From Steven Johnson, the bestselling author of Where Good Ideas Come From, comes How We Got to Now, the companion book to his six-part BBC One television series exploring the power and the legacy of great ideas.
How did photography bring about social reform? What connects refrigeration to Hollywood? And how did our battle against dirt help create smartphones? In this story of ingenious breakthroughs and unsung heroes, Steven Johnson explores the essential innovations that changed the world and how we live in it.
'A new Steven Johnson book is something not to be missed. The author has become the leading writer on how inventions happen' Daniel Finkelstein, The Times, Books of the Year
'Graceful and compelling ... you'll find yourself exhilarated' The New York Times Book Review
'Readable, entertaining, and a challenge to any jaded sensibility that has become inured to the everyday miracles all around us' Peter Forbes, Guardian'This nimble history of invention . . .is a many-layered delight' Nature
Steven Johnson is the US bestselling author of Where Good Ideas Come From, The Invention of Air, The Ghost Map, and Everything Bad Is Good for You, and is the editor of the anthology The Innovator's Cookbook. He is the founder of a variety of influential websites - most recently, outside.in - and writes for Time, Wired, The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
In this fascinating book, Johnson (Where Good Ideas Come From) presents a "history of ideas and innovation," focusing on six important technical and scientific innovations that have shaped the modern world but that we often take for granted. The book reveals what Johnson calls "the hummingbird effect," when "an innovation... in one field ends up triggering changes that seem to belong to a different domain altogether." We learn how Gutenberg's press created a market for spectacles, which, in turn, led to the development of the microscope, the telescope, and the camera; how muckrakers were empowered by flash photography in the Progressive Era; and how the modern advertising business has roots in the germ theory of disease. Understanding the hummingbird effect is crucial in our world of constant technological development. Johnson debunks the genius theory of innovation the romantic idea of the lone inventor who changes history arguing instead that ideas and innovations emerge from "collaborative networks" at the intersections of different domains. He says that this understanding is crucial to "see more clearly the way new ideas come into being, and how to cultivate them as a society." 75 b&w and color photos.