When you hear the phrase “tech industry” (and you do, you probably use it yourself all the time), most often the associations will be with consumer web companies and cleantech. That’s now a part of our cultural vocabulary, but technology isn’t the exclusive domain of these sectors. The word technology was around long before the dotcom boom, and there are still plenty of us who use the term in a far less narrow context.
Cleantech now dominates the conversation about transportation. The automotive industry has more and more cleantech entrepreneurs, but Toyota’s Prius and Fisker’s Karma are preceded by a long line of innovations, starting with the ancient civilizations who handily gave us the wheel, through to Karl Benz who invented the first practical, gasoline engine automobile so that his wife, Bertha, could take long distance trips.
Similarly, a half millennium of change in the way we communicate wasn’t spurred by a dynasty of web developers. Rather it was crafted by a handful of humble pragmatists looking to accomplish something. Gutenberg was looking for a better way to spread the good word. Sholes and Glidden a better way for typists to put words to the page. Carlson a better way to copy. And Tim Berners-Lee a better way to whip words around the globe. These pragmatists worked from simple ambition, but their creations ushered in a communications revolution.
So why do even those of us who work within the ‘Internet sector’ believe we have the monopoly on technology?
The lines have always been blurred, possibly nonexistent. Even businesses that exist on the periphery of the tech industry, companies like Craft Coffee and BirchBox, are an essential part of this relentless innovation in communication. They rely on the Internet as a core element of how they market, but fundamentally, they still produce and distribute traditional goods and services.
Let’s start calling what we do what it is. Technology is all about pushing humankind forward and developing new ideas, new processes, new goods, new methods, and new designs. It shouldn’t be a buzzword for one particular industry, or a moniker for some untouchable notion of invention belonging to the entrepreneurial elite.
Let’s honor the humble pragmatism of the innovators that came before us. The “tech industry” should be a simple solution to the problems we face. It should communicate better. It should make our words clearer. And it should be open to everyone.