Steven Johnson: The playful wonderland behind great inventions
Steven Berlin Johnson examines the intersection of science, technology and personal experience. Full bio
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died in the rolling hills
of modern day Slovenia.
a mammoth died in southern Germany.
a griffon vulture also died
about how these animals met their deaths,
dispersed across both time and space
a bone from each of their skeletons
40,000 years ago.
garments from animal skins
that you would invent the flute,
useless vibrations in air molecules.
what our ancestors did.
to be surprisingly common
or feed their children
but seemingly frivolous inventions
important invention of modern times:
descend from military technology,
were designed specifically
or calculate rocket trajectories.
of the modern computer
to make a sound,
to create the first organ
of triggering sounds
from organs to clavichords to harpsichords
finally hit on the idea
to trigger not sounds but letters.
"the writing harpsichord."
to even more powerful breakthroughs.
designed a device
that plays itself."
was basically a giant music box.
various songs by using instructions
on a rotating cylinder.
to play a different song,
with a different code on it.
this was a massive leap forward.
with this invention.
of war or of conquest,
of watching a machine play music.
for about 700 years.
of the Parisian elite.
of what were called automata,
an automated flute player
was designing his robot musician,
to make pleasing sounds,
delightful patterns of color out of cloth?
to represent musical notes,
threads with different colors.
for your fabric,
and time-consuming to make,
of using paper-punched cards
much cheaper and more flexible
Victorian inventor Charles Babbage
by computer programmers
the modern computer possible?
is an important part of the story,
also required other building blocks:
ideas and technologies
the mother of invention.
is fundamentally exploratory,
in the world around us.
is why so many experiences
delight and amusement
to profound breakthroughs.
for how we teach kids in school
in our workspaces,
and delight this way
sitting there in 1750
the big changes coming to society
as anything else at the time.
the beginning of a tech revolution
ABOUT THE SPEAKERSteven Johnson - Writer
Steven Berlin Johnson examines the intersection of science, technology and personal experience.
Why you should listen
Steven Johnson is a leading light of today's interdisciplinary and collaborative approach to innovation. His writings have influenced everything from cutting-edge ideas in urban planning to the battle against 21st-century terrorism. Johnson was chosen by Prospect magazine as one of the top ten brains of the digital future, and The Wall Street Journal calls him "one of the most persuasive advocates for the role of collaboration in innovation."
Johnson's work on the history of innovation inspired the Emmy-nominated six-part series on PBS, "How We Got To Now with Steven Johnson," which aired in the fall of 2014. The book version of How We Got To Now was a finalist for the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award. His new book, Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World, revolves around the creative power of play and delight: ideas and innovations that set into motion many momentous changes in science, technology, politics and society.
Johnson is also the author of the bestselling Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, one of his many books celebrating progress and innovation. Others include The Invention of Air and The Ghost Map. Everything Bad Is Good For You, one of the most discussed books of 2005, argued that the increasing complexity of modern media is training us to think in more complex ways. Emergence and Future Perfect explore the power of bottom-up intelligence in both nature and contemporary society.
An innovator himself, Johnson has co-created three influential sites: the pioneering online magazine FEED, the Webby-Award-winning community site, Plastic.com, and the hyperlocal media site outside.in, which was acquired by AOL in 2011.
Johnson is a regular contributor to WIRED magazine, as well as the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and many other periodicals. He has appeared on many high-profile television programs, including "The Charlie Rose Show," "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer."
Steven Johnson | Speaker | TED.com