Steven Johnson

Host, PBS six-part series: HOW WE GOT TO NOW with Steven Johnson
Bestselling Author, How We Got To Now and Where Good Ideas Come From

An optimistic vision of progress and innovation.

Add to Shortlist How We Get To Next @stevenbjohnson

Biography

Steven Johnson is the leading light of today's interdisciplinary, collaborative, open-minded approach to innovation. His writings have influenced everything from cutting-edge ideas in urban planning to the battle against 21st-century terrorism. Steven was chosen by Prospect magazine as one of the Top Ten Brains of the Digital Future. He unites a deep understanding of scientific progress with a sharp sensitivity to contemporary online trends. Together, those traits give him an unmatched insight into how ideas emerge and spread and how they affect the world today.

Steven's work on the history of innovation has inspired a six-part series on PBS: HOW WE GOT TO NOW with Steven Johnson. As the host of the series, Steven explores the power and the legacy of great ideas, why and how ideas happen, and their sometimes unintended results. More on the series here.

Building on How We Got To Now, Steven has created How We Get To Next. This project, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Knight Foundation, collects and develops news and ideas about the amazing future innovators are creating for us. This is a great resource for anyone interested in innovation today and where it will take us tomorrow.

Steven's most popular work on innovation is the bestselling Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation. Steven considers breakthroughs as different as Darwin's theories and the rise of YouTube, and asks: what did these moments have in common? Specifically, what environments fostered these ideas? He answers these question with a core set of innovation principles that have encouraged creativity across history. It's a fascinating read and a wonderfully practical guide to making any space more innovation-friendly.

Good Ideas is just one of Steven's many books celebrating progress and innovation. Others include The Innovator's Cookbook, which he edited, The Invention of Air and The Ghost Map. Everything Bad Is Good For You, one of the most discussed books of 2005, argued that the increasing complexity of modern media is training us to think in more complex ways. Emergence and Future Perfect explore the power of bottom-up intelligence in both nature and contemporary society.

A practitioner as well as a theoretician, Steven has co-created three influential sites: the pioneering online magazine FEED, the Webby-Award-winning community site, Plastic.com, and the hyperlocal media site outside.in, recently acquired by AOL.

He is a contributing editor to Wired magazine and has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Nation, and many other periodicals. He's appeared on many high-profile television programs, including The Charlie Rose Show, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Steven blogs at stevenberlinjohnson.com.

Books

How We Got to Now

Six Innovations That Made the Modern World

Steven Johnson

Debut at #4 on The New York Times Bestseller List

From the New York Times–bestselling author of Where Good Ideas Come From and Everything Bad Is Good for You, a new look at the power and legacy of great ideas.

In this illustrated volume, 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.

Riverhead Hardcover (September 30, 2014)

Video

In conversation with Fred Wilson and Manoush Zomorodi at WYNC — How We Get To Next
Did air conditioning help Reagan win?CNN Fareed Zakaria
The origins of our modern worldCBS This Morning
Did air conditioning play a role in Reagan's election? Searching for ripple effects of history-making techPBS Newshour

Review

"How We Got To Now" — Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing
How We Got To NowPublishers Weekly
Book ReviewThe Wall Street Journal

Praise

“A great science writer.”
— Bill Clinton, speaking at the Health Matters conference

“Mr. Johnson, who knows a thing or two about the history of science, is a first-rate storyteller.”
The New York Times

“Johnson is a polymath. . . . [It’s] exhilarating to follow his unpredictable trains of thought. To explain why some ideas upend the world, he draws upon many disciplines: chemistry, social history, geography, even ecosystem science.”
Los Angeles Times

“Steven Johnson is a maven of the history of ideas... How We Got to Now is readable, entertaining, and a challenge to any jaded sensibility that has become inured to the everyday miracles all around us.”
The Guardian

“[Johnson's] point is simple, important and well-timed: During periods of rapid innovation, there is always tumult as citizens try to make sense of it....Johnson is an engaging writer, and he takes very complicated and disparate subjects and makes their evolution understandable.”
The Washington Post

