“A house of wonders itself. . . . Wonderland inspires grins and well-what-d'ya-knows” —The New York Times Book Review From the New York Times–bestselling author of How We Got to Now and Where Good Ideas Come From, a look at the world-changing innovations we made while keeping ourselves entertained. This lushly illustrated history of popular entertainment takes a long-zoom approach, contending that the pursuit of novelty and wonder is a powerful driver of world-shaping technological change. Steven Johnson argues that, throughout history, the cutting edge of innovation lies wherever people are working the hardest to keep themselves and others amused. Johnson’s storytelling is just as delightful as the inventions he describes, full of surprising stops along the journey from simple concepts to complex modern systems. He 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. In Wonderland, Johnson compellingly argues that observers of technological and social trends should be looking for clues in novel amusements. You’ll find the future wherever people are having the most fun.
This illustrated "history of popular entertainment takes along-zoom approach, contending that the pursuit of novelty and wonder is a powerful driver of world-shaping technological change. Steven Johnson argues that, throughout history, the cutting edge of innovation lies wherever people are working the hardest to keep themselves and others amused"--
"Everyone knows the old saying "necessity is the mother of invention," but if you do a paternity test on many of the modern world's most important ideas or institutions, you will find, invariably, that leisure and play were involved in the conception as well." Most history books don't concern themselves with delight. History is the serious business of war, treaties, governments and monarchs. This is a different kind of history book. Steven Johnson argues that if you want to understand how we got to now, you have to understand pleasure and play. A staggering amount of the landscape of modern life is populated by environments and technology designed to entertain and delight us. Here history of popular entertainment, arguing that the pursuit of novelty and wonder is a powerful driver of world-shaping technological change. Throughout history, he locates the cutting edge of innovation wherever people are working the hardest to keep themselves and others amused. He 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.
From the New York Times–bestselling author of Where Good Ideas Come From and Farsighted, a new look at the power and legacy of great ideas. 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. 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.
How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter
Author: Steven Johnson
Category: Social Science
Look out for Johnson’s new book, Wonderland, now on sale. Forget everything you’ve ever read about the age of dumbed-down, instant-gratification culture. In this provocative, unfailingly intelligent, thoroughly researched, and surprisingly convincing big idea book, Steven Johnson draws from fields as diverse as neuroscience, economics, and media theory to argue that the pop culture we soak in every day—from Lord of the Rings to Grand Theft Auto to The Simpsons—has been growing more sophisticated with each passing year, and, far from rotting our brains, is actually posing new cognitive challenges that are actually making our minds measurably sharper. After reading Everything Bad is Good for You, you will never regard the glow of the video game or television screen the same way again. With a new afterword by the author. Steven Johnson's newest book, How We Got to Now, is now available from Riverhead Books.
BRILLIANTLY EXPLORING TODAY'S CUTTING-EDGE BRAIN RESEARCH, MIND WIDE OPEN IS AN UNPRECEDENTED JOURNEY INTO THE ESSENCE OF HUMAN PERSONALITY, ALLOWING READERS TO UNDERSTAND THEMSELVES AND THE PEOPLE IN THEIR LIVES AS NEVER BEFORE. Using a mix of experiential reportage, personal storytelling, and fresh scientific discovery, Steven Johnson describes how the brain works -- its chemicals, structures, and subroutines -- and how these systems connect to the day-to-day realities of individual lives. For a hundred years, he says, many of us have assumed that the most powerful route to self-knowledge took the form of lying on a couch, talking about our childhoods. The possibility entertained in this book is that you can follow another path, in which learning about the brain's mechanics can widen one's self-awareness as powerfully as any therapy or meditation or drug. In Mind Wide Open, Johnson embarks on this path as his own test subject, participating in a battery of attention tests, learning to control video games by altering his brain waves, scanning his own brain with a $2 million fMRI machine, all in search of a modern answer to the oldest of questions: who am I? Along the way, Johnson explores how we "read" other people, how the brain processes frightening events (and how we might rid ourselves of the scars those memories leave), what the neurochemistry is behind love and sex, what it means that our brains are teeming with powerful chemicals closely related to recreational drugs, why music moves us to tears, and where our breakthrough ideas come from. Johnson's clear, engaging explanation of the physical functions of the brain reveals not only the broad strokes of our aptitudes and fears, our skills and weaknesses and desires, but also the momentary brain phenomena that a whole human life comprises. Why, when hearing a tale of woe, do we sometimes smile inappropriately, even if we don't want to? Why are some of us so bad at remembering phone numbers but brilliant at recognizing faces? Why does depression make us feel stupid? To read Mind Wide Open is to rethink family histories, individual fates, and the very nature of the self, and to see that brain science is now personally transformative -- a valuable tool for better relationships and better living.
