How We Got to Now Six Innovations That Made the Modern

10 thoughts on “How We Got to Now Six Innovations That Made the Modern World

  1. Always Pouting Always Pouting says:

    I'm a sucker for books that incorporate interdisciplinary thinking and then weave them into a narrative about history It was fun to see the way innovations in one area could set off subseuent innovations that seem totally unrelated The unpredictable conseuences of new discoveries is interesting and explaining it through history made it resonate much it really humanized the people being talked about I really appreciate the author's discussion about what actually helps people make these leaps and ideas that revolutionize everything because it's one that even though I see acknowledged often now isn't as widely believed Which is awful because it holds people back from doing amazing things because they have a faulty view of how progress really works I really enjoyed the book though if you liked Freakonomics you'd probably like reading this one also it utilizes the same out of the box thinking

  2. B Schrodinger B Schrodinger says:

    I picked this book up on holidays on the north coast right in the middle of one of the worst cold's I have ever had So this review comes with a drugged up warning Lots and lots of psuedoephidrineThe title's promise of Six innovations that made the modern world was probably stamped by some marketing schlep rather than the author The book rather consists of six technological avenues that shaped how we live These are divided by chapter and consist of concepts like 'cold' 'light' 'clean' and 'sound' Yes by the title sound was an innovation that made the modern world UghAnyway the stories inside each chapter are somewhat fascinating and full of intrigue The author develops several ideas throughout that some technological developments are inevitable and some are way out of left field Kinda what we know anyway but it's great to hear these examplesSo I'd say a good light holiday read for anyone who is fascinated by the history of technology He is a good writer and I'll check out his other stuff But for me it could have delved a bit deeper into his premise and still been a great light holiday read

  3. Jim Jim says:

    Johnson's long view of how innovations in 6 different fields shaped our civilization takes traces them from their original uses discoveries through their current uses It's an often amazing journey as he points out huge changes made possible by them the odd conseuences in other portions of our lives that we normally wouldn't associate with them The Wall Street Journal did a good review here GLASS from King Tut's jewelry to dishes to lenses glass has certainly been one of our oldest most important arts Lenses meshing with the printing press for glasses eventually led to the microscope telescope expanding our views immeasurably Its use as building communication materials is even astonishing2 COLD is even interesting in the way it blossomed in just the past couple of centuries has caused huge shifts in economics populations through food storage habitability Birdseye Carrier transformed our food living spaces3 SOUND told me that the cave paintings might have been for marking spots for the best sound than for art Turns out even dabs of color in the Lascaux caves in France were mapped to the best echo spots so it has a much older heritage than I'd previously thought Even so things really got hopping in the last century or two as we turned it into electricA recurring theme is that inventions innovations are generally not light bulb moments of geniuses but built on the thoughts tech of the times with a lot of hard work odd conseuences failure Sound illustrates this very well Martinville's phonoautograph in 1857 set the stage for Edison's phonograph 2o years later wasn't used the way he imagined at all Sonar was developed prior to WWI spurred by the loss of the Titanic but Langevin couldn't get anyone interested it wasn't used even though it could have saved thousands from U boats far cheaply than any other method Certainly he never thought it would be used for sonogramsUnintended conseuences By the end of the decade the sex ratio at birth in hospitals throughout China was almost 110 boys to every 100 girls with some provinces reporting ratios as high as 118100 This may be one of the most astonishing and tragic hummingbird effects in all of twentieth century technologyThe normal ratio is 105100 in the US which makes the statistic a little less tragic Scientists don't really know what drives the difference in the sex ratio in most cases although China's is a fact CLEAN the past was filthy now we've gotten to the point where we can make things too clean The clean up of cities was amazing I read The Ghost Map The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic and How It Changed Science Cities and the Modern World also by Johnson so knew some of this section I hadn't realized the entire city of Chicago was jacked up though That 3 billion people still live in sualor is ridiculous5 TIME was interesting although I've read about it before especially the difficulties in navigation before the first clocks let us figure out longitude now we use a similar method with GPS time difference between 3 satellites More interesting was the need for time accuracy in our daily lives as we industrialized communicated faster His examples of train schedules was excellent as were the explanations of how it got accurate as technology progressedHe also made a great example of how Edison was not a genius inventor on his own He was one of the pioneers of having a team in various disciplines Many others had the idea of the light bulb for decades but his team came up with the best filament first he was excellent at marketing6 LIGHT was very expensive before the electric light I was shocked by how expensive what a difference it has made in our lives especially when coupled with other inventions It was a byproduct of fire our first great discovery yet didn't change much for 100000 years Not much than a century ago we were hunting sperm whales to mine their heads for oil Now we're using lasers in an attempt to create a sunI highly recommend this It was very well read would be an excellent read for any SF author Johnson even engages in some what if scenarios There are a lot ideas here that show just how amazing odd our history is especially in the past couple of centuries Indeed we've come a long way baby

  4. Andrew Andrew says:

    History is most freuently told from the perspective of hero protagonist or the victorious civilization or as if everything was part of an inexorable and clear plan of progress History writing is by definition hindsight and we are wont to weave all details into one clear narrative The genius of this book is to show the chaos of history and juxtapose it next to the inevitability of basic chemistry and physics Steven Johnson succeeds exceptionally well in this enjoyable and delightful read about invention and the making of modern society

