three whats: what is technology? what is tech? what is deep tech?


Years ago it was simple: there was science and there was technology.  Science was associated with an understanding of the world, and technology represented the layer of engineering built on top of science.

Now we have “tech”.  When the term was first used, it was associated with gadgets.  It was a bit of gear everyone should buy.  Using this approach I tend to see technology as the building blocks of tech.  Technology solves problems, allowing tech to operate smoothly and provide the desired functionality.  Tech is a simplified interface facilitated by the underlying technology.

expanding “tech”

Today tech seems to be all encompassing.  It has sort of swallowed technology on its ascent to dominance.  Everyone seems to be in love with or know everything about tech. “Lover of tech” often appears in article bylines and twitter profiles.  But, what do they mean?  In what are they in love?

Let’s say you came across a VC or banking VP on twitter.  They claim being in the “tech” or “innovation” economies, but you begin to realize they only talk about and follow software.  Yes, it may be [insert here]tech, but it is really software applied to the [insert here] industry.  People will say they are interested in tech, but most often they really mean the end functionality of software.  It may be an app that tells you where your bus is or it may be AI to pick the best office snacks (yes this is a real company, and they were even supported by an incubator).  It is all about coding.

On the downside, this expanded realm of tech has engulfed technology.  People now assume understanding technology means knowing how to friend someone on Facebook or how to oder a Starbucks to your home on Saturday morning.  It is a big issue because it misses all the problems and fine points that need “old school” technology to be solved.

now there is deep tech

“Deep tech” is popping up more and more.  VCs are putting it on their websites, their twitter bios and pretty much everywhere.  Interestingly so-called deep tech is closer to what I call technology.  It just might be closer to research-derived innovation than the traditional VC-supported app.

ned’s technology

Technology should be about solving problems.  Software can not generate electricity and it can not reduce plastics to constituent hydrocarbons.  Software can monitor and manage use, and these are important aspects, but they do not solve a core “physical” problem.

ned’s technology is about the development of ideas. It is about continuous work and refinement until feasibility and usability are achieved.  It is not a mystery.  It is a process that can be understood.  Technology can be understood once the proper tools are in place.  One can say technology should be approached with “a mind willing to understand”.

If technology does not actually solve the problem it will not ultimately win.  No matter how hard you market it, if it does not really process plastic waste, for example, it will not win.  As I say, you need to get technology right for the long game.