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The term's meanings changed in the early 20th century when American social scientists, beginning with Thorstein Veblen, translated ideas from the German concept of Technik into "technology." In German and other European languages, a distinction exists between technik and technologie that is absent in English, which usually translates both terms as "technology." By the 1930s, "technology" referred not only to the study of the industrial arts but to the industrial arts themselves.In 1937, the American sociologist Read Bain wrote that "technology includes all tools, machines, utensils, weapons, instruments, housing, clothing, communicating and transporting devices and the skills by which we produce and use them." Bain's definition remains common among scholars today, especially social scientists.Scientists and engineers usually prefer to define technology as applied science, rather than as the things that people make and use.More recently, scholars have borrowed from European philosophers of "technique" to extend the meaning of technology to various forms of instrumental reason, as in Foucault's work on technologies of the self (techniques de soi).The exact relations between science and technology in particular have been debated by scientists, historians, and policymakers in the late 20th century, in part because the debate can inform the funding of basic and applied science.In the immediate wake of World War II, for example, it was widely considered in the United States that technology was simply "applied science" and that to fund basic science was to reap technological results in due time.Tools and machines need not be material; The word "technology" can also be used to refer to a collection of techniques.
The development of technology may draw upon many fields of knowledge, including scientific, engineering, mathematical, linguistic, and historical knowledge, to achieve some practical result.Technology is often a consequence of science and engineering, although technology as a human activity precedes the two fields.For example, science might study the flow of electrons in electrical conductors by using already-existing tools and knowledge.The simplest form of technology is the development and use of basic tools.The prehistoric discovery of how to control fire and the later Neolithic Revolution increased the available sources of food, and the invention of the wheel helped humans to travel in and control their environment.