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Branching out: the evolution of inspiration

Ifeanyi Chinweze

Previous Employee

Without any one of the pioneers who came before us, it’s hard to say how long it would have taken us to reach our current technological prowess. Thanks to these visionaries, science fiction has become science fact – we can make ships that fly through space and trains that glide through the air.

However, the idea that we might have to rival our predecessors can feel intimidating, like a child living in their parents’ shadows. This is not to say that nothing has been achieved in our time, but each step we take is loaded with expectation from what came before. This leads me to wonder: what inspires engineers? How has this evolved over time?

I imagine this ‘evolution of inspiration’ as a tree. The highly regarded philosophers and scientists of ancient civilisations would lie close to its root as the sources of inspiration. As time progressed, these roots would grow a trunk from which various branches form. Each branch is an important element of scientific culture, progressing from religion to war to science fiction.

Today, the growth of this tree is ensured by the ever-accelerating expansion of the only endless library known to man – the internet. We live in a time where almost the entire collective knowledge of humanity can be easily studied. To me, this means that there are more opportunities to act upon your creative ideas. As an aspiring engineer, I like experimenting with scientific principles. If I wanted to prototype an idea, such as a magnetic levitation train, I could easily explore the internet for guidance as opposed to going through research, trial and error. The internet has enabled anyone to access this endless library and build up on existing concepts faster than ever.

Meglev-Train

While this level of connectedness provides more opportunities, it also raises questions and issues. Connectivity is an exciting new step for medical devices, but who owns the data generated and how can it be kept secure?

With this new era of ‘connected’ inspiration, will engineers of today be able to innovate in ways that will be up to our predecessors’ expectations?

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