  5. Paul Paul says:

    In this book Steven Johnson considers six innovation that the modern world really cannot live without These are cold glass sound light time and clean Slightly obscure you might think but these six objects have given us so many things like air conditioning microscopes clean water time zones lasers and the telephoneAs he writes about each subject he reminds you of life before these inventions with no artificial light drinking water that could kill you in 48 hours and food that spot uickly in the summer He tells about the characters that put their reputations and money on the line to get these things off the ground Others then saw the potential of the ideas and the spinoff ideas from the initial one have been phenomenal For example before Gutenberg it was only a handful of monks that needed glasses for near sighted work After the first books appeared people realised that they couldn't see the text and the market for reading glasses using the newly developed lenses took off The most fascinating was the way that the entire city of Chicago was jacked up to allow space underneath to install a sewerage systemJohnson has a way of conveying ideas and concepts that make this a pleasure to read well worth reading

  6. Jason Anthony Jason Anthony says:

    When reading nonfiction I have two set rules 1 Did I learn something new?and2 Did I enjoy the writing andor material?Steven Johnson's How We Got to Now led me to strong YES responses for bothIn this book which isn't short but feels very short because you want to race right through it Johnson tracks how some of our most important inventions glass water treatment electricity changed the world in both predictable and unpredictable ways The writing is uick and entertaining; the tidbits of knowledge are non stopFor example did you know that the phrase always a bridesmaid never a bride originated as a Listerine ad for the ladies? I did notThe closest parallel I can think to this book is the work of Malcolm Gladwell However as Gladwell treads in my research domain I often know when he's exaggerating twisting or taking credit for others' ideas Here there's none of the latter he speaks of others genius and rarely hints at his own ideas but I can't speak to the world of physics and hard science That being said I have no reason to doubt his historical accuracyI strongly recommend the book and only wish it lasted longer My kindle ended it at about 60% because of all of the end notes so it felt especially uick

  7. Fred Forbes Fred Forbes says:

    I find it interesting to read the history of trends and technology that have impacted our lives enjoy it even when it is delivered in energetic and amusing fashion Beyond the butterfly effect wherein the interaction of the air of the flap of wings of a butterfly in California say leads to the formation of a storm in the Atlantic While this is an interesting aspect of chaos theory the author prefers the hummingbird effect where the changes in on thing can be directly linked to another like the role of pollen on hummingbird flight patterns and wing development This effect the author puts to use to describe strange chains of influence where innovation or cluster of innovations in one field ends up triggering changes that seem to belong to a different domain altogether An example is the development of printing by Gutenberg leads to the availability of books which leads to an awareness of a need for spectacles to see small items clearly which leads to the development of artisans working glass and the development of specialized lenses which leads to microscopes and telescopes which leads to advancements in science and health which reverberate today Johnson analyses 6 major areas of development glass cold sound clean time and light The book is full of interesting anecdotes the New Englander who thought he could make a fortune delivering ice to the tropics only to find once he got there that no one wanted it Or the Frenchman who invented a method of recording sound long before Edison's phonograph and who would be honored today but for one problem he forgot about playback The author posits that most inventions tend to arise in clusters based on where current practice and technology exist in the adjacent possible But he also notes that some time travelers are able to develop ideas long before they can be put to practical use a la Babbage and his analytical engine and Ada Lovelace's designs for computer programming DaVinci and his helicopters etc The book is well illustrated moves at a rapid clip and is an amusing and educational read

  8. Radwa Radwa says:

    Bookclub pick by Good Mythical Morning book clubThe most important thing with nonfiction books like this one is to learn something new and that's what happened after reading this bookThis book takes a different approach as Johnson calls it The Hummingbird effect which is different from the butterfly effect as in he looks at inventions that had their effect on other innovations in completely different fields in an almost not intentional or intentional way He also talks about some of the non standard inventions like glass and time and clean or approaches some well established inventions in a new way that is new and refreshing like light and sound and cold Of course the book as it says in the introduction looks solely on the way these innovations affected and came about in the US and Europe so the we in the title is actually about how Americans and Europeans innovated these ideas or made any progress with them The only drawback is that he doesn't mention how some of the innovations came to being first in some other places like Asia or some Arabian country I enjoyed this book the info and little pictures that came with it and Johnson's style is really smooth and introduces new information and historical facts with so much ease Highly recommended