“Through a series of elegant books about the history of technological innovation, Steven Johnson has become one of the most persuasive advocates for the role of collaboration in innovation….Mr. Johnson's erudition can be quite gobsmacking.”
The Wall Street Journal

“An unbelievable book…it’s an innovative way to talk about history.”
— Jon Stewart

"What makes this book such a mind-expanding read is Johnson’s ability to appreciate human advancement as a vast network of influence, rather than a simple chain of one invention leading to another, and result is nothing less than a celebration of the human mind."
The Daily Beast

“Fascinating…it’s an amazing book!”
CBS This Morning

“A full three cheers for Steven Johnson. He is, by no means, the only writer we currently have in our era of technological revolution who devotes himself to innovation, invention and creativity but he is, far and away, the most readable.”
The Buffalo News

"The reader of How We Got to Now cannot fail to be impressed by human ingenuity, including Johnson’s, in determining these often labyrinthine but staggeringly powerful developments of one thing to the next."
San Francisco Chronicle

"A rapid but interesting tour of the history behind many of the comforts and technologies that comprise our world."
Christian Science Monitor

"How We Got to Now... offers a fascinating glimpse at how a handful of basic inventions — such as the measurement of time, reliable methods of sanitation, the benefits of competent refrigeration, glassmaking and the faithful reproduction of sound — have evolved, often in surprising ways."
— Shelf Awareness

"[Johnson] writes about science and technology elegantly and accessibly, he evinces an infectious delight in his subject matter...Each chapter is full of strange and fascinating connections."
— Barnes and Noble Review

"From the sanitation engineering that literally raised nineteenth-century Chicago to the 23 men who partially invented the light bulb before Thomas Edison, [How We Got to Now] is a many-layered delight."
Nature Review

Future Perfect

The Case For Progress In A Networked Age

Steven Johnson

Combining the deft social analysis of Where Good Ideas Come From with the optimistic arguments of Everything Bad Is Good For You, New York Times bestselling author Steven Johnson’s Future Perfect makes the case that a new model of political change is on the rise, transforming everything from local governments to classrooms, from protest movements to health care. Johnson paints a compelling portrait of this new political worldview — influenced by the success and interconnectedness of the Internet, but not dependent on high-tech solutions — that breaks with the conventional categories of liberal or conservative thinking.

With his acclaimed gift for multi-disciplinary storytelling and big ideas, Johnson explores this new vision of progress through a series of fascinating narratives: from the “miracle on the Hudson” to the planning of the French railway system; from the battle against malnutrition in Vietnam to a mysterious outbreak of strange smells in downtown Manhattan; from underground music video artists to the invention of the Internet itself.

At a time when the conventional wisdom holds that the political system is hopelessly gridlocked with old ideas, Future Perfect makes the timely and inspiring case that progress is still possible, and that new solutions are on the rise. This is a hopeful, affirmative outlook for the future, from one of the most brilliant and inspiring visionaries of contemporary culture.

Riverhead Trade; Reprint edition (October 1, 2013)
Riverhead Hardcover (September 18, 2012)

Reviews

Reaching outThe Economist
When Life Imitates the InternetStanford Social Innovation Review
Future PerfectPublishers Weekly

Praise

"[A]n interesting book, if you want to be optimistic about the future, by Steven Johnson, a great science writer."
— Bill Clinton, speaking at The Health Matters conference

"Future Perfect provides an informative, tech-savvy and provocative vision of a new and more democratic public philosophy. It's a breath of fresh air in an age of gridlock, cynicism and disillusionment.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“Mr. Johnson envisions a new political movement that embraces the potential of peer networks to improve government, medicine, education and journalism, among much else. He distinguishes ‘peer progressives’ from both libertarians and liberals. The former have too much faith in markets and too little in government, he says, and the latter vice versa. Peer progressives, though, believe that good can be accomplished by all organizations, in any combination, if they harness the power of peer networks.”
The Wall Street Journal

