As a youngster, if you had asked me to define "device," I would have uttered a definition that was synonymous with "contraption." And indeed, Merriam-Webster agrees with me. Sort of.
Definition 1 for M.W.'s entry for Device includes: "a piece of equipment or a mechanism designed to serve a special purpose or perform a special function," which meets the contraption-concept that I had in mind back when.
But I ran into two other uses that vary greatly from that view, in my mind.
The first is with regard to symbolic devices on uniforms. They are mentioned in the last definition listed in Merriam Webster: "3: an emblematic design used especially as a heraldic bearing." Get a bronze star with a V for valor? That gold V is a device. Even though it's simply gold thread sewn into a ribbon, it's a device.
Then I started work as a cop, and found that *I* was a device, when I wrote a citation for TRC §544.004, (Compliance With Traffic Control Device), the device most often disregarded was me. Whenever I directed traffic and pointed one way and traffic went another way, that was my cite.
Felt funny, being a "device." Then I thought about it: I had always known that a tidy uniform was important to convey professionalism and any possible sense of authority to the public that I was serving. Indeed, a well-pressed uniform and polished boots did as much for my job's credibility as all the training and professionalism that I could utilize. Once I got that through my head, it was a whole lot easier to think of myself as a "device." Go back to "emblematic design used especially as a heraldic bearing." I may not be that, but many times I'm surely a symbol, when in uniform, more than I am perceived as a man. This symbolic status allows me to serve better, I think. I've known for a long time that lots of folks can't see beyond it and thus can't perceive me as a person beyond the empty shell of my office, to my detriment.
But there can be some favorable outcomes of this; most people, when coming to an intersection with a recognizable cop in it with his hand held up, palm out toward them, will stop without questioning who the hell he thinks he is to tell them to do that. Thus, traffic can get redirected, accidents get avoided or cleared, and people again move smoothly about their daily lives.
I'm tempted to launch into further riffing on the social mandate for government authority, but I just bored myself a little, and I even bore me, then you've got to be snoozin'. 'Sides. Plato and Hobbes said it first and better, anyway.
Want a giggle? This weekend I found a 5 page paper that I submitted to my Philosophy 301 class, my first semester of my freshman year at U.T. at Austin. The title: "Life Sucks And Then You Die." I got an A on the paper, and the course, and changed my major to Philosophy. It would have been so much better for me if Dr. Papas had just flunked me. :)