Book: How We Got to Now


I’ve enjoyed most of Steven Johnson’s books, and have now added “How We Got To Now” to the list.

The book looks at six technologies that have “made the modern world”. The six are…

  1. Glass
  2. Cold
  3. Sound
  4. Clean (hygene)
  5. Time
  6. Light

He demonstrates how each of those innovations had profound and unexpected effects. For example, discovery of microbes led to chlorinated water led to the bikini bathing suit (read it and learn how that happened).

Many of Johnson’s books refer to the “adjacent possible”, meaning that very few things are invented in isolation. It’s the network of ideas and not individual genius that sparks great ideas. I found that he drives this point home more often than necessary, but otherwise it’s a fun, informative, and fascinating read.