I recently finished reading Steen Johnson’s How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World. It was a breezy and pleasurable read, full of interesting information. Johnson’s writing is clear, concise, and engaging throughout.
As a huge nerd who spent a lot of time in childhood perusing a science and technology encyclopedia, and a lot of time in my teens watching tech-related documentaries on Discovery and TLC (before those networks drifted to reality TV), I already knew a lot of the material. Still, it’s a wonderful read to anyone who loves the “history of ideas course” way of looking at disparate, seemingly unrelated things in everyday life, and drawing a through line that connects them all. Plus I learned new phrases that describe these unintended and intended technological and cultural developments—“hummingbird effects” and “the adjacent possible”—that I particularly like.