Throughout the history of mankind, technology has had a profound impact on civilization. Technology can refer to material objects, methods of organization, research, design, and management. It also can refer to the creative application of knowledge. Technology is important because it shapes and reflects the values of a cultural system.
Technological innovations can create extraordinary benefits and can cause unexpected harm. These developments are often a cause for public debate and formal regulation. However, governments often lack the tools to identify violations.
New technologies require tools, materials, knowledge, and energy. New technologies also need to be disposed of properly and sustainably. Moreover, they need to be replaced as soon as they become obsolete. The process of shaping and regulating technology can be a daunting undertaking.
For example, new technologies need to be evaluated to identify risks before they are fully developed. This involves a careful balance between restricting benefits and mitigating risks.
In Europe, several nations have adopted a precautionary principle that regulates new technologies in order to minimize risks before they become fully developed. These regulations include the General Data Protection Regulation, which focuses on responsibilities of data processors and data controllers.
In the United States, technology has largely been regulated by litigation. However, several countries are starting to regulate computer technologies. In a 2011 study, the National Bureau of Economic Research found that poor nations are more likely to lack access to modern technologies.
The debate over the social effects of technology dates back to the 1970s. Technologists have often criticized the new Luddites, who seek to mitigate the societal impact of technological change.