the second as inferior to the first in realizing and applying certain basic principle. [68]  So much is this element of discovery and objectivity present that Dessauer postulates the existence of a transcendental realm of pre-established solutions to technical problems to explain the phenomenon.  The natural or external world explains or accounts for the objectivity of science and engineering; but since invention does not bear upon what already is in a material sense, there must be a transcendent isness or being to account for its discoveries.  Others, however, while agreeing with Dessauer on the moment of discovery in invention, account for this in less transcendental ways.  David Pye, for instance, argues quite simply, that

Invention is the process of discovering a principle.  Design is the process of applying that principle.  The inventor discovers a class of system - a generalization - and the designer prescribes a particular embodiment of it to suit the particular result, objects, and source of energy he is concerned with.

The facts which inventors discover are facts about the nature of the world just as much as the fact that gold amalgamates with mercury.  Every useful invention is a discovery about the way things and energy can behave.  The inventor does not make them behave as they do. [69]

Developing Pye’s suggestion, one could argue that the difference between invention and design lies not in the fact that the designer deals with what is and the inventor with what might be, [70] for this proposition is an equivocation on “deals.”  In the sense of what they work from, both work from a given material world and its relations; in the sense of what they work toward, both work toward the making of a new artifact, the establishment of a new set of relations.  (In the proposition above, the designer is said to “deal” with what he works from, the inventor with what he


works toward.)  Instead, the difference is more one of systematization and analytical calculation of potentialities in the given.  As mentioned earlier, engineering design can be described as “the invention of invention” - that is, organized invention.  Whereas primitive invention relies on accident, fortuitous insight into possible relationships among elements in the given, design is the attempt to develop a calculus of such relationships that can be used to solve well-specified problems.  The fact that such a calculus may still rely at crucial moments on a cultivated serendipity (brain-storming sessions, etc.) only reveals that irreducible essence of invention as creative insight which must so far remain as a structured aspect of design.  And such insight is also discovery: not of previously unknown elements or laws (as in science), but of previously unknown ways of relating elements or reorganizing natural processes (otherwise described by laws) - usually to meet previously recognized specific social needs or fabrication problems.

To be even more explicit, perhaps the making process in the initial instance (it might be different with routine making) can be broken down into the following sequence of logical moments (Fig. 2 [HHC: graphic not reproduced]).  (Note, however, that this is a logical, not a phenomenological sequence; the various moments will obviously be existentially interrelated in considerably more complex fashion than can be schematically indicated.)

Figure 2. The initial making process.

It is the second moment in this sequence that is designing in the proper sense.  Invention is, as it were, a bipolar concept, referring both to conceiving and to the discovery manifested in testing; hence its ambiguity when it refers to only one of these elements in isolation from the other.  In this sense, then, design will always be a moment linking these two aspects of invention; the only question would concern the degree of significance in particular cases.  On the other hand, design itself, as phantasmal thinking or miniature construction, will invariably run up against certain barriers or problems which require new conceptions, a return to the conceptual moment.  Thus design, too, will have a strong tendency to turn inside out into the invention sequence; the only question will concern how often and to what degree.

This articulation of the relationship between invention and design


throws light on the characterization of design as the invention of invention.  To invent (in the full sense) invention is to conceive and to put into operation the inventive process - or, to say the same thing in a different way, to consider the various circumstances or conditions under which invention readily takes place, to design (imaginatively plan) an institution which enhances precisely these factors, and to establish just such a working institution.  Industrial research and development laboratories, applied (as opposed to basic) research institutions, are the result.  At the same time, the invention of invention is capable of referring to any of these elements separately or in various combinations.

Finally, in stressing the moment of discovery in invention, questions are raised about the relationship between scientific and technological research.  What is the difference between discovering a new form of life on Mars (basic research) and synthesizing a (perhaps identical) new type of DNA molecule in the laboratory (genetic engineering)?  Other than intention, perhaps the fundamental difference is one of context.  Technological discovery is dependent on a technological process - not just in the subjective sense of a human activity, but in the objective sense of an artificial process, i.e., one which is a function of artifacts and/or not part of the natural environment in which it goes on.  Consideration of technological process in this sense, however, points back toward technology-as-object and the concept of system; further reflection on the sequence of moments in invention leads in the direction of fabricating and testing, making and using.


