Technology is a broad concept that can be divided into categories based on the methods of application, problems they solve and purposes they serve. It encompasses both tangible tools such as utensils or machines and intangible ones such as software.
Each engineering design operates within constraints, some of which are absolute (physical laws or physical properties), while others have some flexibility (such as economics, political considerations, social opposition, ecological concerns). Reaching a reasonable compromise among these can be a challenging exercise. An optimum technology is one that takes advantage of the constraints, without undue harm to those who use it.
Moreover, a technology is often in competition with other technologies that clamor for people’s finite attention and energy. As a result, the successful technology tends to prioritize some pathways and end points above others. For example, digital cameras replaced analogue film cameras and darkrooms, thereby deprioritizing the inefficient, but gratifying, analogue photography pathway.
Moreover, it is not only large technologies such as nuclear reactors or agriculture that are prone to side effects; even ordinary technologies, such as refrigerators, may cause unexpected consequences. For example, a tiny leak from the cooling systems of some refrigerators can have a significant effect on Earth’s atmosphere.