Has the descriptor “technology” exhausted its usefulness? Facebook, DoorDash, and Qualcomm are all, in day-to-day parlance, tech companies. But they’re very different businesses. The first earns its money by selling advertising space, the second is a food delivery business, and the third makes semiconductors. Facebook and DoorDash have heaps of proprietary software, but Qualcomm is the only company whose actual product is technology.
It’s become a catchall that companies are all too willing to co-opt if it lends some luster. There are now manifold offspring: adtech, biotech, cleantech, fintech, foodtech, proptech, and more. As each subsumes the industry it serves, perhaps we can start to drop the “-tech” suffix.
The meaning wasn’t always so expansive. Until the 1930s, in line with its ancient Greek etymology, it applied primarily to the study of the technical arts, according to the