E’. Making and using: As already mentioned, these are the central categories of technology-as-process.  The category of use by itself immediately calls to mind ethical analyses of the means-end relationship which it is not necessary to go into here. [71]  But as human activities these two aspects are not necessarily so distinct.  As Feibleman has argued, in each the key element seems to be a sensorimotor skill or technique. [72]

The word “technique” here raises another conceptual issue - the need to articulate the intuitive basis of a contrast between technique and technology.  One limited distinction is that of the nineteenth century, in which “technology” means a systematic knowledge of the industrial arts, with “technique” being the means of practical application.  Although this distinction continues to influence French (technologie vs. technique) and German (Technologie vs. Technik) usage, it has broken down in English for good reasons.  It appreciates neither the inherently practical character of “technology” (as knowledge), nor the generality of “technique” (as skill, which can be of playing the piano or even reading a book).

Another proposed distinction argues that technological practice involves only interactions with artifacts, whereas technique can involve interaction with artifacts, natural objects, human beings, etc.  There are


techniques of swimming, wrestling, politics, computer programming, automobile construction and maintenance, etc.; but there are only technologies of computer programming, automobile construction and maintenance, etc. [73]  In other words, there are techniques of both making and doing, but there are only technologies of making and using (when use involves artifacts) - and there could be no technology of making in the most primitive sense, making with the hands.

This way of distinguishing technology and technique has immediate commonsense appeal, yet by stressing a material differentia it glosses over a number of difficulties.  First, it fails to explain the fact that sometimes we wish to speak not of the technology of, say, computer programming but of the technique.  It is not just the presence or absence of artifacts in a human activity that determines whether or not it becomes a technology; the question is, instead, one of prominence or relationship to man.  In drawing or writing or piano-playing, the development and training of the human psychomotor complex is much more central than any particular artifact, even though artifacts are undoubtedly employed.  In the case of assembly-line production, on the other hand, the tools or machines are themselves more central.  Thus tools or hand instruments tend to engender techniques, machines technologies - although even with machines, if one wishes to focus on the human manipulative processes, one might well speak of techniques.  (In some cases, of course, the prominence of the tools is unclear and, as with glass blowing, processes can be spoken of both as techniques and technologies.)  Second, “technique” and especially its adjective “technical” connotes singular making, whereas technology connotes multiplicity of production.  An object may, for instance, be said to be technically feasible but not technologically feasible - meaning it can be made but not mass-produced.  Finally, there is a sense in which technology, as opposed to technique, involves the greater use of rules, consciously articulated procedures and guidelines.  As just suggested, technique is more involved with the training of the human body and mind (which is why one can speak of the “techniques of logic” - but not so easily of the “technology of logic”), whereas technology is concerned with exterior things and their rational manipulation.  Techniques involve a large unrational or at least unrationalized (better still: unconscious) component.  Techniques rely a lot on intuition, not so much on discursive thought.  Technologies, on the other hand, are more tightly associated with the conscious articulation of rules and principles (which is why, in another sense, it is possible to speak of logic as a technology).  Sometimes these rules are forced to remain at the level of heuristic principles.  But at the core of technology there seems to be a desire to transform the heuristics of technique into algorithms of practice.


When this is achieved, however, techniques become bound up with technology-as-knowledge as much as with processes. [74]


F’. Types of use: Philosophical analysis of the using of artifacts is an area readily susceptible to cross-fertilization with traditional ethics and politics as well as contemporary philosophy of action. [75]  The following remarks are thus no more than propaedeutic.

