What is Electrical Engineering

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The field of electrical engineering is relatively young and has only began to grow at
its current pace a few hundred years ago. However it can be argued that few fields
have shaped much of the many societies that constitute humanity today. While
engineering is the application of science and math to solve problems, electrical
engineering is a sub discipline which is focus on the use of the principles of
electricity and electronic systems to solve problems in power, control and
communication systems. It dates back to the late 19th century.
From the birth of the electric grid to the manipulation of propagating radio waves,
its principles still continue to affect humanity through the technology that it creates
and the knowledge of the working of the physical world that it uncovers. This is
used especially evident in the present.
The impact of electrification of gird networks in the, the introduction of the electric
motor, the development of Maxwell’s equations and the effect of electronics on
telecommunication, and information were decided to be the main focus due their
effects having extreme persistence.



For consistent and clear results from the investigation of its impact on humanity, a
few definitions of vital terms were required. This is a necessity as to prevent any
First, Humanity was defined as “all of the living human inhabitants of the
earth.”(advance web dicitionary). Next, the fact that humanity can be subdivided as
a collection of separate interacting societies generated the decision that individual
societies could be analyzed and the results extrapolated in order to simplify
identifying how electrical engineering could impact the latter.
Then the definition of a Society was solidified using a hybridization of the following
two definitions :a group of people with shared characteristics such as culture,
ideology ,laws etc and’ ‘ and ‘An enduring and cooperating social group whose
members have developed organised patterns of relationship through interaction
with one another.’
Finally, in order to qualitatively assess the impact that the electrical engineering
field has had on humanity, it was decided upon that only a few of the many factors
that the field could have an effect on was examined. The most important being the

effect on the society’s productivity was assessed. Thus it could be said that a
simplified model of humanity was used.

Model of Society
In order to better understand the possible ways in which the field could impact of a
society, it was found that by using one of Karl Marx models by affecting the base of
a society, the larger superstructure could change to reflect a shift in the way of the
people’s thinking of their world.1
In his model, the base which is responsible for satisfying the production of good for
the society use with the part of the society exclusive to this being in the
superstructure. The superstructure consists of culture, norms, ideology,
expectations etc. The base creates and maintains the superstructure, whiles the
superstructure feedback into the base and justifies its existence.
After investigating examination of the electrical engineering timeline, it was found
that electrical engineering affects the core of humanity. This core has the function to
create goods required by humanity. In general, the electrical engineering was found
to be largely catalytic in nature. While this was expected as being due to the nature
as an engineering field it is often overlooked as to the vastness of its significance.
This catalytic effect builds on itself and goes beyond that which can be seen using
commonsense. It has sped up the advancement of technology used in war,
business, home life and agriculture and currently continues to do so.

Impact of electrical engineering on a society
As indicated earlier, changes in the base affect the superstructure and this is where
the greatest impact due to changes and inventions of electrical engineering are felt.
The progress in the electrical engineering field sometimes results in technology that
can completely revolutionize that current era. This is done by affecting the
productivity of various processes in the base. In short by if a new technology allows
for an increase in productivity in process X then this can lead to a change in a
coupled process Y which both could potentially affect the superstructure as the
people adjust to the change by either adapting or rejecting it. In this model, it is
ultimately productivity which drives whether something is accepted or denied.




The first Major change attributed to electrical engineering in the opinion of the
group was due to the use of electricity as a means of power distribution in the early
19th century. It had a vast transformational effect on the power transmission system
in the latter half of the 19th century, dubbed the technological revolution that is still
felt today. Due to this, greater energy could be extracted from fuels such as oil and
gas at a faster rate to supply greater amounts of power. This led to improvements in
the levels of efficiency of production plants and also led to increased capital
exchange allowing the purchasing power of the production plants to increase
rapidly. This was the first important part which led to the ability for mass
manufacturing to be realised. The grid system allowed for concentration of
generating and production plants leading to economies of scale.
The other important contribution from electrical engineering then was the advent of
the induction motor invented by tesla with contribution from other engineers. It was
another reason for the replacement of stream power in factories. 2,3While electric
motors in general were a vast improvement over old steam tech available, these
motors were rugged, had a good power to weight ratio, low maintenance and high
efficiency. They eventually became the industrial standard for producing mechanical
torque or power for industry even till today. As a testament to this fact, it has been
surmised that one third of electric power powered in the world is used to run just
induction motors. Productivity naturally rose, reducing manufacturing costs lowering
the threshold of goods.
Mass Manufacturing paved the way for lower costs of items which increased the
prevalence of such items in the market. Affordability as increase due to lower
manufacturing costs. Eventually general purpose electrical machines became
commonplace. The hidden side to this is that automation had slowly begun but it
would be a long time until control theory would like to rapid developments.


