Friday, July 24, 2009

The Meaning of Technology

An Essay


In our everyday lives, most of us use a number of words that we assume have a universal, agreed-upon, and accepted meaning for all people in all contexts.

Often, the more frequently the word is used, the more we take for granted that our usage is the only possible usage of the term.

One such popular word freely bandied about and very much in-vogue jargon now-a-days is technology.

Let us explore the meaning of the word “technology”.

The word “technology” comprises two parts – “technikos” & “ology”

The historical derivation of the term technology comes from the Greek word technikos, meaning “of art, skillful, practical”

The portion of the word ology indicates“knowledge of” or a “systematic treatment of.”

Thus, the literal verbatim derivation of the term technology is literally“knowledge of the skilful and practical”

However, this definition is too general in nature and we have to transcend this narrow view of technology since every technology starts from a human purpose, from the intention to satisfy some human need or behaviour.

Indeed, technology is the manipulation of nature for human purpose – yes, manipulation of nature, so let us use a slightly different definition of technology.

We will define technology as the knowledge of the manipulation of nature for human purposes.

This definition retains the notions of both knowledge and practicality (human purposes) but adds the new concept of manipulation of nature.

This implies that all practical or technical skills ultimately derive from alterations or manipulation of nature.

Technology depends on a base in the natural world (Science) but extends the natural world through the phenomenon of manipulation (Engineering).

Since we want to manipulate nature, the ability to predict what nature will do when manipulated is most useful, indeed imperative.


By our very definition, technology manipulates nature for human purposes.

Technology manipulates nature.

Man is a part of nature.

By manipulating nature, man manipulates himself.

Thus, technology manipulates man, influences, even governs human behaviour, and in turn impinges on societal behaviour, traditions and culture.

Technology is an entity that intervenes in the life of human beings in multifarious ways, directly or indirectly, trying to alter behaviours.

Thus, Technology has an Ethical Dimension.

The very raison d’etre of technology is human purpose.

What is the fundamental purpose of human life?

Is it to increase standard of living?

Is it to improve quality of life?

Or is it to have greater satisfaction in life?

We can distill all these various aspects into a single holistic concept:


Thus, the cardinal aim of technology is to enhance the value of human life.


Let us define the value of human life as the balance or ratio between satisfaction or happiness and pain or suffering.


In the context of this definition, the ultimate purpose of technology is to enhance the value of human life, with a long-term perspective,by maximization of happiness and satisfaction and a concomitant reduction or minimization of pain and suffering (physical, mental and emotional).

As a generalization, people want a better life.

A better life may usually mean things like freedom from want, access to and possession of at least some of the “nonessentials”, comforts or luxuries, good health, a reasonable life expectancy, the absence of emotional stresssatisfying human relations (resulting from gratifying work experience and meaningful interpersonal relationships), intellectual stimulation, and personally rewarding leisure activities.


Human needs and values change through time as technology advances.

Man tends to accept the fruits of new technology more readily (satisfaction, pleasure, happiness, comfort) whereas he is reluctant to accept changes in his personal life.

Thus, social and cultural changes always lag behind technology causing a mismatch and disconnect which consequently leads to unhappiness, dissatisfaction, pain and suffering (emotional) and concomitant lowering of the value of human life.

A crude but practical way of classifying human values is to divide needs into those that are essentially physiological and those that are psychological.

Most new technologies cater to the physiological aspect by performing DangerousDirty, or Difficult jobs (the 3 D’s) thereby enhancing the value of human life.

As regards the psychological aspect, an example pertaining to Information Technology (IT) may be in order.

Information Technology (IT) caters to two unique categories of psychological needs of humans:
Cognitive Needs – which refer to the human need for information so as to be ready to act or make decisions that may be required, and

Affective Needs – which refer to the emotional requirements of human, such as their need to do challenging work, to know their work has value, to feel personally secure, and to be in control.

Undue emphasis on cognitive needs and consequent neglect of affective needs may cause emotional pain that counterbalances the gains from technology and this may be detrimental to the “value of human life” as a whole.


Effects and Consequences of Technology

In our haste to milk technology for immediate economic advantage, we often lose sight of the long-term consequences: the higher order and indirect effects, especially the delayed and unintended effects of technology.

The Sorenson multiple effect network methodology is a useful technique for an analyzing the impact and consequences of technology.

Let us introduce the term malefit to represent harmful effects and consequences of a technology in contrast with benefit as a useful output.

