The world we live in has been shaped in many important ways by human action. We have created technological options to prevent, eliminate, or lessen threats to life and the environment and to fulfill social needs. We have dammed rivers and cleared forests, made new materials and machines, covered vast areas with cities and highways, and decided—sometimes willy-nilly—the fate of many other living things.

In a sense, then, many parts of our world are designed—shaped and controlled, largely through the use of technology—in light of what we take our interests to be. We have brought the earth to a point where our future well-being will depend heavily on how we develop and use and restrict technology. In turn, that will depend heavily on how well we understand the workings of technology and the social, cultural, economic, and ecological systems within which we live.

This chapter sets forth recommendations about certain key aspects of technology, with emphasis on the major human activities that have shaped our environment and lives. The chapter focuses on eight basic technology areas: agriculture, materials, manufacturing, energy sources, energy use, communication, information processing, and health technology.