Transmission Lines being used to carry electric power over long distances.
ALSTOM (2011)



The groundwork for current Telecommunications was laid around this time with the
creation of the telegram. Electric currents were used to communicate a transmitted
message in the 1830’S 11and with it, the effectiveness of long distance
communication was increased significantly. But it was the work of Maxwell that
shaped modern communication to that of which is used today.4 Maxwell’s equations
properly explained the behaviour of electromagnetic phenomena. All modern means
of communication use his equations. Olive Heaviside used them in order to improve
telegraph transmissions. Olive’s contribution improved the efficiency of the
telegram by a factor of ten by writing the telegraph’s equations.
For the first time in history, the electromagnetic field was fully understood up to the
level that it could be manipulated to be useful for information transmission.
Together with hertz, who proved Maxwell theory under experimental conditions, had
the effect of releasing the relationship between distance of communicating parties
and the speed of information. Messages that would take month to reach via mail
could be sent in seconds.
Next was the creation of the telephone was another millstone similar to that of the
telegraph. The significance of distance shrunk with increasing efficiency of radio
wave and telegraph transmission. Business could communicate easily vast
distances and the importance of business strategy became even more important.
Monopolies began to be challenge and diversity began to increase. Greater levels of
migration occur as people were now able to communicate with families that were
far away.
As van Dijkargues, “for the first time in history we will have a single
communications infrastructure that links all activities in society” (2006: 46).

Digitization of information has led to an age where fast and efficient manipulation
techniques of information are king. This raise was due to the difficulty in with
analogue signal processing.

As he observes the digitalization of “the new economy, society, and culture….,”
Manuel Castells (2010), views digitalization as one of the – if not the – defining
characteristics of the contemporary era.
Because digitized information can be manipulated and understood by (nearly) any
digital system, “any network can be used to transmit all kinds of digital signals”
(Storsul & Fagerjord, 2008: 1320).
Now Societies relays on information acquisition and information processing and
storage capabilities. Countries with advance levels of all three now have large
advantages over societies lacking them.
This means that “a single physical means—be it wires, cables, or airwaves—may
carry services that in the past were provided in separate ways” (Pool, 1984: 23).
As van Dijkargues, “for the first time in history we will have a single
communications infrastructure that links all activities in society” (2006: 46).


WIRELESS SYSTEMS and the flow of information
As time went by wireless communication systems were being realized.

The earliest wireless communications happened way back in 1895 by
Guglielmo Marcani who originated radio communications and who was
subsequently awarded a patent for the development of a wireless telegraphy
system in as early as 1897.
From IEEE 2010, it was stated that 80% of the worldwide population uses the
3G system and quickly moving to 4G. This allows for faster downloads on
mobile devices and even more rich quality of broadband services.

The together with telecommunication come the invention of electronics which first
allowed the transmission of radio wave signals between two points. This allowed
information to reach the masses unlike any technology before.
Then eventually, electronics turned towards digital computation. In particular the
transistor, the integrated circuit combined with moore’s law which predicts
exponential growth of the number of transistors per surface area that have had the
most effect on human history so far. Task that have taken days in one instance have
been reduced to order lower due to increasing computing power. This has allowed
tasks that were once manual or analog to be done using digital techniques. This
typically leads to lower cost of production, improved performance and increased
features or intelligence. Thus there is a trend of humanity offloading more
responsibilities onto electronic systems.
Currently the information aspect in electrical engineering is prominate:
scholars have focused on the rise of globalization, a process that has both
facilitated, and been facilitated by, the expansion of the economy beyond national
borders through digitalization (Sassen, 1998). The digitalization and globalization of
the economy has subsequently eroded national sovereignty, reshaped conceptions
of materiality and place, and facilitated new circulations of culture, capital,
commodities, and people. In finance alone, many scholars have shown how digital
media are now central to global capital flows (Knorr Cetina and Bruegger, 2002).
Society relays on information acquisition and information processing and storage
capabilities. Countries with advance levels of all three now have large advantage
over societies lacking them. For example, though not a country, Google is likely to
be the most powerful organisation in the world due to the amount of information
under their control.
All of the effects on the base of humanity is reflected in the superstructure. Effect
on the world population,life expectance,material
standard,governance,entertainment,humana relationships.

