The Language of Tech

Technology, tech, techno, technological. What do all these words mean? Are they interchangeable? How should we use them? That’s what we’ll be discussing in today’s article.

Before we get into specifics, it is important to note the role that language plays in our lives, both on a societal and individual level. Although we use it every day, we don’t really think too much of the language. Rarely do we scrutinize the words we use or what consequence a specific word might have; we just let them spill out. We orally express our thoughts as we formulate them in our minds. This, among other factors, often leads to a misuse of language. Misuse in the sense that language becomes broad, vague, and generalized. We use words without really understanding what they mean and our use of them lacks the nuance necessary to better translate ideas - and understand one another.

(I believe that part of the intense social division we feel today is because we are too quick to generalize, and fail to recognize let alone acknowledge the slight variations in our ideas and speech. We miss the details, which is dangerous because details help solve issues.)

With that said, it is logical that we clearly define the different terms related to this grand field of Technology. As we will see, the words are connected by the same Greek root - the word techne which means art, skill, or craft - but they do not all mean the same thing.

Even so, the word technology, itself can be understood in different ways. It is a concept consisting of the practical application of knowledge - often scientific - to solve specific issues. It also refers to the set of skills, systems, techniques, and processes that are required to solve issues. In other words, technologies are the product of technology. Perhaps a simpler way to look at it is that the former is an object while the latter is a practice. Both, however, involve creativity, creation, and innovation - notions that derive from a systemic treatment of knowledge and skill. Thus, technology, in general, is a more formal word.

Tech, on the other hand, is more specific. Although it essentially means the same thing as “technology” since it uses that same root word, “tech” has a different connotation - the idea a word invokes - than technology precisely because it is a truncation of that word. In common parlance, we tend to tack “tech” onto anything that seems heavily related to digital media, social media, or futuristic ideas. It has sort of become a catch-all term for the way we do business nowadays - and not just in the literal sense. In this instance, we can think of the phrases “tech startups”, “high tech”, “tech platforms”, “tech gear”, “tech platforms”, “food tech”, and so forth. The list is long. The word tech also brings to mind our friends in Silicon Valley, the birthplace and breeding ground of the aforementioned tech startups that flood the marketplace (we would know because we’re one of them, although not from Silicon Valley). Some companies brand themselves specifically as “tech companies" - because this word has, again, a specific connotation - but the reality is that all businesses function within a range of technology. No business would be able to function without technology. What differentiates these companies is the type of technology they are centered around.

Finally, the word “tech” is unique in that it has an aura that makes it somehow easier to understand, and thus more relatable. Think of how you would react if someone used the full word “technology” instead of “tech” in a casual conversation. Wouldn’t that throw you off?

Simply put, tech is technology’s informal cousin, though edgier and more palatable.

The last edition we will discuss is “techno”, a word that feels like it’s trying too hard to be cool, like an older person wanting to say “tech”, but stumbling and adding an “o” at the end. Which is to say, it doesn’t feel quite right. In actuality, techno is a valid word that refers to a style of music, more specifically EDM music (electronic dance music). We can see the overlap here between the concept of technology and “electronic”: electronic techniques were applied to music in the 70s, 80s, and 90s to supposedly enhance and make it better. Technology advancements resulted in music becoming “electric” as in, dependent on electric formats. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, techno is “electronic dance music that features a fast beat and synthesized sounds usually without vocals or a conventional popular song structure.”

Other derivatives of “techne” are technique and technical, but because those have clearly separated definitions, they tend not to be used interchangeably with “technology”. But stayed tuned, because we may discuss them in a future article.