Book Review – How We Got to Now

I am writing this post in the comfort of my home, with a small desk lamp providing ambient light while drinking a cappuccino, listening to Spotify tracks on my home audio, all before getting to work on time. Completely unaware of what it took, technology wise, to allow me to have this moment.

First, desk lamp. Light. It used to be that you went to sleep when it got dark, woke up when it was light. Now we get to do whatever, whenever, completely altering our sleep pattern as we wish.

Second, a cappuccino. It took actual glass to make my cappuccino glass, it took refrigeration to allow me to store milk at my home.

Third, Spotify on my home audio. I won’t even get to the microchips that allowed me to have the computer in front of my face, or glass to make the screen, or the clean rooms it took to make these parts, but the sound itself, audio, someone invented that, too.

Last but not least, time. I have to walk my dog in 30 minutes, leave the house in 60, travel to work is another 25, all so that I can get to work before 8 am. Not so long ago, not our century yet not much longer than that, you scheduled things based on estimations, or didn’t schedule them at all. No one knew you were late, cause late didn’t exist. You got to it… when you got to it. Simple.


In How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson, you will read about all the ingenuity it took to get us the lives we take for granted today. I loved how there was a time when no one needed glasses, because A) no books were printed so no one read and B) there was no glass to make spectacles. With the invention of the printing press, suddenly people realized they didn’t see well at all!

  1. Glass
  2. Cold
  3. Sound
  4. Clean
  5. Time
  6. Light

These are the six innovations Steven Johnson believes shaped our world today. I won’t spoil it anymore, but the book is a quick read and full of very cool insights.



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