From the New York Times–bestselling author of Where Good Ideas Come Fromand Farsighted, a new look at the power and legacy of great ideas.
In this illustrated history, Steven Johnson explores the history of innovation over centuries, tracing facets of modern life (refrigeration, clocks, and eyeglass lenses, to name a few) from their creation by hobbyists, amateurs, and entrepreneurs to their unintended historical consequences. Filled with surprising stories of accidental genius and brilliant mistakes—from the French publisher who invented the phonograph before Edison but forgot to include playback, to the Hollywood movie star who helped invent the technology behind Wi-Fi and Bluetooth—How We Got to Now investigates the secret history behind the everyday objects of contemporary life.
In his trademark style, Johnson examines unexpected connections between seemingly unrelated fields: how the invention of air-conditioning enabled the largest migration of human beings in the history of the species—to cities such as Dubai or Phoenix, which would otherwise be virtually uninhabitable; how pendulum clocks helped trigger the industrial revolution; and how clean water made it possible to manufacture computer chips. Accompanied by a major six-part television series on PBS, How We Got to Now is the story of collaborative networks building the modern world, written in the provocative, informative, and engaging style that has earned Johnson fans around the globe.
How We Got to Now takes seemingly simple topics such as glass, cold, and sound and describes in depth how our ability to manipulate and refine these concepts has radically changed our lives over time. It never occurred to me that the advent of air conditioning would allow the migration from the Midwest to the south, changing American political demographics from democrat to republican. The book contains many such insights and is very thought provoking. Highly recommended.55
What a great book. It transforms history, connecting inventions and discoveries to their unintended consequences. It truly shows how we got to now.55
Incredible read that takes a number historical twists and turns to keep the reader engaged and wondering. I'm reading it through for a second time and having my teenage sons read it as well. Anyone with an interest in history, innovation, and a curiosity for how we got to where we are today is going to thoroughly enjoy this book.55
The tone of a storyteller rather than an encyclopedia. Perfect balance of information; neither too little nor too much.45
This was a hugely rewarding book to experience. Particularly from a connected device. In the process of reading I visited dozens of Wikipedia profiles and listened to multiple artists and inventors, from the dust, on YouTube and other relevant websites Google surfaced. By far the most engrossing chapter was Glass, chapter 1. All the chapters have nuggets, but Glass's every word is becomes the most fascinating word you've ever read. Highly, highly recommend.55
What fun book. Well written. Interesting to look at the long view rather than the "lightbulb effect."55