A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution, and the Birth of America
Author: Steven Johnson
Category: Biography & Autobiography
Bestselling author Johnson recounts the story of Joseph Priestley--scientist and theologian, protege of Benjamin Franklin--an 18th-century radical thinker who played pivotal roles in the invention of ecosystem science, the founding of the Unitarian Church, and the intellectual development of the U.S.
The hardest choices are also the most consequential. So why do we know so little about how to get them right? Big, life-altering decisions matter so much more than the decisions we make every day, and they're also the most difficult: where to live, whom to marry, what to believe, whether to start a company, how to end a war. There's no one-size-fits-all approach for addressing these kinds of conundrums. Steven Johnson's classic Where Good Ideas Come From inspired creative people all over the world with new ways of thinking about innovation. In Farsighted, he uncovers powerful tools for honing the important skill of complex decision-making. While you can't model a once-in-a-lifetime choice, you can model the deliberative tactics of expert decision-makers. These experts aren't just the master strategists running major companies or negotiating high-level diplomacy. They're the novelists who draw out the complexity of their characters' inner lives, the city officials who secure long-term water supplies, and the scientists who reckon with future challenges most of us haven't even imagined. The smartest decision-makers don't go with their guts. Their success relies on having a future-oriented approach and the ability to consider all their options in a creative, productive way. Through compelling stories that reveal surprising insights, Johnson explains how we can most effectively approach the choices that can chart the course of a life, an organization, or a civilization. Farsighted will help you imagine your possible futures and appreciate the subtle intelligence of the choices that shaped our broader social history.
The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software
Author: Steven Johnson
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
In the tradition of Being Digital and The Tipping Point, Steven Johnson, acclaimed as a "cultural critic with a poet's heart" (The Village Voice), takes readers on an eye-opening journey through emergence theory and its applications. A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK A VOICE LITERARY SUPPLEMENT TOP 25 FAVORITE BOOKS OF THE YEAR AN ESQUIRE MAGAZINE BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR Explaining why the whole is sometimes smarter than the sum of its parts, Johnson presents surprising examples of feedback, self-organization, and adaptive learning. How does a lively neighborhood evolve out of a disconnected group of shopkeepers, bartenders, and real estate developers? How does a media event take on a life of its own? How will new software programs create an intelligent World Wide Web? In the coming years, the power of self-organization -- coupled with the connective technology of the Internet -- will usher in a revolution every bit as significant as the introduction of electricity. Provocative and engaging, Emergence puts you on the front lines of this exciting upheaval in science and thought.
Look out for Johnson’s new book, Wonderland, now on sale. Combining the deft social analysis of Where Good Ideas Come From with the optimistic arguments of Everything Bad Is Good For You, New York Times bestselling author Steven Johnson’s Future Perfect makes the case that a new model of political change is on the rise, transforming everything from local governments to classrooms, from protest movements to health care. Johnson paints a compelling portrait of this new political worldview -- influenced by the success and interconnectedness of the Internet, by peer networks, but not dependent on high-tech solutions -- that breaks with the conventional categories of liberal or conservative, public vs. private thinking. With his acclaimed gift for multi-disciplinary storytelling and big idea books, Johnson explores this new vision of progress through a series of fascinating narratives: from the “miracle on the Hudson” to the planning of the French railway system; from the battle against malnutrition in Vietnam to a mysterious outbreak of strange smells in downtown Manhattan; from underground music video artists to the invention of the Internet itself. At a time when the conventional wisdom holds that the political system is hopelessly gridlocked with old ideas, Future Perfect makes the timely and inspiring case that progress is still possible, and that innovative strategies are on the rise. This is a hopeful, affirmative outlook for the future, from one of the most brilliant and inspiring visionaries of contemporary culture.