“In clear and engaging prose, Johnson writes about this emerging movement . . . Future Perfect is a buoyant and hopeful book. Given the inability of our government to enact worthwhile change, and the near guarantee that Washington’s gridlock will only worsen regardless of which party wins this November, we’re going to need all the help we can get. Future Perfect reminds us we already have the treatment. We just need to use it.”
Boston Globe

“Forceful argument for a new politics modeled on the structure of the Internet. A thought-provoking, hope-inspiring manifesto.”
— Kirkus Reviews

“A wide-ranging sketch of possibilities...frequently inspiring. Above all, it's exciting to reflect on the possibility that the many achievements of the Silicon Valley revolution might be compatible, rather than in tension, with a progressive focus on social justice and participatory democracy.”
The Guardian

“Fascinating and compelling...Stimulating and challenging, Johnson’s thought-provoking ideas steer us steadily into the future.”
Publishers Weekly

Where Good Ideas Come From

The Natural History of Innovation

Steven Johnson

One of our most innovative, popular thinkers takes on-in exhilarating style-one of our key questions: Where do good ideas come from?

With Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson pairs the insight of his bestselling Everything Bad Is Good for You and the dazzling erudition of The Ghost Map and The Invention of Air to address an urgent and universal question: What sparks the flash of brilliance? How does groundbreaking innovation happen? Answering in his infectious, culturally omnivorous style, using his fluency in fields from neurobiology to popular culture, Johnson provides the complete, exciting, and encouraging story of how we generate the ideas that push our careers, our lives, our society, and our culture forward.

Beginning with Charles Darwin's first encounter with the teeming ecosystem of the coral reef and drawing connections to the intellectual hyperproductivity of modern megacities and to the instant success of YouTube, Johnson shows us that the question we need to ask is, What kind of environment fosters the development of good ideas? His answers are never less than revelatory, convincing, and inspiring as Johnson identifies the seven key principles to the genesis of such ideas, and traces them across time and disciplines.

Most exhilarating is Johnson's conclusion that with today's tools and environment, radical innovation is extraordinarily accessible to those who know how to cultivate it. Where Good Ideas Come From is essential reading for anyone who wants to know how to come up with tomorrow's great ideas.

Riverhead Hardcover (October 5, 2010)

Reviews

Reviewed — Bill Gates
Book ReviewLos Angeles Times
Where Good Ideas Come FromThe Independent
The Ecology of ThoughtThe Chronicle of Higher Education
The relative value of innovationThe New Atlantis
Graham Greene and the search for that 'Eureka' momentThe Guardian
Multidisciplinary hymn to diversity, openness and creativityboingboing
The SkimmerTIME
Jack Covert Selects800 CEO Read
An inventive take on innovationFinancial Times
Well, what a good idea!The Economist
Where Good Ideas Come FromThe Oregonian
Why great ideas arise where they doThe Seattle Times
People and Places That InnovateThe New York Times

Publishers Weekly Review
Johnson — writer, Web guru, and bestselling author of Everything Bad Is Good for You — delivers a sweeping look at innovation spanning nearly the whole of human history. What sparks our great ideas? Johnson breaks down the cultural, biological, and environmental fuel into seven broad "patterns," each packed with diverse, at times almost disjointed anecdotes that Johnson synthesizes into a recipe for success. A section on "slow hunches" captivates, taking readers from the FBI's work on 9/11 to Google's development of Google News. A section on error takes us through a litany of accidental innovations, including the one that eventually led to the invention of the computer. "Being right keeps you in place," Johnson reminds us. "[B]eing wrong forces us to explore." It's eye-opening stuff — although it does require an investment from the reader. But as fans of the author's previous work know, an investment in Johnson pays off, and those who stick with the author as he meanders through an occasional intellectual digression will come away enlightened and entertained, and with something perhaps even more useful — how to recognize the conditions that could spark their own creativity and innovation. Another mind-opening work from the author of Mind Wide Open.

