Steven Johnson throws a modern spin on age-old inventions on How We Got To Now
Writer, scientist, host and historian, Steven Johnson creates a show that talks about ideas, and how they happen. How We Got To Now sees Johnson tracing the history of inventions, tapping into realms of light, cold, sound, time and sight. He sparks our curiosity and chats about rediscoveries.
Getting into science
My parents still tease me because they remember my school biology grades! I was very interested in technology and computers in the early days of the web. But I was studying English literature and history, which is the other extreme. So I was interested in things from different centuries! Soon, I realised though, that you cannot write about historical events without science. You need to know about physics to know about Roman baths.
The show’s USP
We rarely pause to think about how we got to current times. This focuses on the technology, which we now take for granted. TWe throw light on how things like ACs, glass and artificial light came to being. We take the time to explain how scientists tried to invent something and came out with something else. It’s a bit about how solving one problem triggered another and the consequences of it.
The best part
I love that it involves research. It’s like a detective at work. One finding leads to another and then you dive into unrelated threads and topics which open up the universe to you. I loved researching at libraries, but the web makes it infinitely exciting.
The most intriguing invention
Undoubtedly glass. It is perhaps the single most important material invented in the past 1,000 years. Our entire world would have been unimaginably different had it not been for glass. Apart from literal glass in windows or tumblers, we wouldn’t have had photography, medicine would have stalled as microscopes need glass, phones, Internet, television… You name it, it needs glass. It has dramatically transformed our lives.
Who is the target audience?
Originally, we hadn’t thought it would appeal to different age groups. We now realise though, that it is a great family show. It’s as interesting to an 11-year-old as it is to a 70-year-old because it’s fun and packed with information. We don’t go into the complex details but what we do is provoke questions. It sparks curiosity, which is brilliant no matter how old you are, anywhere in the world.
The fact that in most places on earth, I can simply open the tap on the water faucet and drink clean water, amazes me. The other is the Internet. And at a macro level, I pick the city. It is such great mechanism that different people can live together and pursue varied lives is amazing.
A mobile app you can’t do without…
Four Square. I find it very interesting that an app can tell you what to do through the eyes of local, common people, in a distant land.
Premiering April 20, On Discovery Channel, Mondays at 9 pm