Look out for Johnson’s new book, Wonderland, now on sale. Steven Johnson, author of Where Good Ideas Come From, Emergence, Everything Bad is Good for You, Mind Wide Open and Ghost Map, and an acknowledged bestselling leader on the subject of innovation, gathers - for a foundational text on the subject of innovation - essays, interviews, and cutting-edge insights by such exciting field leaders as Peter Drucker, Richard Florida, Eric Von Hippel, Dean Keith Simonton, Arthur Koestler, John Seely Brown, and Marshall Berman. Johnson also provides new material from Marisa Mayer of Google, Twitter's Biz Stone and Jack Dorsey, and Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's former Chief Software Architect. With additional commentary by Johnson himself, this book reveals the innovation found in a wide range of fields, including science, technology, energy, transportation, education, art, and sociology, making it vital, fresh, and fascinating reading for our time, and for the future.
The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World
Author: Steven Johnson
A National Bestseller, a New York Times Notable Book, and an Entertainment Weekly Best Book of the Year From Steven Johnson, the dynamic thinker routinely compared to James Gleick, Dava Sobel, and Malcolm Gladwell, The Ghost Map is a riveting page-turner about a real-life historical hero, Dr. John Snow. It's the summer of 1854, and London is just emerging as one of the first modern cities in the world. But lacking the infrastructure -- garbage removal, clean water, sewers -- necessary to support its rapidly expanding population, the city has become the perfect breeding ground for a terrifying disease no one knows how to cure. As the cholera outbreak takes hold, a physician and a local curate are spurred to action-and ultimately solve the most pressing medical riddle of their time. In a triumph of multidisciplinary thinking, Johnson illuminates the intertwined histories and interconnectedness of the spread of disease, contagion theory, the rise of cities, and the nature of scientific inquiry, offering both a riveting history and a powerful explanation of how it has shaped the world we live in.
The True Story of How Western Europe's Poorest Nation Created Our World and Ever ything in It
Author: Arthur Herman
Publisher: Broadway Books
An exciting account of the origins of the modern world Who formed the first literate society? Who invented our modern ideas of democracy and free market capitalism? The Scots. As historian and author Arthur Herman reveals, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Scotland made crucial contributions to science, philosophy, literature, education, medicine, commerce, and politics—contributions that have formed and nurtured the modern West ever since. Herman has charted a fascinating journey across the centuries of Scottish history. Here is the untold story of how John Knox and the Church of Scotland laid the foundation for our modern idea of democracy; how the Scottish Enlightenment helped to inspire both the American Revolution and the U.S. Constitution; and how thousands of Scottish immigrants left their homes to create the American frontier, the Australian outback, and the British Empire in India and Hong Kong. How the Scots Invented the Modern World reveals how Scottish genius for creating the basic ideas and institutions of modern life stamped the lives of a series of remarkable historical figures, from James Watt and Adam Smith to Andrew Carnegie and Arthur Conan Doyle, and how Scottish heroes continue to inspire our contemporary culture, from William “Braveheart” Wallace to James Bond. And no one who takes this incredible historical trek will ever view the Scots—or the modern West—in the same way again.
Drawing on numerous unpublished sources, the author examines the peculiar friendship between Oxford mathematician Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell, the child for whom he invented the Alice stories, and analyzes how this relationship stirred Carroll's imagination and influenced the creation of Wonderland.
With almost 4 million copies sold over 50 years after its original publication, generations of readers have now journeyed with Milo to the Lands Beyond in this beloved classic that Philip Pullman says “comes up bright and new every time I read it . . . it will continue to charm and delight for a very long time yet. And teach us some wisdom, too.” Enriched by Jules Feiffer’s splendid illustrations, the wit, wisdom, and wordplay of Norton Juster’s offbeat fantasy are as beguiling as ever. For Milo, everything’s a bore. When a tollbooth mysteriously appears in his room, he drives through only because he’s got nothing better to do. But on the other side, things seem different. Milo visits the Island of Conclusions (you get there by jumping), learns about time from a ticking watchdog named Tock, and even embarks on a quest to rescue Rhyme and Reason. Somewhere along the way, Milo realizes something astonishing. Life is far from dull. In fact, it’s exciting beyond his wildest dreams!
Lynn Austin Will Delight Readers with Her Winsome Heroine Alice Grace Ripley lives in a dream world, her nose stuck in a book. But happily-ever-after life she's planned on suddenly falls apart when her boyfriend, Gordon, breaks up with her, accusing her of living in a world of fiction instead of the real world. Then to top it off, Alice loses her beloved job at the library because of cutbacks due to the Great Depression. Fleeing small-town gossip, Alice heads to the mountains of eastern Kentucky to deliver five boxes of donated books to the library in the tiny coal-mining village of Acorn. Dropped off by her relatives, Alice volunteers to stay for two weeks to help the librarian, Leslie McDougal. But the librarian turns out to be far different than she anticipated--not to mention the four lady librarians who travel to the remote homes to deliver the much-desired books. While Alice is trapped in Acorn against her will, she soon finds that real-life adventure and mystery--and especially romance--are far better than her humble dreams could have imagined.