The Innovator's Cookbook

Steven Johnson

Essential reading-and progressive thinking-on the subject of innovation, from the national bestselling author.

Steven Johnson, an acknowledged bestselling leader on the subject of innovation, gathers-for a foundational text on the subject of innovation-essays, interviews, and cutting-edge insights by such exciting field leaders as Peter Drucker, Richard Florida, Eric Von Hippel, Dean Keith Simonton, Arthur Koestler, John Seely Brown, and Marshall Berman. Johnson also provides new material from Marisa Mayer of Google, Twitter's Biz Stone and Jack Dorsey, and Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's former Chief Software Architect. With additional commentary by Johnson himself, this book reveals the innovation found in a wide range of fields, including science, technology, energy, transportation, education, art, and sociology, making it vital, fresh, and fascinating reading for our time, and for the future.

Penguin (October 2011)

The Invention of Air

Steven Johnson

Bestselling author Steven Johnson recounts — in dazzling, multidisciplinary fashion — the story of the brilliant man who embodied the relationship between science, religion, and politics for America’s Founding Fathers.

The Invention of Air is a book of world-changing ideas wrapped around a compelling narrative, a story of genius and violence and friendship in the midst of sweeping historical change that provokes us to recast our understanding of the Founding Fathers.

It is the story of Joseph Priestley — scientist and theologian, protégé of Benjamin Franklin, friend of Thomas Jefferson — an eighteenth-century radical thinker who played pivotal roles in the invention of ecosystem science, the discovery of oxygen, the founding of the Unitarian Church, and the intellectual development of the United States. And it is a story that only Steven Johnson, acclaimed juggler of disciplines and provocative ideas, can do justice to.

In the 1780s, Priestley had established himself in his native England as a brilliant scientist, a prominent minister, and an outspoken advocate of the American Revolution, who had sustained long correspondences with Franklin, Jefferson, and John Adams. Ultimately, his radicalism made his life politically uncomfortable, and he fled to the nascent United States. Here, he was able to build conceptual bridges linking the scientific, political, and religious impulses that governed his life. And through his close relationships with the Founding Fathers — Jefferson credited Priestley as the man who prevented him from abandoning Christianity — he exerted profound if little-known influence on the shape and course of our history.

As in his last bestselling work, The Ghost Map, Steven Johnson here uses a dramatic historical story to explore themes that have long engaged him: innovation and the way new ideas emerge and spread, and the environments that foster these breakthroughs. And as he did in Everything Bad Is Good for You, Johnson upsets some fundamental assumptions about the world we live in — namely, what it means when we invoke the Founding Fathers — and replaces them with a clear-eyed, eloquent assessment of where we stand today.

Riverhead Hardcover (December 26, 2008)
Ppbk Riverhead Trade; Reprint edition (September 29, 2009)

The Ghost Map

The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic — and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World

Steven Johnson

The Ghost Map was a runner-up for the National Academies of Science award for best science book of 2007.

A thrilling historical account of the worst cholera outbreak in Victorian London-and a brilliant exploration of how Dr. John Snow's solution revolutionized the way we think about disease, cities, science, and the modern world.

From the dynamic thinker routinely compared to Malcolm Gladwell, E. O. Wilson, and James Gleick, The Ghost Map is a riveting page-turner with a real-life historical hero that brilliantly illuminates the intertwined histories of the spread of viruses, rise of cities, and the nature of scientific inquiry. These are topics that have long obsessed Steven Johnson, and The Ghost Map is a true triumph of the kind of multidisciplinary thinking for which he's become famous-a book that, like the work of Jared Diamond, presents both vivid history and a powerful and provocative explanation of what it means for the world we live in.