Using is a more inclusive concept than making.  Virtually all making involves the using of artifacts.  But not all using results in fabrication.  One type of using which does not directly produce artifacts, for instance, is living within.  It may well be that there is a different type of use for each type of technological object - structures are used by being lived within, tools by being manipulated (in the strict sense, as used with the hand, handled), machines by being “driven,” art objects by being viewed, systems by being managed, etc.  Each of these types of using, however, can be practiced in, as it were, a private or a public (personal or social) manner.  The shift from private to public use commonly goes under the name of innovation - which was described earlier (see 2, General Comments C, i) as the economic exploitation of invention.  Innovation, it can be argued, is the paradigm of technological use.  As such innovation, and what in sociological literature is termed technological transfer, deserves special philosophical consideration.

According to Toulmin’s evolutionary analysis, innovation is part of a three-stage process: “(1) the phase of mutation. (2) that of selection, and (3) that of diffusion and eventual dominance.” [76]  The first is a conceptual or mental activity, the second involves practical testing, and the third is dependent on economic exploitation.

The phase of mutation corresponds to the first half of the research and development operation, during which new techniques and processes are devised and prepared for testing and costing; the phase of se1ection is the one at which, within some specific area of application; the techniques or processes in question are shown to be feasible, both in technical and in economic terms; while the phase of diffusion and dominance… is that in which these skills spread into the general body of industrial and engineering techniques. [77]

While utilization in the broad sense may well have this sequential structure (with possible interrelationships [78]), questions of innovation are more often directly concerned with stage 3, that of diffusion.  The exact character of this diffusion process itself can vary, however, from an unconscious long-term adaptation to a consciously stimulated acquisition.  The complex changes in, say, traditional agriculture over long periods of time are quite different from the well-advertised exploitation of new products in a


consumer-oriented society. Perhaps it may be suggested that this difference results in part from a difference in the way mutation (and hence testing) takes place.

Contrary to Toulinin, mutation can be either (a) material or (b) mental - that is, it can originate either in the artifacts themselves, as a result of wear, accidental variations in materials and fabrication techniques, etc., or it can take place consciously in the mind of an inventor.  In the first case, it is possible that physical diffusion could even occur prior to recognition of utility in the object; in any case, it is a recognition (or discovery) of utility that will be primary.  Yet if utilization is grounded in this recognition utility rather than in novelty of conceptualization, then utility will not be nearly as subject to conscious development.  When mutation takes place as a result of creative conceptualization, however, utilization (testing awl innovation) are likely to have to be planned.  A mental framework at the beginning has implications for the mental structuring of diffusion.  The conscious structuring of mutation, testing, and diffusion is, however, what under some circumstances is termed management.


G’. Management as a technological activity: The question of whether management is a technological activity is related, first, to the problem of relationships between economics and technology and, second, to the question of bureaucracy.

Historical background: classical economics identified three factors in the production of wealth: land, labor, capital (with technological objects, machines, etc. = fixed capital).  The end of the nineteenth century saw the identification of a fourth (by Alfred Marshall): ‘business organization or enterprise.  From this fourth element has evolved the modem concept of management, or the organizing and directing of a business enterprise as a distinct profession if not a science.  Schools of management theory (according to Koontz [79]):

i) Operational school - organized summary of public and private enterprise experience

ii) Empirical school - case studies of successful managers with generalizations there-from (similar to i).

iii) Human behavior school - emphasis on interpersonal relations as key factor in management; oriented toward psychology.

iv) Social system school - stress on cultural relationships; tends toward sociology.

v) Decision theory school - based on theories of decision-making as selection of optimal course of action from various possibilities; business game theory (tends toward iv).


vi) Mathematical school - proposes to quantify and analyze mathematically management and organization processes; includes operations research.

Now any of these schools of management theory is going to be part of technology-as-process because it is involved with making and using artifacts - although sometimes indirectly, through the organization of men.  Technology-as-organization is part of the study of technology-as-process insofar as organization = structured process.  But schools v and vi can be considered technologies in an even stronger sense, according to the contrast between technique and technology set forth above.  For these management theories seek to make conscious a procedure for correctly using tools and machines, technological objects.  In this they seek to be for use what design is for making; they are the engineering of use.  (Note, also, how innovation = the managerial equivalent of invention; thus invention is to making as innovation is to use.)

