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How We Got to Now Audiobook

How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World

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Publisher's Summary

From the New York Times best-selling 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 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.

©2014 Steven Johnson (P)2014 Penguin Audio

What Members Say

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  •  
    CJFLA 10-29-14
    CJFLA 10-29-14
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    "Really good and interesting book"
    Where does How We Got to Now rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This is really a very interesting book about the development of everyday life tools we take for granted (light, clean water, sound recordings, etc). The stories for each major area are extremely interesting and the narrator does an excellent job of getting the message across. If there is ever a volume two to this series I will definitely get it!


    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark Incline Village, NV 89451 04-04-15
    Mark Incline Village, NV 89451 04-04-15 Member Since 2007

    Drawing Fresh, Illustrative Conclusions Daily.

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    "The Adjacent Possible, Network System Innovation"
    If you could sum up How We Got to Now in three words, what would they be?

    Network System Innovation


    What other book might you compare How We Got to Now to and why?

    Day the Universe Changed, James Burke -Innovation and invention in the context of the Adjacent Possible.


    Have you listened to any of George Newbern’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No. I don't believe so. Excellent reading of the materiel.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Each chapter, of the 6 innovations, revealed profound insight into our human condition and frame of reference before the event of a given invention that has now become a given.


    Any additional comments?

    An unusually even handed take on the both the enlightened achievements of our modern era, with the modest realities of many of their unintended & subsequent unfortunate collateral effects.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andy Westport, CT, United States 10-10-14
    Andy Westport, CT, United States 10-10-14 Member Since 2010
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    "cool title, unexceptional content"

    Good effort at tying a few conceptual frameworks together. In the end, not much there.

    10 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S. Yates 06-13-16
    S. Yates 06-13-16 Member Since 2016
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    "Interesting but superficial"
    Any additional comments?

    Steven Johnson has a knack for clearly explaining scientific leaps. Though not as good as The Ghost Map, this book takes an interesting approach to progress, examining six general areas of innovation (glass, cold, time, sound, clean, and light) and investigating their history and the confluences of time and place that propelled advancements in each area. It is a neat perspective, and Johnson often stresses that our cultural imaginings of a lone genius inventor and his eureka moment is the exception that proves the rule. In each of these innovative areas, he notes that the inventions made likely could not have been made earlier in time and that had they not been invented by one person, some other contemporary very likely would have come to the same conclusion. In all cases, he stresses that some leaps cannot be made before other leaps precede them, and that the earlier developments move the chains and change was is "adjacent possible." At times he is a bit glib and glosses over specific rationale and skips to his conclusions. But the book is nonetheless interesting a good, swift tour through the fast-changing technologies that made the (western) modern world possible.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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    DeweyLib 08-04-15
    DeweyLib 08-04-15
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    "Excellent Book"
    What made the experience of listening to How We Got to Now the most enjoyable?

    The content of this book is fascinating! If it had been a physical book, I wouldn't have been able to put it down.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Being a non-fiction book, this question doesn't apply. I think the chapter on "Glass" was perhaps my favorite.


    Which character – as performed by George Newbern – was your favorite?

    n/a


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    A man spent his fortune transporting ice to the Caribbean, only to learn the people there had no idea what it was or what it could be used for. We take ice for granted, but if you've never seen it, never had a cold drink, or never eaten ice cream, then why would you buy it?


    Any additional comments?

    Great book! "Out of the box" subject matter!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael 07-13-15
    Michael 07-13-15
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    "All around great audiobook"

    I really enjoyed everything about this book. The history of these everyday technologies that we take for granted are fascinating. I love gaining new perspectives on things that are commonplace. The narrator gave a great read as well. I blew through this book in two sittings. I'll be going back for another listen very soon.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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    L. SEARLE slc, ut 05-23-15
    L. SEARLE slc, ut 05-23-15 Member Since 2014

    apoc now

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    "Great stories"

    Mentions YESCO in the last chapter. I was the CFO there for some time. Wonderful insights into their story and other stories behind inventions. We all stand on the shoulders of previous Giants.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
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    Max 11-14-14
    Max 11-14-14 Member Since 2014
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    "some interesing history"

    This is another of many recent books that chronicle how inventions changed our lives... I don't really feel this one justifies the title of "how we got to now" ... maybe "a few of the things that got us to now" would be more like it. It has some history that I hadn't heard before, but a little more of stuff I had heard before. It's an interesting listen, I don't regret it, but it didn't blow me away.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
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    Jacob Brenner Stanford, CA United States 06-23-15
    Jacob Brenner Stanford, CA United States 06-23-15 Member Since 2016
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    "New insight into famous innovations"

    Great stories of innovation, while drawing a few general principles from the commonalities of the anecdotes.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
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    Josh Carbaugh 08-10-16 Member Since 2015
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    "Amazing"

    Amazing storytelling of the greatest innovations/discoveries of all time, and how they created chain reactions of other changes and revolutions in technological advancements. Very educational. Never cared for learning about history as much as I do now.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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