- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Riverhead Books; 1 edition (September 30, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1594632960
- ISBN-13: 978-1594632969
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 544 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #78,872 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World 1st Edition
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Praise for Steven Johnson
“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
“You’re apt to find yourself exhilarated…Johnson is not composing an etiology of particular inventions, but doing something broader and more imaginative…I particularly like the cultural observations Johnson draws along the way…[he] has a deft and persuasive touch…[a] graceful and compelling book.” — The New York Times Book Review
“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
“A highly readable and fascinating account of science, invention, accident and genius that gave us the world we live in today.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
About the Author
Steven Johnson is the author of the bestsellers Where Good Ideas Come From, The Invention of Air, The Ghost Map, Everything Bad Is Good for You, Mind Wide Open, Emergence, and Interface Culture, and is the editor of the anthology The Innovator’s Cookbook. He is the founder of a variety of influential websites and writes for Time, Wired, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Johnson lives in Marin County, California, with his wife and three sons.
Top customer reviews
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Though we may deem some knowledge as random, no knowledge is truly random when you pull back far enough. Everything is interconnected in some way and many times they are connected in very unexpected ways.
In How We Got to Now by Steven Johnson you get a fascinating image of our world. The butterfly effect is a popular notion used to describe how one seemingly arbitrary event can have a significant impact across the planet. Johnson, however, uses a more accurate and more powerful notion: the hummingbird effect. As he puts it, we can understand a world with flowers but no hummingbirds, but we cannot comprehend a world with hummingbirds but no flowers. The anatomy of a hummingbird exists because the flower exists, the flower does not depend on the hummingbird.
Technology is similar to a hummingbird, most technologies could not exist without something else. Ideas for computers, batteries, and engines have been around for ages but without existing technology the ideas had to stay dormant.
This book is flat out one of the most interesting books I have ever read. It is amazing how simple ideas have given way to technological revolutions. It is amazing to see how much technology has evolved in a matter of two centuries. For millennia light only came in one form: fire. For millennia information only travelled at the speed of a man’s gait. For millennia a man never saw his reflection. Today, that and so much more has changed.
It is so easy to forget how simple innovations have changed the world, and it is easy to forget how much the world has changed.
Johnson does this across each of the six "things" and it makes for a remarkably entertaining and thought provoking book. Where others have tried to hone in on something very specific --- the computer, the car --- Johnson's perspective of pulling back and starting from foundational items that have led to ongoing and evolutionary discovery and impact makes for a more compelling and thought provoking read.
I recently joined an early-stage investor group (the Stateline Angels) here in Rockford, IL. Last week, I met up with Randy, one of the other members, for a coffee, and he told me about an entrepreneur that pitched his venture to the group some years earlier. I learned three things that afternoon I was totally surprised by:
- packaged ice is one of the highest-margin products that a grocery or convenience store sells
- there is a somewhat massive and highly labor intensive infrastructure and logistics involved with the production and distribution of these bags of ice
- just 3 companies produce nearly all the packaged ice you are likely to purchase at a grocery or convenience location in the US, and these 3 companies have been investigated by the FTC for price fixing
The entrepreneur that pitched to Randy and the other Stateline Angels had developed a business to install large ice vending and bagging machines at grocery and convenience locations. The idea was to produce packaged ice on-demand and on-site, disrupting the staid - albeit profitable - entrenched oligopoly.
Just that evening I started the "Cold" chapter in this book and I was struck by the recurring theme of an entrepreneur or innovator waking up to a insight into a process or reality that most others had accepted as "just is". That this theme should occur in ice and refrigeration, and even continue today was something wholly unexpected to me. This book has been a vivid and highly sensory pleasure, and this one somewhat direct experience with a concept you explored opened up an entirely new dimension for me.
This was a truly satisfying read!