As for the issue of bureaucracy, this would seem at first sight, in some governmental forms at least, to be not so much a kind of making as a doing.  But given the dependence of ‘bureaucracy on the modern technological infrastructure (typewriters, telephones, etc.), its rise in conjunction with attempts to control a highly technological civilization, and its tendency to be reduced to technocracy, it seems fair to identify this, too as a facet of technology-as-process.

One more suggestion: perhaps the current program for technology assessment should be viewed as a type of management theory in a broad sense.  For, clearly, it is an attempt to generate a calculus of use.


H’. Social and historical setting:  Finally, as is the case with technological objects, the presence or dominance of these various aspects of technology-as-process in different social and historical settings points toward differences in technology in general.  The most obvious distinction to be noticed in this respect is between the dominance of artistic design in the ancient world and engineering design in the modern.  Prior to the development of modern mechanics and its calculus of forces architects and engineers (as well as artisans and other makers of artifacts) were forced to concentrate on formal, not to say aesthetic, properties in their constructions.  With the development of the science of mechanics in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, attention seems to shift, especially by the nineteenth century, toward questions of materials and especially energy efficiency.  Indeed, it is this which was a major contributor to the economic expansion which was part of the Industrial Revolution and might well have taken place to some extent independently of the development of new sources of power (steam engine, etc.); for the energy calculus also makes possible a precise economic assessment, once energy sources can be priced.  In more ways than one, then, the scientific revolution of the modern period paved the way for the technological revolution.  Another social consequence or indicator of the importance of this shift from artistic to engineering design is the fact that prior to, say, 1750 technological


advances strengthened the artisan class; after that they undermined and eventually destroyed it. [80]  Finally, as indicated above, the presence of bureaucracy as a specific structuring of technological processes is also a distinguishing feature of the modern period.


3. Technology-as-knowledge

It is this mode of the manifestation of technology which has so far received the most hard-core philosophical scrutiny.  In this scrutiny philosophers have argued for the following distinctions - working from the least to the most conceptual:

(a) Unconscious sensorimotor awareness of how to make or use some artifact.  Since these sensorimotor skills are unconscious they do not, of course, qualify as knowledge in the strict sense; as a further result they are acquired by apprenticeship to a master (someone who already possesses them) and intuitive training by example.

(b) Technical maxims (Carpenter [81]) or rules of thumb of pre-scientific work (Bunge [82]).  These constitute the first attempt to articulate generalizations about the successful making or using skills.  Example: “To cook rice, bring water to a boil, add one half volume of rice, and simmer for 20 minutes.”  Indeed, most cookbook recipes are composed of technical maxims. [83]

(c) Descriptive laws (Carpenter) or nomopragmatic statements (Bunge).  These laws are of the form “If A then B” with concrete reference to experience.  As Carpenter says, descriptive laws “are like scientific laws in being explicitly descriptive and only implicitly prescriptive of action, but they are not yet scientific in that the theoretical framework which could explain the law is not yet explicit.” [84]  Because they are usually generalizations derived directly from experience, such nomopragmatic formulae are called by engineers empirical laws.  Example: Coulomb’s empirical laws for constructing retaining wails, formulated not with the use of engineering geology and physics, but simply on the basis of the observations about which size and shape fortifications held up well in such and such conditions, etc.  Note that there are also many descriptive laws of use, such as those developed by Taylor from his time and motion studies at the Watertown arsenal.

(d) Technological theories. Theories either systematically relate a number of laws or provide a broad conceptual framework to explain them. Technological theories, according to Bunge, are not two types: substantive and operative. “Substantive technological theories are essentially applications, to nearly real situations, of scientific theories.” [85]  Examples: aerodynamics or the theory of flight as an appli­cation of fluid dynamics; thermodynamics; electrical engineering, etc. Substantive theories, then. Constitute the so-called engineering sciences and are applied sci­ence in the strict sense. [86]  Substantive theory has also been called (by Polanyi) systematic technology, in constrast to the empirical technology of descriptive laws. [87] Operative technological theories “are from the start concerned with the operations of men and men-machine complexes in nearly real situations.” [88] Examples: decision theory, operations research. etc. Substantive theory employs both the content and method of science; operative theory applies only the method of science to problems of action, to develop “scientific theories of action.” [89]  Thus the former are more tied up with making, the latter with use.