We may categorize the consequences of a technology (Effects vs Consequences) as:


(i)         First Order                  :           Benefits
(ii)        Second Order              :           Direct Malefits
(iii)       Third Order                 :           Indirect Malefits
(iv)       Fourth Order               :           Unintended Malefits
(v)        Fifth Order                  :           Delayed Malefits

Such analyses definitely help in assessing the impact of various consequences of a technology on the value of human life in the long-term perspective in holistic manner.

Early identification of factors detrimental to the value of human life may prove useful in technology impact assessment to reduce mismatches and smoothen out incongruities.


We must not lose sight of our basic premise that the cardinal aim of technology is to increase the value of human life by maximising happiness and minimising suffering.
Ethical Technology Management comprises a harmonious blend of rational thinking and empathic understanding wherein one studies, analyses and mitigates the conflicting interplay between human cognitive and affective processes.

It may be apt to conclude with a comment by RM Pirsig, who states that:

“The way to solve the conflict between human values and technological needs is not to run away from technology. That is impossible. The way to resolve the conflict is to break down the barriers of dualistic thought that prevent a real understanding of what technology is… not an exploitation of nature, but a fusion of nature and the human spirit into a new kind of creation that transcends both”.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

Did you like this article?
I am sure you will like the stories in my recently published book COCKTAIL comprising twenty seven short stories about relationships. To order the book please click the links below:

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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer. Educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and he is currently working on his novel. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles in magazines and journals for many years before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for almost 14 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing. Vikram lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts. 

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© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

Thursday, July 23, 2009



Musings on Training Design



Training Design is the sine qua non for the efficacy of a Training Programme.

In fact, Training Design is the basis, the foundation, the core of all Training.

That is why the first thing I do before designing a training programme is to reflect, explore, consider, analyse and decide as to which Training Philosophy – Confucian or Zen – is relevant to the context in the particular Training Need and Environment.


In the Confucian Training Philosophy the aim of training is to qualify the trainee for a more important job.

In other words, Training is inextricably linked with Career Advancement, and since Training is primarily for promotion, if the training is not followed by promotion or career advancement quickly enough, non-realization of expectations may create frustration and resentment in the trainee.


In the Zen Training Philosophy the purpose of Training is continuous improvement in performance.

The emphasis here is on “continuous improvement”.

The aim is to improve the present performance of the trainee by focusing on excellence in work and self-development, strengthening the inner urge and enhancing requisite skills for work-excellence and job-satisfaction without the trainee expecting any tangible material or career advancement returns.


And of course, if you want to avoid a formal training programme altogether, there is always my favourite good old time-tested training philosophy which is breathtaking in its simplicity: “Entrust a man with responsibility and then tell him to get on with the job!”

It’s called “On the Job Training” and it always works – you can take my word for it!


Hey, can someone out there reading this please tell us the difference between Training and Education.

Is there a difference? If so what are various “Education Philosophies” akin to “Training Philosophies”?

Come on you academics and thinkers out there – please throw some light on this subject so that we don’t confuse Training with Education, and vice versa.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Management Wisdom - Marketing

Dear Reader: I read this somewhere, jotted it down in my diary, and now, am posting these nuggets of management wisdom for your perusal. Have a laugh and then reflect.


You see a gorgeous girl at a party.
You go up to her and say, "I am very rich. Marry me!"
That is Direct Marketing.

You are at a party with a bunch of friends and see a gorgeous girl.
One of your friends goes up to her and pointing at you says, “He is very rich. Marry him."
That is Advertising.

You see a gorgeous girl at a party.
You go up to her and ask her for her cell phone number.The next day you call her up and say, "Hi, I am very rich. Marry me."
That is Telemarketing.

You are at a party and see a gorgeous girl.
You get up and straighten your tie, walk up to her and get her a drink. You open the door for her, pick up her bag after she drops it, give her a lift in your car, and then say, “By the way, I am very rich. Will you marry me?"
That is Public Relations.

You are at a party and see a gorgeous girl.
She walks up to you and says, "You are very rich.”
That is Brand Recognition.

You see a gorgeous girl at a party.
You go up to her and say, "I am very rich. Marry me."She gives you a nice hard slap on your face.
That is Customer Feedback.

Hey, you management wizards out there, any comments?


Friday, July 10, 2009

Art of Teaching




Part 1: Donkey Language

Before I begin to pontificate on the Art of Teaching here is an apocryphal story:

A wise man, a renowned teacher, once publicly vowed that he would eradicate illiteracy and teach everyone to read.

Some mischievous boys brought a donkey to the teacher and asked him if he could teach the donkey to read.

The wise teacher stunned the students by taking up the challenge and said, “Give me the donkey for a month and I will teach it to read.”