  9. Book Book says:

    How We Got to Now Six Innovations That Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson“How We Got to Now is a fascinating history on how six major innovations caused strange chains of influence Contributing editor to Wired magazine and best selling author of seven books Steven Johnson provides the readers with a real treat Brilliant storytelling and a keen eye for patterns of intersection of science and technology results in a wonderful reading experience This captivating 304 page book includes the following six chaptersinnovations 1 Glass 2 Cold 3 Sound 4 Clean 5 Time and 6 Light Positives1 Great science writing It’s well researched enlightening and a pleasure to read 2 Fascinating topic how innovations are connected and the strange chains of influence resulting from them3 Excellent format Each chapter covers a specific innovation The prose is smooth and informative Johnson is a gifted storyteller4 Great use of photos and visual material to complement the excellent narration5 A recurring theme throughout the book “Innovations usually begin life with an attempt to solve a specific problem but once they get into circulation they end up triggering other changes that would have been extremely difficult to predict” It’s what the author refers to as the “hummingbird effect”6 The focus of the book is on how the changes came about 7 Love how science history and technology are weaved into great storytelling “After years of trial and error experimenting with different chemical compositions the Murano glassmaker Angelo Barovier took seaweed rich in potassium oxide and manganese burned it to create ash and then added these ingredients to molten glass When the mixture cooled it created an extraordinarily clear type of glass Struck by its resemblance to the clearest rock crystals of uartz Barovier called it cristallo This was the birth of modern glass”8 Enlightening tidbits throughout “In the monasteries of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries monks laboring over religious manuscripts in candlelit rooms used curved chunks of glass as a reading aid”9 What propelled the modern self? Find out10 An interesting look at ice “This was Tudor’s frugal genius he took three things that the market had effectively priced at zero—ice sawdust and an empty vessel—and turned them into a flourishing business” Cool stuff11 A fascinating look at the history of Chicago “The conventional story about Chicago is that it was made possible thanks to the invention of the railroad and the building of the Erie Canal But those accounts tell only part of the story The runaway growth of Chicago would have never been possible without the peculiar chemical properties of water its capacity for storing and slowly releasing cold with only the slightest of human interventions”12 A look at simultaneous inventions “One of those simultaneous inventors was the French engineer Ferdinand Carré who independently designed a refrigeration machine that followed the same basic principles as Gorrie’s”13 What is the connection between telephones and the building of skyscrapers? Find out14 The invention of the vacuum tube “Over the next decade engineers at Bell Labs and elsewhere modified his basic three electrode design removing the gas from the bulb so that it sealed a perfect vacuum transforming it into both a transmitter and a receiver The result was the vacuum tube the first great breakthrough of the electronics revolution a device that would boost the electrical signal of just about any technology that needed it”15 An interesting history of clean “It is a well known story that the Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis was roundly mocked and criticized by the medical establishment when he first proposed in 1847 that doctors and surgeons wash their hands before attending to their patients”16 Great insights into the development of measuring time “KEEPING PROPER TIME IS ULTIMATELY all about finding—or making—things that oscillate in consistent rhythms the sun rising in the sky the moon waxing and waning the altar lamp the uartz crystal The discovery of the atom in the early days of the twentieth century—led by scientists such as Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg—set in motion a series of spectacular and deadly innovations in energy and weaponry nuclear power plants hydrogen bombs”17 Interesting insights on why Thomas Edison gets the credit for the light bulb18 The “mystery” behind flash photography and the tool it provided that led to a grand movement of social reform19 The history of neon lights and bar codes and its impact20 Notes and a formal bibliography Negatives1 I would have added a timeline to show how these six innovations intersected 2 Those who saw the documentary will not find anything particularly different from the book In summary this book was a real treat; it’s beautifully written and uite enlightening Steve Johnson selects six basic innovations that have impacted the world and does a wonderful job of showing how they went beyond just solving the initial intended problem I can’t recommend this gem enough Further recommendations “Where Good Ideas Come From” by the same author “The Innovators” and “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson “The Idea Factory” by Jon Gertner “Alan Turing” by Andrew Hodges “The Innovator’s Method” by Nathan Furr “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell “Drive” by Daniel H Pink “Switch” and “Made to Stick” by Chip Heath and “The Power of habit” by Charles Duhigg

  10. Marianne Morris Marianne Morris says:

    I love stuff like this like that old British tv series Connections that tell you how one discovery or technological improvement in the field of printing for example led to another discovery or great leap forward in the field of art or rapid progress in science etc Anyway that's what this book is about and it is fascinating There's also a PBS series that brings it to life but the book by itself is great

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How We Got to Now Six Innovations That Made the Modern World [PDF / Epub] ☉ How We Got to Now Six Innovations That Made the Modern World By Steven Johnson – 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 ideasIn this illustrated history Steven Johnso Got to Kindle Ô 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 ideasIn this illustrated history Steven Johnson How We MOBI :Ê explores the history We Got to Now Six PDF/EPUB ² 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 conseuences Filled with We Got to PDF ✓ 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 We Got to Now Six PDF/EPUB ² 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.

  • Hardcover
  • 293 pages
  • How We Got to Now Six Innovations That Made the Modern World
  • Steven Johnson
  • 03 November 2016
  • 9781594632969

About the Author: Steven Johnson

Got to Kindle Ô Steven Johnson is the bestselling author of twelve books including Enemy of All Mankind Farsighted Wonderland How We Got to Now Where Good Ideas Come From The Invention of Air The Ghost Map and Everything How We MOBI :Ê Bad Is Good We Got to Now Six PDF/EPUB ² for YouHe's the host of the podcast American Innovations and the host and co creator of the PBS and BBC series How We Got to Now Johnson lives in Marin County California.