256 Index


A. Technical Maxims and technological theories: According to Bunge, the central element in modern technology is the development of another type of technological knowledge in between technical maxims and technological theories.  These are what he calls the grounded rules of applied science.  They are really rules (i.e., like technical maxims they take the form “To get B do A”), but they are not attempts to generalize immediate experience; instead they are grounded in the nomopragmatic statement “if A then B,” which in turn is warranted pragmatically (if not logically) by a scientific law which is part of a scientific theory.  To Bunge’s mind the attempt to understand “exactly what the foundation of rules consists in” constitutes “the core of the philosophy of technology.” [90]


B. Ancient and modern technology: Once again, then, one can state a difference between ancient and modern technology: the former relied for guidance purely on sensorirnotor skills, technical maxims, and descriptive laws, whereas the latter uses these plus technological rules and technological theories.  It might be maintained, as well, that this presence of technological rules and theories undermines the importance of skills and maxims.  There is a need, however, to explore the ways in which these technological rules and theories are made possible by modern science, and the ways in which they in turn make something like engineering design possible.  There is need, that is, for a deeper epistemological and metaphysical analysis of this conceptual differentiation between two kinds of technology-as-knowledge. [91]


C. Technology and science: All types of technology-as-knowledge are generally to be distinguished from science.  Science is based upon observation, and is the accumulation of information about the world; its basic element is a scientific law which describes the way the world is.  Technology, on the other hand, is primarily thought about how to control the world; its basic element is a rule - if not a concrete invention.  The full articulation of the conceptual structure arid epistemological foundations of scientific laws, and the full articulation of the conceptual structure and epistemological foundation of technological rules are the subjects of philosophy of science and philosophy of technology, respectively.  But the most common way to distinguish between science and technology is on the basis of ends or intentions: scientific knowledge is said to aim at knowing the world, technological knowledge aims at controlling or manipulating it. [92]  This is the difference, for Bunge again, between scientific prediction (which is a means for confirmation of theory) and technological forecast (which, by suggesting how to influence circumstances, is a means to control).  Such a difference in aims is also useful to explain the difference between scientific and technological experiments: the first is a test of the truth of some theory, the second a test for effectiveness.  And these different aims, by


their prolongation into action, produce different experimental structures. [93]  Such an appeal immediately points, on the one hand, back toward technology-as-process (testing) and, on the other, forward toward technology-as-volition (intentions).


4. Technology-as-Volition

If technology-as-knowledge is, so far, the best analyzed mode of technology, then technology-as-volition is the least.  Partly this is because the nature of willing is itself so poorly understood by philosophy; will is the elusive Proteus of the philosophy of mind.  And technology-as-volition perfectly illustrates the problem; technologies seem to be tied up with every imaginable will, motive, love, desire, need, intention, affection, choice, etc.  Technology-as-volition has been described in terms of a) will to survive, or to satisfy some basic biological drive; b) will to power; c) will to freedom; d) will to help others, an altruistic will; e) will to make money, the economic will; f) will to be famous; and g) will to realize almost any self-concept.  And each of these could arguably be expected to produce different types of technology.

Over and above the problem of a lack of philosophical consensus about the nature of willing, the difficulty with approaching technology from the perspective of volition or will [94] is threefold.  First, volition is the most individualized and subjective of the four manifestations of technology.  Thus there may well be a sense in which each person’s motivation, being somewhat unique, becomes connected with making and using to give rise to a unique technology.  But surely this is not only the least philosophically interesting thing to say, it is also the least practically meaningful.  Such individuality never has social or public consequences until it is united with similar volitions of others to produce what might be called a social, public, or cultural act of willing.

