1. Introduction

The important thing is not what you know, but what you know about what you know.''

This paper explores our ideas about the nature of technology. It is a word with broad uses and we usually understand it from the context where it was used - there is no single precise definition. It sometimes means the advanced products of industrial society - Space Shuttles, computers, great bridges and so on. Often there is a hint of some overall process or force shaping human life. Formerly there were resounding phrases about the great forces of nature being used for the benefit of mankind - now critical voices are pointing out dangers to the environment.2 However, all these uses of the word treat technology as if it were a 'thing', out there, not a part of us. By contrast, it will be approached here as an inherent part of human behaviour. Kayaks and flint axes have been just as much a form of technology as Space Shuttles and computers are today, or clipper ships and stage coaches were a century ago. What happened in evolution to give us the sort of mind that designs these things?

These questions will be approached under three sections. First, there will be a short consideration of how we interpret events in technology. Some historians see it as a process determined by social and economic need. Others stress the inventive role of scientists and engineers. These technical issues which interest academic historians are important because they influence our view of the world. Two points are particularly important to the issues explored in this paper. Are we justified in thinking that mankind invented technology? What part does creativity play in all this?

In the second section of the paper, the question of creativity leads into a consideration of ideas about human origins. Is there any connection between creativity and technology on the one hand, and on the other hand, key characteristics of humanity - bipedalism, tool-using and language? Finally, the third section - what significance do these ideas have for our thinking on technology or its place in human life?