The rapid development of thermodynamics and electromagnetism in the nineteenth century opened up a whole new world of technology in the twentieth century. One could say that the efforts of the physicists of the late eighteenth and mid nineteenth centuries paved the way for the technicians and inventors of the second half of the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries to create many novel and ingenious devices. This close connection between the physicists and inventors has become a source of confusion in the sociology and politics of science; a confusion that can damage public’s understanding of science, and consequently, science itself. Therefore, the disentanglement of this confusion is a necessary prerequisite for a true appreciation of the nature and the workings of the scientific enterprise.
Science is blind to its future human utility
Science discovers the laws of nature blindly, purposelessly, and without regards to its potential human use. If it has an eye, it is to see the hidden secrets of nature. If it has a purpose, it is to connect what is known to what is unknown. If it is human, it is only due to its apparent confinement to the planet Earth. Any other intelligent species, regardless of its location in the universe will discover the same science. The fact that scientific laws are discovered by scientists, who happen to be human beings, does not make science itself human-dependent.
That science is void of any humanistic trait is evident from its history of development. It started in Egypt and Babylon, moved to Greece and India, went back to the Middle East, and finally landed in the West. As diverse as these civilizations were, and as violently as they clashed, the transfer of science was always inevitable, because it empowered the conquering civilizations with new means to rule more effectively. Unlike other culturally motivated characteristics of humans such as language, which has numerously been trampled to extinction by history, science has always strengthened on passage from one culture to the next. The only exception is the passage from Greece to Rome where it stagnated for almost two millennia.
Technology is application of science to human needs
Technology, on the other hand, applies science sightedly, purposefully, and humanly, and as such, is very much dependent on culture, politics, economy, and all the other characteristics of the human society. In fact the very word “technology” comes from the Greek word technikos, meaning art or artifice. Just as a sculptor uses the raw material such as stone and clay to create a statue for human pleasure and human consumption, so does a technician use the raw material such as wires and circuits to create a television set for human pleasure and human consumption.