How We Got to Now (6 x 60′) – Steven Johnson, the popular American science author and media theorist, explores the power and the legacy of great ideas. Topics explored in the series include why and how ideas happen, and their sometimes unintended results, including how the search for clean water opened the way to invention of the iPhone, and how the nagging problem of overheating in a New York printing business led to the invention of air conditioning, which inspired mass migration and a political transformation.
Johnson explains how the answers to the questions he poses in each episode — such as “how do we make something cold?” or “how do we create light?”— have driven other discoveries through the web of ideas and innovations that made each finding possible. Tracking each pursuit through history both ancient and contemporary, Johnson unlocks tales of unsung heroes and radical revolutions that changed the world and the way we live in it.
Alongside the bizarre coincidences, intense rivalries, terrible failures and moments of heroic achievement that made theories into realities, the series uses historical precedents and modern-day analogies to explain why it’s not always the smartest person in the room who has the best idea. From frozen foods entrepreneur Clarence Birdseye to Internet visionary Tim Berners-Lee, Hollywood “Golden Age” actress and inventor Hedy Lamarr to mother of radioactivity Marie Curie, and from Thomas Alva Edison to Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, the series shows how the best ideas can come from surprising places (and take years to shape), as well as how amateurs can revolutionize specialist fields, and why patents are sometimes a big idea’s worst enemy.
Channel: PBS (CPB/PBS Program Challenge Fund) / BBC
TX: Fall 2014
Source: PBS press release