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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.
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.
Examples include the rise of the notion of efficiency in terms of human productivity, and the challenges of bioethics.
Philosophical debates have arisen over the use of technology, with disagreements over whether technology improves the human condition or worsens it.
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.When combined with another term, such as "medical technology" or "space technology," it refers to the state of the respective field's knowledge and tools."State-of-the-art technology" refers to the high technology available to humanity in any field.An articulation of this philosophy could be found explicitly in Vannevar Bush's treatise on postwar science policy, Science – The Endless Frontier: "New products, new industries, and more jobs require continuous additions to knowledge of the laws of nature ...This essential new knowledge can be obtained only through basic scientific research." In the late-1960s, however, this view came under direct attack, leading towards initiatives to fund science for specific tasks (initiatives resisted by the scientific community).Not all technology enhances culture in a creative way; technology can also help facilitate political oppression and war via tools such as guns.As a cultural activity, technology predates both science and engineering, each of which formalize some aspects of technological endeavor.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).In this usage, technology refers to tools and machines that may be used to solve real-world problems.It is a far-reaching term that may include simple tools, such as a crowbar or wooden spoon, or more complex machines, such as a space station or particle accelerator.