The Ghost Map takes place in the summer of 1854. A devastating cholera outbreak seizes London just as it is emerging as a modern city: more than 2 million people packed into a ten-mile circumference, a hub of travel and commerce, teeming with people from all over the world, continually pushing the limits of infrastructure that's outdated as soon as it's updated. Dr. John Snow — whose ideas about contagion had been dismissed by the scientific community — is spurred to intense action when the people in his neighborhood begin dying. With enthralling suspense, Johnson chronicles Snow's day-by-day efforts, as he risks his own life to prove how the epidemic is being spread.

When he creates the map that traces the pattern of outbreak back to its source, Dr. Snow didn't just solve the most pressing medical riddle of his time. He ultimately established a precedent for the way modern city-dwellers, city planners, physicians, and public officials think about the spread of disease and the development of the modern urban environment. The Ghost Map is an endlessly compelling and utterly gripping account of that London summer of 1854, from the microbial level to the macrourban-theory level — including, most importantly, the human level.

Riverhead Hardcover; 1 edition (October 19, 2006)

Everything Bad Is Good for You

How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter

Steven Johnson

From the author of the New York Times bestseller Mind Wide Open comes a groundbreaking assessment of popular culture as it's never been considered before: through the lens of intelligence.

The $10 billion video gaming industry is now the second-largest segment of the entertainment industry in the United States, outstripping film and far surpassing books. Reality television shows featuring silicone-stuffed CEO wannabes and bug-eating adrenaline junkies dominate the ratings. But prominent social and cultural critic Steven Johnson argues that our popular culture has never been smarter.

Drawing from fields as diverse as neuroscience, economics, and literary theory, Johnson argues that the junk culture we're so eager to dismiss is in fact making us more intelligent. A video game will never be a book, Johnson acknowledges, nor should it aspire to be-and, in fact, video games, from Tetris to The Sims to Grand Theft Auto, have been shown to raise IQ scores and develop cognitive abilities that can't be learned from books. Likewise, successful television, when examined closely and taken seriously, reveals surprising narrative sophistication and intellectual demands.

Startling, provocative, and endlessly engaging, Everything Bad Is Good for You is a hopeful and spirited account of contemporary culture. Elegantly and convincingly, Johnson demonstrates that our culture is not declining but changing-in exciting and stimulating ways we'd do well to understand. You will never regard the glow of the video game or television screen the same way again.

Riverhead Hardcover; 1 edition (May 5, 2005)

Mind Wide Open

Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday

Steven Johnson

Brilliantly exploring today's cutting-edge brain research, Mind Wide Open is an unprecedented journey into the essence of human personality, allowing readers to understand themselves and the people in their lives as never before.

Using a mix of experiential reportage, personal storytelling, and fresh scientific discovery, Steven Johnson describes how the brain works — its chemicals, structures, and subroutines — and how these systems connect to the day-to-day realities of individual lives. For a hundred years, he says, many of us have assumed that the most powerful route to self-knowledge took the form of lying on a couch, talking about our childhoods. The possibility entertained in this book is that you can follow another path, in which learning about the brain's mechanics can widen one's self-awareness as powerfully as any therapy or meditation or drug.

In Mind Wide Open, Johnson embarks on this path as his own test subject, participating in a battery of attention tests, learning to control video games by altering his brain waves, scanning his own brain with a $2 million fMRI machine, all in search of a modern answer to the oldest of questions: who am I?

Along the way, Johnson explores how we "read" other people, how the brain processes frightening events (and how we might rid ourselves of the scars those memories leave), what the neurochemistry is behind love and sex, what it means that our brains are teeming with powerful chemicals closely related to recreational drugs, why music moves us to tears, and where our breakthrough ideas come from Johnson's clear, engaging explanation of the physical functions of the brain reveals not only the broad strokes of our aptitudes and fears, our skills and weaknesses and desires, but also the momentary brain phenomena that a whole human life comprises. Why, when hearing a tale of woe, do we sometimes smile inappropriately, even if we don't want to? Why are some of us so bad at remembering phone numbers but brilliant at recognizing faces? Why does depression make us feel stupid?

