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6 January 2015

Águeda And Technology

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Águeda is still a small town, and we have noticed that as towns grow, so too do their problems. Speaking about the growth of towns, Plato said at the time “Up to the point where, although larger, it keeps its unity, the town can spread out, but not beyond that point”. The growth of large cities does not favour humanism and necessarily brings with it a fundamental lack of harmony, creating uneasiness and insecurity.

Air pollution represents considerable danger for life in general and for humans in particular. Industry, heating and transport contribute to diminishing its quality and pollute the atmosphere, a source of risk to public health. Urban areas are most affected by this phenomenon, which threatens to spread as urbanization does. In that line of thinking, hypertrophy of cities represents a not inconsiderable danger to society’s balance.

As for technology, this is also found to be changing completely. Men have always endeavoured to make tools and machines to improve their living conditions and to be more effective in their work. In its most positive aspect, that desire originally had three main objectives: allowing them to do things they could not do only using their hands; saving them from suffering and tiredness; gaining time. It should also be noted that for centuries, if not millennia, technology was only used to help human beings in manual tasks and physical activities, while nowadays it also helps at an intellectual level. Then again, for a long time technology was limited to mechanical procedures that required the human being’s direct intervention and presented little or no threat to the environment.

But the world has changed. Currently, technology is omnipresent and forms the heart of modern societies, to the point of becoming almost indispensible. Its applications are multiple and it has come to be part of procedures that are mechanical, electric, electronic, computerized, etc.

Unfortunately, there is always a reverse to the coin and machines became a danger to the human being himself. Indeed, although they were ideally destined to help him and save him suffering, they reached the point where they replaced him. Furthermore, it cannot be denied that the progressive development of machinery caused a certain dehumanization of society, in that it reduced human contact considerably, this being understood here as physical and direct contact. Added to this are the many forms of pollution created by industrialization in many fields.

The problem posed by technology today arises from the fact it has developed much faster than human awareness. We also consider it is urgent for it to break with current modernism and become an agent of humanism. It is therefore imperative to re-establish the human being at the centre of social life, which implies re-instating the machine at his service. That perspective requires total reconsideration of the materialist values conditioning present society. That supposes, consequently, that all people come once again to be centred on themselves and finally understand it is necessary to give priority to quality of life and cease this relentless race against time. Now that will only be possible if human beings re-learn how to live in harmony, not only with nature but also with themselves. In Águeda we are creating a Smart City where we try to make technology evolve in a way that frees human beings from the most arduous tasks and at the same time allows them to live in harmony with others.

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