Engineers Ireland president Dr Kieran Feighan gave his presidential address in the organisation's headquarters in 22 Clyde Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4 on Thursday, 21 September. Here we provide a transcript of his speech. Read the second of this two-part series here.
I will examine how harnessing energy to improve mobility has been the foundation for the development of many of the great empires in the world over the course of history. Mobility has a number of different facets. Historically, the basis of engineering was military engineering and focused on the movement of armies and the movement of armaments.
More recently, certainly from Roman times, the civil aspects of engineering, working on behalf of the citizen, and the related movement of people and movement of goods have become much more important than the movement of armies and armaments in how our world functions.
I aim to show that when a new energy source has been identified and harnessed, particularly harnessed to aid and improve mobility, then a transformative step-change is created in the ability of a particular country or locality to rise above and in many cases dominate their neighbours, both locally and, more recently, globally.
We will briefly look at a number of different empires, the Roman Empire 2000 years ago, the Spanish Empire about 500 years ago, the British Empire 200 years ago, the American Empire which started c. 120 years ago, and then the Chinese Empire, a nascent empire which started within the past 15 years.
The world has again reached a point where the global economy will be changed utterly as a new source of energy (renewables) is coupled with transforming technology (the Internet of Things, big data, sensor technology) and transport solutions (autonomous and connected vehicles, electricity storage, hydrogen fuel cells, road networks as energy distributors) to produce winners and losers at enterprise and national scales.