Second, there is always the problem, in volition, of correspondence between subjective intentions and objective means.  An act of willing, except in the case of oneself, cannot be directly known (some would even argue against its being known directly by oneself); it can only be inferred from action (including, of course, speech).  But is the action or means chosen an adequate expression of the particular intention, so that one can legitimately infer from the character of one back to the character of the other?  The same question arises, except in reverse, with knowing and ideas.  Do one’s ideas adequately correspond to what one knows in reality?  In the case of knowledge we attempt to deal with this issue (at least heuristically) by clarifying our concepts so that individuals may judge for themselves, on the basis of their own experience of an object, which ideas are the best mental representatives of its character.  In the case of technology, however, we are forced (on the same heuristic grounds) to clarify processes and objects in an attempt to discover and elucidate their


objective tendencies and properties, again so that individuals may choose for themselves whether or not they adequately express their own volitions.  Indeed, much of the present (at least popular) discussion about technology and values is vacuous precisely because it does not attempt to do this.  Instead, it assumes that one can take a new value or volition, attach it to an existing process or object, and create a new technology.  But is the existing process or object really commensurate with the new volition?  Sometimes it is, sometimes it is not.  The problem is obviously recognized on the macroscopic level, since people do not try to use guns as toothpicks.  But they do say things like, “The problem with technology is just how man uses it” - thinking that all existing technology can be magically transformed by a change of volitions.  To give a perhaps fatuous example: You cannot really use nuclear weapons for peaceful purposes - to dig canals and that kind of thing.  You just cannot take a constructive will and harness to it a technological object with an intrinsic principle of massive destructiveness.  The object resists; either it alters your volition, you fail in your project, or you abandon it for some more nearly adequate means.  To avoid such mistakes what is needed is a clarification of the inherent nature of various technological processes and objects - which is what is coming about through contemporary historical, sociological and ecological studies of technology.

Third, there is the problem of self-understanding and levels of the will.  According to Pfänder’s phenomenology of willing and motivation, [95] willing in the general sense is only awareness of striving - a psychological phenomenon which impinges on the ego, but does not involve its center or core.  In its lowest form striving would be experienced as a biological urge or instinct, although it might also be felt as a peripheral wish, hope, longing, desire, fear, etc.  Striving is simply characterized by an awareness of something absent which attracts - and can be composed of numerous even conflicting impu1ses.  What converts this striving into an act of willing is its being taken into the center of the ego.  Willing in the strict sense is constituted only after one comes to believe that the goal of a striving can be realized through one’s own actions, and when (as sometimes happens) the ego spontaneously sides or identifies with such striving.  As Pfänder says. “Thus willing, but not striving, includes the immediate consciousness of self.”  In other words, “The act of willing is... a practical act of proposing filled with a certain intent of the will which issues from the ego-center and, penetrating to the ego itself, induces in it a certain future behavior.  It is an act of self-determination in the sense that the ego is both the subject and the object of the act.” [96]  But since it is of’ “the very essence of the performance of an act of willing” that the ego appears as the agent,” [97] willing is dependent on the self-concept possessed by the ego.  Only if one sees oneself in a certain way can one identify with some


particular striving.  The question for technology, then, is what self-concept enables or urges one to identify with certain strivings the proper means to the realization of which are particular types of technology?  The question becomes one of the understanding, or better self-understanding, of man.

Why is it necessary, though, to raise such questions in precisely this form with regard to technology?  Clearly all three difficulties immediately take us out of the present limited conceptual typology.  The second returns us to questions of technology-as-process and as-object - at once physical and metaphysical.  The first and third point toward the anthropological foundations of technology, to the question of the relationship between technology and man.  The answer is that whereas knowing is, as it were, its own volition, making and using are not.  Knowing needs no independent act of the will to be set in motion in the psyche; this is one thing it means to say man is a rational animal.  In knowing, activity (insofar as activity is involved) is a means to something which is already experienced as an end in itself; knowing is so intimately involved with man’s nature he simply does it without questions.  (In fact, he only questions not doing it.)  The same does not hold, however, for making and using.  Here the questions are always not “Why not?” but “Why?” [98]  Strivings are always initially experienced as eccentric, outside one’s core self.  Only after investigation and questioning in terms of oneself is it possible for them to be affirmed or identified with.  They are only undertaken as self-projects if the ego can, through its self-understanding, side with them.  To say the same thing in a different way: Kierkegaard defines the soul as a relation which relates itself to itself. [99]  In so doing it is always questioning its other relationships.  In Kierkegaard’s anthropology man is always trying to identify himself with various projects - striving for pleasure, striving for fame, etc. - but in each case the development of this self-concept undermines the identification.  What is it about the ego, then, that allows such a “siding” with technology to take place in the stabilized form that history evidently presents?  Do some self-understandings encourage and others discourage particular sidings?  Again, such questions point directly toward philosophical anthropology and the origins of technology in the nature of man.



