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How We Got to Now

Six Innovations That Made the Modern World
Narrated by: Steven Johnson
Length: 2 hrs and 57 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (11 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Did you drink a glass of water today? Did you turn on a light? Did you think about how miraculous either one of those things is when you did it? Of course not - but you should, and New York Times best-selling author Steven Johnson has. This adaptation of his adult book and popular PBS series explores the fascinating and interconnected stories of innovations - like clean drinking water and electricity - that changed the way people live.

Innovation starts with a problem whose solution sets in motion all kinds of unexpected discoveries. That's why you can draw a line from pendulums to punching the clock at a factory, from ice blocks to summer movie blockbusters, from clean water to computer chips.

In the lively storytelling style that has made him a popular, best-selling author Steven Johnson looks at how accidental genius, brilliant mistakes, and unintended consequences shape the way we live in the modern world. Johnson's "long zoom" approach connects history, geography, politics, and scientific advances with the deep curiousity of inventors or quirky interests of tinkerers to explain how innovation truly comes about. 

His fascinating account is organized into six topics: glass, cold, sound, clean, time, light. Johnson's fresh exploration of these simple, single-syllable word concepts creates an endlessly absorbing story that moves from lightning strikes in the prehistoric desert to the herculean effort to literally raise up the city of Chicago to laser labs straight out of a sci-fi movie. 

In other words, it's the story of how we got to now!

©2018 Steven Johnson (P)2018 Listening Library

Critic Reviews

“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)

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