In one sense, it can be said that much of the technology used today have been
fueled by blood and lives. Electrical engineering can catalyze strafe as it is a key
part in weapon development technologies. And this strife in turn stimulates progress
in the field. This is the definition of an arms race. It is blind to the production plants
that employ its use whether militaristic or otherwise. For example take the societies
which implemented electric grid networks early had economies which held an
advantage over other without. One such one was the American society. During
world war two, its ability to mass manufacture with a very high productivity was a
significant factor which allowed America’s war economy to remain strong during
world war two. The greater the level of strife, the faster it progress. Thus in a sense
electrical engineering has have a negative impact to those populations in strife

zones. Advance in telecommunications have allowed militaries to become larger
and more organised increasing their influence over some societal populations. This
those regions, the life expectance go down despite advancements in the standard of
life in areas outside of the zones as war and skirmishes intensify. Surveillance
techniques for information acquisition can be used to monitor persons. This has
been in the form of wiretapping phone calls and email monitoring. Freedom of
expression resisted using technologies such as electronic Jammer as well as active
surveillance as in WWII Germany.
But more directly is the facts that technology produced using electrical engineering
usually have militaristic origins
Another instance of electrical Eniac was developing to decryption of enemy cypher
during World War II which eventually led to the creation of the modern computer.
Many techniques used for operating cellphone networks actually originated from the
military due to the need for them to maintain their evolutionary arms race else they
may run the risk of being overtaken.
Once this happened issues on how these appliances should be used and regulations
were written.
Laws are frequency updated due to emergent technologies, the most famous being
those of the digital age and copywrite. The same is true for regulations defining how
product should be built and their operation impact on the environment. Law
concerning cyber espionage and terrorism didn’t exist before the 2000. Due to the
definition of the vagueness that defines the internet, the applicability of laws are
unclear which, in a sense has created something akin to wild west scenarios in
some cases.

Mechatronics is a design process that includes a combination of mechanical
engineering, electrical engineering, control engineering and computer
engineering to generate a simpler, more economical and reliable system.
Control systems is a major part of mechatronics that includes building and
integrating of subsystems that make other engineering feats possible.


Mechatronics has also enabled the development of prosthetic limbs with
much better control and fine-tuned grip to be able to do every day things
people take for granted, like pick up items without breaking them or even
shaking someone’s hand. Recently engineers and researchers were able to
create mind controlled cybernetic limbs allowing the user to think “walk” and
the robotic legs begin walking on command.

Scientist demonstrates mind controlled prosthetic arm. CHALMERS



Electrical engineering is a relatively young discipline which is growing rapidly.
It has changed the entire world over the past century and continued to be
the leader in innovations of modern technology.


National Academy Of Engineering (2010). Greatest Engineering
Achievements of the Twentieth Century. [Online] Available at
http://www.greatachievements.org/ (Accessed: 25 April 2015)

New Jersey Institute of Technology (2014). NJIT Visualizes Impact Of Electrical
Engineering On Society. [Online] Available at
http://www.rdmag.com/news/2014/02/njit-visualizes-impact-electricalengineering-society (Accessed: 25 April 2015)

1Base and Superstructure Core Concepts of Marx's Theory--http://sociology.about.com/od/Key-Theoretical-Concepts/fl/Base-andSuperstructure.htm
2The Workhorse of Industry: The Induction Motor--http://powertransmission.com/issues/1213/induction_motor.pdf
3AC Induction Motors (ACIM) – Overview--http://www.ti.com/lsds/ti/apps/motor/ac_induction/overview.page
4Maxwell's Equations---http://ethw.org/Maxwell's_Equations
5Energy and Organization By Bernard C. Beaudreau pg 64-66
Castells, M. (2010). The Rise of the Network Society. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Van Dijk, J. (2005). The Network Society: Social Aspects of New Media. London:
Knorr Cetina, Karin, and Urs Bruegger. “Global Microstructures: The Virtual Societies
of Financial Markets1.” American Journal of Sociology 107, no. 4 (2002): 905-950.
Pool, I. de S. (1984). Technologies of Freedom. Harvard University Press.
Storsul, T., & Fagerjord, A. (2008). Digitization and Media Convergence. In W.
Donsbach (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Communication (pp. 1319–1323).
Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
11The History of Communication Technology telegraph--http://www.personal.psu.edu/jtk187/art2/telegraph.htm

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