How We Got to Now

  • by Steven Johnson
  • Narrated by George Newbern
  • 6 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

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.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

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!


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- CJFLA

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.

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- Mark

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-30-2014
  • Publisher: Penguin Audio