Steven Johnson is the host of the new PBS show How We Got To Now, which celebrates the everyday folks who you've probably never heard of—but who changed the world. We'll have him here starting at 2pm EST to answer all your questions about inventors and scientists that helped shape the world we live in.
A little background on Johnson: he's written a bunch of different books on science and tech-type topics, including Emergence, Everything Is Bad for You, Where Good Ideas Come From, and Future Perfect. His most recent title, How We Got To Now, similar to the series, spotlights six big world-changing innovations:
In this illustrated history, 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.
All of these books stick to a similar thread: they're about the hidden ways tech influences our day-to-day lives. That's a really nice idea, but it's a sentence that can mean absolutely nothing at the same time. Thankfully, Johnson puts this tech into context in a way that matters to you—for real. These are innovations that you don't often think about, and the ripple effect they've into other industries. Like chlorinating our water supply, or the invention of bleach, for example.
A little bit about the show: it's great, and you should watch it. You can check out full eps right here on PBS. The first episode explored the idea of cleanliness and the systems that made it possible for cities to handle millions and millions of people. The following episode explored time. Another (below) looked at glass.
Johnson will be here at 2PM EST answering your questions about anything and everything having to do with these topics. Fire away below!
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