To read Mind Wide Open is to rethink family histories, individual fates, and the very nature of the self, and to see that brain science is now personally transformative — a valuable tool for better relationships and better living.

Scribner; 1 edition (January 27, 2004)

Emergence

The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software

Steven Johnson

A New York Times Notable Bbook
A Voice Literary Supplement Top 25 Favorite Books Of The Year
AN Esquire Magazine Best Book Of The Year

In the tradition of Being Digital and The Tipping Point, Steven Johnson, acclaimed as a "cultural critic with a poet's heart" (The Village Voice), takes readers on an eye-opening journey through emergence theory and its applications. Explaining why the whole is sometimes smarter than the sum of its parts, Johnson presents surprising examples of feedback, self-organization, and adaptive learning. How does a lively neighborhood evolve out of a disconnected group of shopkeepers, bartenders, and real estate developers? How does a media event take on a life of its own? How will new software programs create an intelligent World Wide Web?

In the coming years, the power of self-organization — coupled with the connective technology of the Internet — will usher in a revolution every bit as significant as the introduction of electricity. Provocative and engaging, Emergence puts you on the front lines of this exciting upheaval in science and thought.

Scribner (August 28, 2001)

Interface Culture

How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate

Steven Johnson

In this hip, erudite manifesto, Steven Johnson bridges the gap that yawns between technology and the arts.

Drawing on his own expertise in the humanities and on the Web, Steven Johnson not only demonstrates how interfaces — those buttons, graphics, and words on the computer screen through which we control information — influence our daily lives, but also tracks their roots back to Victorian novels, early cinema, and even medieval urban planning. The result is a lush cultural and historical tableau in which today's interfaces take their rightful place in the lineage of artistic innovation. With a distinctively accessible style, Interface Culture brings new intellectual depth to the vital discussion of how technology has transformed society, and is sure to provoke wide debate in both literary and technological circles.

Basic Books; Rep Sub edition (October 7, 1999)

Topics

Steven tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

New Models of Innovation

How businesses are beginning to exploit the power of social software to generate breakthrough ideas, using new tools to tap the wisdom of their customers and clients. In this presentation, Steven helps marketers better understand the social media marketing landscape and show how companies can adapt their marketing plans to a more client-centric approach. Specifically, he will explore how social network services like Facebook and Twitter relate to historical hubs of innovation—coffee shops and urban neighborhoods—and explain how businesses can model their approach to client outreach based on these examples.

Education In The Digital Age: What The Google Generation Needs To Learn – And What They Can Teach Us

Expanding on his much-discussed 2005 bestseller, Everything Bad Is Good For You, Steven explains what schools and parents need to learn from the amazingly complex technology and culture that the Google Generation is now immersed in. He explains how video games are transforming the classroom environment; how digital books are going to revolutionize libraries and scholarship; and why social network sites are actually training kids for the twenty-first century workplace.

The Ghost Map: How One Doctor Changed The World By Listening To His Patients

Based on the acclaimed 2006 bestseller, The Ghost Map, this talk tells the thrilling story of how two unlikely allies turned London's most deadly cholera epidemic into a scientific breakthrough that transformed human civilization. A gripping medical mystery, the story has an important lesson for today’s health care industry: the need for “experts” to learn from wisdom of local communities.

The Six Scales of Innovation (or How To Have Good Ideas)

Drawing on his 2009 bestseller, The Invention of Air, this talk uses the extraordinary story of Ben Franklin and Joseph Priestley’s scientific collaboration as a framework to explain how innovation happens in networks – from the neural networks of the human brain, to the informal shoptalk of the Enlightenment-era coffeehouse, to the hyperlinked creativity of the modern Internet. It’s a fascinating history lesson with direct implications for anyone looking to cultivate and capture the natural creativity of an organization.

The Future Of News

In this visionary and refreshingly optimistic talk, Steven draws on his experiences starting three influential and award-winning Web sites to explain why the long-term prospects for news in a networked age are surprisingly good, despite the crisis in the newspaper industry. He explains why the transition from newspaper monopolies to a much more diverse ecosystem of bloggers, traditional media, social networks, and public databases will create a more informed and engaged public in the coming decades.

