Steven Johnson: The playful wonderland behind great inventions
Steven Johnson - Writer
Steven Berlin Johnson examines the intersection of science, technology and personal experience. Full bio
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 speaker:Steven Johnson - Writer
Steven Berlin Johnson examines the intersection of science, technology and personal experience.
Why you should listen
A dynamic writer and speaker, Johnson crafts captivating theories that draw on a dizzying array of disciplines, without ever leaving his audience behind. Author Kurt Anderson described Johnson's book Emergence as "thoughtful and lucid and charming and staggeringly smart." The same could be said for Johnson himself. His big-brained, multi-disciplinary theories make him one of his generation's more intriguing thinkers. His books take the reader on a journey -- following the twists and turns his own mind makes as he connects seemingly disparate ideas: ants and cities, interface design and Victorian novels.
Johnson's breakout 2005 title, Everything Bad Is Good for You , took the provocative stance that our fear and loathing of popular culture is misplaced; video games and TV shows, he argues, are actually making us smarter. His appearances on The Daily Show and Charlie Rose cemented his reputation as a cogent thinker who could also pull more than his share of laughs. His most recent work, The Ghost Map, goes in another direction entirely: It tells the story of a cholera outbreak in 1854 London, from the perspective of the city residents, the doctors chasing the disease, and the pathogen itself. The book shows how the epidemic brought about profound changes in science, cities and modern society. His upcoming work, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, tells the fascinating stories of great ideas and great thinkers across disciplines.
No mere chronicler of technology, Johnson is himself a longtime innovator in the web world: He was founder and Editor in Chief of FEED, one of the earliest and most interesting online magazines. He cofounded Patch, an intriguing website that maps online conversations to real-world neighborhoods, and outside.in -- and is an advisor to many other startups, including Medium and Jelly. He is the host and co-creator of the new PBS and BBC television series How We Got to Now, airing in the fall of 2014.
Steven Johnson | Speaker | TED.com