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How We Got to Now 

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Explores the power and the legacy of great ideas.




Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Series cast summary:
Steven Johnson ...  Himself - Host 3 episodes, 2014


Explores the power and the legacy of great ideas.

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Release Date:

15 October 2014 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

How We Got to Now with Steven Johnson See more »

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Aspect Ratio:

16:9 HD
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User Reviews

Guess I'm expecting more from Steven Johnson and PBS
22 October 2014 | by bruce-129See all my reviews

I found out about Steven Johnson with his book "Mind Wide Open" which I listened to in audio-book format while on a driving trip. I liked his style and clear way of writing, but mostly what I liked is that he was telling me, not all, but mostly about stuff I did not know about at the time. He sparked my interest in neuroscience, which I suppose I did not really know existed at the time. I heard Steven talk on his book lectures twice. I am predisposed to look favorably on him and his work.

"How We Got To Now" cannot help but remind me of the series I watched as a teenager, "Connections", by James Burke. Burke had a sophisticated worldly point of view and spoke like an adult. Before Burke was Jacob Bronowski's "Ascent Of Man" which started this type of programming ... with me anyway.

I want to like and watch "How We Got to Now", but I cannot help but compare it negatively with these other programs that I think far outclass it, as I thought the original "Cosmos" series outclassed the new series that was released on PBS.

I am left wondering ... what happened.

It's not that Johnson's effort is bad ... it is not, in fact it is fairly good. The problem is that it is the same as or less of the the previous versions, and seems to be dumbed down. I am picked by and detest this trend in America.

In every single section of this episode of this series there is Johnson full in the camera acting the clown. When did every public programming about science, math, economics, or anything more complicated than Kim Kardashian's ass become something to be ashamed of, or clown about, or more specifically act stupid about?

There's Johnson at Heathrow Airport making dumb jokes about how bad he is at directing flights in the Air Traffic Controller simulator ... which of course he would be since he just sat down at the seat. Same with the worldwide time synchronization organization. The cue seems to be these things are something to joke at, like calling Galileo a misfit nerd.

So far everything I am seeing seems aimed at adolescent children with ADHD, dumbed down so they will not feel bad. Maybe that is necessary, or maybe it is to appeal to the parents so they will be members of PBS ... I don't know ... but what I do know is that this is less than the stuff what was explained earlier in other series that seemed much better, with a more inspirational view of Western Civilization, science and technology. How is it that we can be going backwards? How is it that these things are dumbing down at a time when we know more and depend more on technology than at any other time, not to mention that the pace of change is not at a level that will hit most of us in a very disorienting way before we are even old or retired.

There is no vision in this program, there is no wonder, it's almost like something a smart person would write to seem stupid so he will feel less likely to be rejected.

Is there a conspiracy to dumb down society and the media? If there is I'd want to think that Steven Johnson would have nothing to do with it. So what is going on? Why don't we get anything useful on Commercial Television for our citizens, and why doesn't Public Broadcasting challenge and inform anymore? Has our national intelligence level really dropped in the last 30 years? I think this program would be aimed at the Jr. High School level, so maybe I am not a fair reviewer.

How come this series seems so lightweight? 3/5 and being kind.

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