HOW WE GOT TO NOW

Steven is the host of an upcoming series on PBS, HOW WE GOT TO NOW. Here's an overview of its six episodes:

  • Refrigeration: How our mastery of “cold on demand” helped give birth to at least four million babies, created the golden age of Hollywood and unlocked the secrets of the universe.
  • Clean: How our battle against dirt created the sidewalk, the swimming pool, the flat screen and the iPhone.
  • Light: How our quest to harness light changed our genetic make-up, gave birth to Times Square, Las Vegas, video downloads and an artificial sun.
  • Sound: How the journey to harness sound created the modern world of instant communication, but also helped put thousands of planes in the sky, changed the face of warfare and created a new way for teenagers to rebel.
  • Time: How our journey to calculate time helped create international trade and travel, victory for the North in the Civil War, GPS and understanding of the origins of human life.
  • Sight: How our quest to see better helped us see the world differently, whether right in front of our noses with the birth of eyeglasses or far beyond our visible universe with the creation of the telescope.

Videos

How We Got To Now | PBS Trailers

Where Good Ideas Come From

How We Got To Now: Time Open | PBS

Where Good Ideas Come From | TEDGlobal

Feedback

A global semiconductor company specializing in 3G and next-generation mobile technology:
He was perfect…very well done.

An independent financial services firm:
Dear Steven — I cannot thank you enough for your riveting presentation at the [...] Summit. The “speak easy” set-up was the perfect backdrop for your discussion on where good ideas come from. This was a bit out of the box for us and it was great how you really got the audience engaged. The feedback has been extremely positive and we are absolutely thrilled. You get an A+ my friend! It was truly an honor, a pleasure and really good fun working with you.

One of the world’s largest food companies:
Steven’s style is wonderfully dynamic and engaging.
He has an open & frank personality with a GREAT sense of humor.
He was so down-to-earth and relatable.
He had some wonderful stories that really spoke to the entire breadth of our diverse technical community. His total keynote address was just under 45 minutes, but it felt as though the time flew by. He could have easily spoken for 10-15 minutes more and kept the attention of our audience.

A pioneer in online audience targeting technology:
Just wanted to reach out and say how happy we were with Steven’s address yesterday at our event. He was a pleasure to work with and exceeded our expectations.

A regional library:
The Keynote Address was a big hit. Steven was articulate, funny, and interesting. His choice of subject ("the 7 ways of reading," or how social software is changing the reading experience) was very topical and completely in line with current issues and concerns in the library world. Overall, we were extremely pleased with our choice of speaker. Our formal evaluations are not yet in, but the unofficial verbal reports I received were all very positive.

A European television company:
Steve was a raging success, his is highly professional, he researched us and the industry well and it was very evdient. His talk was fantastic and people are still discussing it.

A major computer firm:
Great, charming, completely enjoyed him. Really good material, told in an interesting way. Loved him.

A major entertainment company:
It turned out to be a terrific conference and Steven Johnson was an integral part of it. He was an amazing speaker - speaking with a lot of credibility, experience and passion! This was a pretty tough group of senior TV executives to talk to but he had them enraptured - many had commented that he was the "highlight of the summit" and "a real treat". He also nailed the brief 100% and his talk fit in perfectly with our summit theme which was about the future direction of the television industry.

And, I wouldn't be surprised if our domestic executives would be interested in having him as a guest speaker for a U.S. event - will certainly let you know if this is the case!

So a big thank you for this recommendation - we couldn't have had a better speaker!

A Fortune 50 company:
Steven was a big hit...he provided some valuable insights to us. He talked about new net based forums…finding patterns in the insane chaos of data overload. He shared with us his equation that local experience + visible trails + pattern recognition technologies = rapid knowledge prediction. Resonated well with the researchers.