It is known that science and technology have become branches of activity inseparable from the life and progress of society for several decades. The two concepts are today so interrelated that they have come to be considered as one. The study of their origins reveals, however, notable differences. In order to formalize in a pragmatic way both concepts and delimit their spheres of action, their definitions, characteristics and interdependencies are exposed. Both science and technology justify their existence in the search for and development of products, services, means, tools and other entities capable of satisfying human needs and the needs of life in general.
Science and technology today constitute a powerful pillar of cultural, social, economic and general development of life in modern society. Their influence is such that current life has been flooded in all its aspects by a growing avalanche of products coming from both spheres, the systematic use of which has been imposed as a condition for development in this historical stage.
Science is understood as that sphere of activity of society, whose essential object is the acquisition of knowledge about the surrounding world. Science consists of four fundamental components:
- The human factor, represented by scientists and all the personnel who collaborate with the aims of scientific activity.
- The social factor, composed of the set of relationships that scientists maintain within the framework of their work; manifestations of these relationships are constituted by societies, work groups and teams, invisible schools, etc.
- The cognitive factor, which even when it includes the necessary processes to generate theoretical, methodological, practical or other knowledge, is manifested through informal (conferences, exchanges of reprints, etc.) or formal means (scientific journals, manuals, etc.) of scientific communication, which are the ones that essentially symbolize this component.
Laws (stable or probabilistic regularities identified in the behavior of natural, social or other processes), constitute one of the forms that scientific knowledge adopts, which possesses a great significance for society because it allows to transform both objective reality and itself in a conscious (with effect knowledge) and controlled way.
- The material factor, which includes the instruments, equipment or other elements that constitute tools that scientists use directly in the cognitive process, as well as the facilities (laboratories, buildings, etc.) within which this type of activity is carried out.
Many objects taken in isolation from the scientific context contain elements of two or more of the above components. For example, the management methods of scientific personnel, although they are based on different disciplines, are applied in the social context of the sciences, i.e. in the sphere of relations between individuals and collectives.
Technology, on the other hand, constitutes that sector of society’s activity engaged in the modification of the surrounding world.
The transformation of objective reality is effected through a closed cycle of five moments or stages that includes both the product or service and the processes of its generation. These five phases that any product or service goes through are: determination of its need; design and development of the product, service and process; production or provision of the service; assessment of the supplier and the customer; and analysis of the improvement of the product or service and of the process.
Although a little schematically, the cognitive needs of man can be considered as the origin of science and material needs, as the source of the development of technology. While science is concerned with knowing and understanding existing objectives and phenomena, technology seeks to create products and services that do not yet exist, but are necessary.
Information institutions, for example, have a dual character, scientific and technological in their essential activity because, while facilitating the processes of knowledge transmission, they actively participate in the process of transforming the world through the constant development of products and services aimed at decisively influencing social processes, materials, and so on.
Technology was developed before science because it responded to practical and immediate need. Man learned to produce fire long before asking himself its causes and implications.
If we observe the essential components that make up technological activity, we will find the four elements previously defined as fundamental when analysing scientific activity. However, this does not mean that for the technology sector each component does not have its own nuances. For example, with regard to the cognitive component, technological activity incorporates, with great emphasis, information on the market, needs, prices of competition, satisfaction and others, essential for the subsistence of the products and companies that develop this type of activity.
Science and technology as productive forces of modern society
Technological products are one of the results of man’s creative activity. They complete and adapt the picture of reality to the needs of society. These products, in contrast to the knowledge provided by science, first have an ideal character and then take on a specific material form.
Biological systems are fundamentally adapted to the surrounding environment; unlike these, human society, with a social essence, manifests itself as a system that modifies the environment -exercises a transforming function on it- to make it habitable and to adapt nature to its needs.2 The human society, with a social essence, manifests itself as a system that modifies the environment -exercises a transforming function on it- to make it habitable and to adapt nature to its needs.
The process of transforming science into an immediate productive force is understood as the gradual transformation of science into a necessary factor of the productive process, the growing influence of science on all the material elements of the productive forces.
If knowledge represents the transformation of the material object into an ideal, the movement of science towards the productive sphere represents a process of transformation of the ideal into material.
Both science and technology have become an immediate productive force in modern society, i.e. a necessary factor in the production process that exerts a growing influence not only on the material – and even spiritual – elements of the labour forces, but also on all spheres of human activity.
The systematic use of scientific knowledge and the new material forms generated in the technological sector has been imposed as a condition for social development. Its use is one of the strongest trends in modern society, and is exerting an ever-increasing force on it.
The fusion of science with technology and of technology with material production in general, as well as the conversion of science into an immediate productive force, are characteristic features of the radical qualitative change that is currently taking place in the productive forces. Therefore, the historical progress of science and technology is only one aspect of the historical development of the human being, as the main productive force of society.