The teacher went home and began to train his donkey to read. At first he put the donkey into the stable and gave him no food for some days. Then he found a thick book and put some hay between the pages. In the beginning the teacher turned the pages and gave the donkey the hay between the pages.

After a while the donkey learnt to turn the pages with his tongue to find and eat the feed by itself. Each time when the donkey finished the book and found no more feed between the pages it would bray: “Eee aah, Eee aah!”

Three days before the one month period was over the teacher stopped feeding the donkey till the poor donkey after fasting for three days without a morsel of food was voraciously hungry.

On the fateful day when the whole school assembled to see the miracle of the donkey reading, the wise teacher brought the ravenously hungry donkey onto the stage. He asked for a big book and put it in front of the donkey.

The hungry donkey turned the first page of the book with its tongue and when it could not find any feed the donkey brayed: “Eee aah, Eee aah!” and turned one more page, and again not finding any hay it cried: “Eee aah, Eee aah!”

The famished donkey kept turning the pages of the book one by one with its tongue and when it could not find any feed between the pages its braying grew louder and louder and soon the hapless donkey was turning the pages and shrieking in a loud voice: “Eee aah, Eee aah!” till it reached a crescendo.

Proud of his achievement the wise teacher said to the gathering: “You all have seen that the donkey has turned the pages of the book and he read it.”

One of the naughty students asked: “But we could not understand anything.”

The wise teacher replied: “Of course you could not understand what the donkey read because it was donkey language. In order to understand it you have to learn donkey language. Come to me for tuition in the evening. I will teach you donkey language.”

[To be continued…]


Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work

Monday, July 6, 2009

What is the difference between SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY and ENGINEERING

Do you know the difference between Science, Technology and Engineering




Tell me, what is the difference between Science, Technology and Engineering?

It is simple.

The principal goal of a Scientist is to publish a paper.

Now-a-days, the sheer manner in which so many papers are churned out it seems that many papers are seen to be written, not written to be seen.

Of course, a genuine Scientist will try and ensure that
the paper must be written to be seen and not seen to be written.

Science is the reasoned investigation or study of natural phenomena with the objective of discovering new principles and knowledge of natural phenomena. Basically, a scientist is a "bookish" fellow!

The principal goal of a Technologist is to produce some physical change in the world.

Technology is the practical application of science.

Technology includes the skill, technique and knowledge of the manipulation of nature for human purposes, using scientific results and knowledge.

The principal goal of an Engineer is to design, create and produce new tools, machines and systems for practical human means by exploiting technology.

In a nutshell, a Scientist studies nature, a Technologist manipulates nature, and an Engineer exploits technology for human purposes.

So it looks like the Engineer is the one who is most useful to society and humankind, isn't it?

Dear Reader, do you agree?

Please do give your views and comments.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Radar System Analysis -- A Useful Book

Book Review -- Radar System Analysis by David K Barton

Radar Systems Analysis is a comprehensive and cohesive introduction to radar systems design and performance estimation. It offers professionals the knowledge they need to understand, analyze, evaluate, or design radar systems. The book presents accurate detection range equations for realistically estimating radar performance in a variety of practical situations. As radar systems evolve, designers, engineers, and analysts can turn to this book again and again to keep up with the latest advances in radar technology.

This book offers radar engineers all the fundamental and advanced information they need in day-to-day work. Readers will find several lucid chapters on various aspects of radar, such as theory of target detection, theory of radar measurement, description of radar targets, theory of search radar and its signal synthesis and analysis, error analysis, processing of radar data and tracking systems.

The book is divided into seventeen chapters starting with the theory of target detection where the radar echoes and noises are dealt with along with the integration of pulses. Chapter 2, 3 and 4 deals with the radar measurement of range, angle and velocity using the classical radar equation description, and description on RCS and complex targets. Chapter 5, 6, 7 and 8 is dedicated to the search radar and its target detection and measurement, MTI techniques, and synthesis and analysis. Chapter 9 to 14 deals extensively with the track radars which include angle measurement and tracking and its error analysis, range tracking systems, Doppler tracking systems, tracking radar data processing and its acquisition. There are discussions on the survey of propagation effects and multistation radar networks.

This book details practical procedures for search and track radar system testing and evaluation of radar range in difficult environments of combined noise, jamming, and clutter. However, an important topic like radar testing and evaluation gets one lonely chapter with somewhat cursory coverage. The book is substantiated with the adequate references and bibliography along with mathematical approximations for radar beam shape, spectra and waveforms.

Tables on transmission line and receiver input noise temperatures and table on radar range factors for system power change from 0 to 40 db have been provided for appropriate reference and use.

