Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Steven Johnson, The New York Times–bestselling author, shares a look at the world-changing innovations we made while keeping ourselves entertained

LISTEN to Janeane's conversation with Steven Johnson!

Steven Johnson, the New York Times bestselling author of How We Got to Now—also an Emmy-winning PBS series—takes a long-zoom approach to popular entertainment, contending that the pursuit of novelty and wonder is a powerful driver of world-shaping technological change. In Wonderland, now out in paperback, Johnson argues that throughout history, the cutting edge of innovation lies wherever people are working the hardest to keep themselves amused and how follies dismissed as mindless entertainment have changed civilization in dramatic ways. 

In six captivating sections—Fashion and Shopping, Music, Taste, Illusions, Games, and Public Space—Johnson introduces us to the colorful innovators of leisure: the explorers, proprietors, showmen, and artists who changed the trajectory of history with their luxurious wares, exotic meals, taverns, gambling tables, and magic shows.

Steven discusses how:

· Garment design has driven technological innovation

· Early music boxes demonstrated advanced mechanical engineering and player pianos paved the way for the development of computer software

· Having a taste for spices from pepper to vanilla to cinnamon generated massive international trade

· Our desire for amusement has shifted our perspective about public spaces and led to the creation of parks, zoos, taverns and coffeehouses, all of which have played a key role in revolutionizing society.

In every case—from 19th century illusionists to today’s virtual reality—Johnson brilliantly shows how innovations come from unexpected places—including the technological breakthroughs of Snow White to the way that games (from chess to Spacewar!) have made possible crucial advancements in computing. As he makes clear, “you will find the future wherever people have having the most fun.”

About the Author
Steven Johnson is the bestselling author of books including How We Got to Now, Where Good Ideas Come From, The Invention of Air, The Ghost Map, and Everything Bad Is Good for You. The founder of a variety of influential websites, he is the host and co-creator of the PBS and BBC series How We Got to Now. Johnson lives in Marin County, California, and Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and three sons.

Learn more about Steven Johnson

How We Got to Now - The PBS Series

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