Look out for Johnson’s new book, Wonderland, now on sale. The printing press, the pencil, the flush toilet, the battery--these are all great ideas. But where do they come from? What kind of environment breeds them? What sparks the flash of brilliance? How do we generate the breakthrough technologies that push forward our lives, our society, our culture? Steven Johnson's answers are revelatory as he identifies the seven key patterns behind genuine innovation, and traces them across time and disciplines. From Darwin and Freud to the halls of Google and Apple, Johnson investigates the innovation hubs throughout modern time and pulls out the approaches and commonalities that seem to appear at moments of originality.
Messiness adds benefits to our lives, so why do we resist the concept so? Harford uses research from neuroscience, psychology and social science to explain why disorder, confusion, and disarray are actually lies at the core of how we innovate, how we achieve, how we reach each other. He shows that the human inclination for tidiness can mask a deep and debilitating fragility that keep us from innovation.
xxxxx proposes a radical, new space for artistic exploration, with essential contributions from a diverse range of artists, theorists, and scientists. Combining intense background material, code listings, screenshots, new translation, [the] xxxxx [reader] functions as both guide and manifesto for a thought movement which is radically opposed to entropic contemporary economies. xxxxx traces a clear line across eccentric and wide ranging texts under the rubric of life coding which can well be contrasted with the death drive of cynical economy with roots in rationalism and enlightenment thought. Such philosophy, world as machine, informs its own deadly flipside embedded within language and technology. xxxxx totally unpicks this hiroshimic engraving, offering an dandyish alternative by way of deep examination of software and substance. Life coding is primarily active, subsuming deprecated psychogeography in favour of acute wonderland technology, wary of any assumed transparency. Texts such as Endonomadology, a text from celebrated biochemist and chaos theory pioneer Otto E. Roessler, who features heavily throughout this intense volume, make plain the sadistic nature and active legacy of rationalist thought. At the same time, through the science of endophysics, a physics from the inside elaborated here, a delicate theory of the world as interface is proposed. xxxxx is very much concerned with the joyful elaboration of a new real; software-led propositions which are active and constructive in eviscerating contemporary economic culture. xxxxx embeds Perl Routines to Manipulate London, by way of software artist and Mongrel Graham Harwood, a Universal Dovetailer in the Lisp language from AI researcher Bruno Marchal rewriting the universe as code, and self explanatory Pornographic Coding from plagiarist and author Stewart Home and code art guru Florian Cramer. Software is treated as magical, electromystical, contrasting with the tedious GUI desktop applications and user-led drudgery expressed within a vast ghost-authored literature which merely serves to rehearse again and again the demands of industry and economy. Key texts, which well explain the magic and sheer art of programming for the absolute beginner are published here. Software subjugation is made plain within the very title of media theorist Friedrich Kittler's essay Protected Mode, published in this volume. Media, technology and destruction are further elaborated across this work in texts such as War.pl, Media and Drugs in Pynchon's Second World War, again from Kittler, and Simon Ford's elegant take on J.G Ballard's crashed cars exhibition of 1970, A Psychopathic Hymn. Software and its expansion stand in obvious relation to language. Attacking transparency means examining the prison cell or virus of language; life coding as William Burrough's cutup. And perhaps the most substantial and thorough-going examination is put forward by daring Vienna actionist Oswald Wiener in his Notes on the Concept of the Bio-adapter which has been thankfully unearthed here. Equally, Olga Goriunova's extensive examination of a new Russian literary trend, the online male literature of udaff.com provides both a reexamination of culture and language, and an example of the diversity of xxxxx; a diversity well reflected in background texts ranging across subjects such as Leibniz' monadology, the ur-crash of supreme flaneur Thomas de Quincey and several rewritings of the forensic model of Jack the Ripper thanks to Stewart Home and Martin Howse. xxxxx liberates software from the machinic, and questions the transparency of language, proposing a new world view, a sheer electromysticism which is well explained with reference to the works of Thomas Pynchon in Friedrich Kittler's essay, translated for the first time into English, which closes xxxxx. Further contributors include Hal Abelson, Leif Elggren, Jonathan Kemp, Aymeric Mansoux, and socialfiction.org.