This excellent book summarizes the theory of radar systems and provides the radar engineer with methods and tools for estimating the performance of a wide variety of radars and for synthesizing or selecting radar designs to meet detection and tracking requirements, and, I recommend this book to all those interested in this fascinating field and Libraries of Technical Educational Institutions.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Change Management - Overcoming Addiction - FORCE FIELD ANALYSIS Technique


An easy technique to overcome addictions



Many years ago, at work, I used to employ a Management Technique called Force Field Analysis in Project Management.

Now I improvise the Force Field Analysis Model to great effect and success, in my personal life too for self improvement, to break bad habits – to change my life for the better.

So can you.

Let me give you an example.

It was a tough and stressful working day.

It was hot and humid, I was tired, sweating profusely, my throat parched with thirst, and as I walked home late in the evening, I found myself opposite my favorite bar.

I looked yearningly, tempted, overcome by a strong craving, desperate to have a glass of chilled beer.

Nothing like a glass of cold beer to drive my blues away – the “panacea” to my “stressed-out” state!

But I didn’t go into the bar.

Instead, I rushed to the nearest Chaatwala and had some pani-puri.

The moment I put the first pani-puri in my mouth, the intense overpowering medley of sweet and sour, pungently hot, fiery and spicy flavor of the chutneys, jal jeera and “pani” overwhelmed me and made my craving thirst for beer disappear pretty fast and enabled me to stick my resolve of giving up drinking.

I had suitably improvised the concept of “Force Field Analysis” to break my drinking habit and then keep it that way.

Long back, I had quit smoking too, and to stay that way, make sure I didn’t start again, I used force field analysis with great success.

Force Field Analysis provides a framework for looking at the factors or forces that influence a situation or activity.

Restraining Forces are those which inhibit or discourage the occurrence of a particular activity and Driving Forces are those which promote, facilitate and encourage the occurrence of the same activity.

Let’s say Driving Forces are positive anchors and Restraining Forces are negative anchors [similar to the anchors in NLP].

Let’s take the case of drinking. Sit down, close your eyes, and introspect.

Can you identify the stimuli, the triggers, and the situations, the driving forces, which create in you the desire and give rise to the urge to drink?

These driving forces can be anything, internal and external tangible or intangible – people, situations, events, parties, tendencies, moods, foods, social or organizational trends, practices, norms.

Do a simple exercise.

For the next week, or even a month, be yourself, live as you do, but mindfully record all the occasions on which you had alcohol and carefully list the driving forces that motivated you to drink.

Was it a social event, party, friends, as an appertif before some gourmet food, smoking, dancing, “creativity”, for reducing inhibitions or enhancing excitement as a prelude to sex, tiredness, happiness, celebration, depression, boredom, the company or memories of some people, sad memories, self pity, jealousy, inner craving, addiction…?

Do it thoughtfully and make an exhaustive list of the driving forces.

Make a list of restraining forces that discourage or inhibit you from drinking.

Concern for health?

Wife’s nagging?

Physical Exercise?

Values, religious and cultural taboos, regulations like prohibition and no drinking zones, work and hobbies, social encouragement of temperance?

Some types of foods too are effective restraining forces [for me, pani-puri, bhel, jal jeera, lassi are quite effective. Also I lose the urge to drink after a good meal].

Through self-awareness, mindful living and personal experience, record the restraining forces meticulously.

Now all you have to do to quit drinking is to strengthen the restraining forces, mitigate and weaken the driving forces and most importantly, where possible, change direction of some driving forces and convert them into restraining forces by using techniques from concepts like NLP, 4T etc or, best of all, your own improvised techniques [like the in lieu substitution method I have evolved for myself].

Learn how to tactfully and effectively avoid drinking.

Suppose your friends try to force you, taunt you saying you are a sissy, spoil sport, killjoy etc simply say, "I really must go," and leave the place.

Remember what Epictetus said: If you want to do something make a habit of it; if you want not to do something refrain from doing it.

I’ve also read somewhere: If want to be happily married, remain in the company of happily married people.

Always be with likeminded people whom you want to emulate.

If you want to stop drinking try to be in the company of non-drinkers.

Avoid situations which elicit craving.

Substitute healthy activities like physical exercise, recreation and creative hobbies instead of drinking.

Change your lifestyle, your friends, and your activities.

Identify your stimuli, triggers, situations, people and anchors, internal and external, tangible and intangible – the driving forces that create in you the urge to have a drink and facilitate drinking and mitigate them by improvising force field analysis as it suits you best.

Force Field Analysis works for me.

Dear Reader, do let me know if it works for you!


Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work