Let me now summarize the typology I have developed and briefly indicate two conclusions. Technology, to my mind, should be differentiated modally and generically.  Its four modes are technology-as-object, as-process, as-knowledge, and as-volition.  Each of these modes is composed of certain more or less definite elements: utilities, utensils, tools, machines, devices, etc., for technology-as-object, and so on.  Any generic differences in types of technology should be able to be stated in terms of


the presence and organization of elements under each of these four modes - although this, by itself, will not give a definition of the essence of a technology.  The essence is what stands behind and manifests itself differentially (but with equal strength) in each mode.  The one clear generic difference I have found distinguishes between ancient and modern technology.  Each species, however, can be further subdivided by the matter and imagination in and through which it is embodied into an indefinite number of subspecies - although in the case of modern technology, I would suggest that one of its characteristic features, grounded in the rnathematization of its possible modalities, is a tendency to remain highly unified.  Such a morphology can be conveniently diagrammed in the following manner (Figure 3 [HHC: not reproduced]):

Figure 3.  Morphology of Technology

Underlying this morphological distinction there is, as it were, an anatomy and physiology.  Generic differences are clearly evident only in pure types; but the structural identification of pure types is problematical.  Technology is practiced as often in impure as in pure forms.  Thus it is necessary (to extend the biological metaphor) to indicate the structural possibilities for natural variations from the ideal type.  To say the same thing in a different way: The problem of grasping the essence of technology within a species is complicated by the fact that each of its modes can,


at any one point in time or social history, exist independently of others and thus manifest the essence it own way.  Through this temporary independence a complex set of aggregates and subspecies, exaggerations of varying stabilities, readily comes into being.  There is, then, need for the recognition of what may be called the concept of pure technology and its relationships to technology in its various impure or incomplete forms.  The requisite anatomical analysis can be indicated by means of a modified Venn diagram (Figure 4 [HHC: not reproduced]):

Figure 4.  Anatomy of Technology [100]


[101]. [102], [103]


Ancient technology would have its own corresponding conceptual anatomy.

It is important to recognize that this scheme is not necessarily exhaustive; nor do all aspects denote equally real possibilities.  Some probably denote no more than abstract fictions.  Furthermore, in modern technology objects and knowledge tend to collapse into processes in ways that make process a much more dominant category than in ancient technology.  Nevertheless, such a two-dimensional typology provides, I think, a basis for practical reflection on our polytechnical environment and capabilities, at the same time that it points toward philosophical resolutions to many of the conflicting descriptions of the nature and meaning of technology. [104]  However, as has already been stated, this conceptual framework is merely a speculative presentation lacking full development and detail.  The anatomical description is put forth with special tentativeness.  And morphologically, no suggestion has been made for a definition of either species of technology, while my notes and comments have stressed the need for deeper epistemological and metaphysical studies.  But the anatomical analysis nevertheless hints that the essential nature of technology, ancient or modern, will be found most clearly revealed at the point of its greatest density - in the confluence of objects, processes, knowledge, and volitions.  One way of reading this paper is as a prolegomenon to a critique of pure technology.  And as my conspicuous omission of a description of specific differences in terms of technology-as-volition is meant to indicate, it is through a philosophical analysis of the relationship between technology and this aspect of man that such a critique ought now to be developed.  Yet that attempt lies beyond the scope of the present paper, and must be left for another occasion.



The Competitiveness of Nations

in a Global Knowledge-Based Economy

September 2004

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