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.

What others say

“Johnson is a clear, lively writer with an aversion to jargon and a knack for crafting offbeat analogies.” — Washington Post

Steven Johnson’s TED talks

Steven Johnson on the TED Blog
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Live from TED2014

Lies, sex, an even freer Wikipedia and Sir Ken at a slaughterhouse: A recap of “The future is ours,” All-Stars Session 5 at TED2014

March 20, 2014

By Kate Torgovnick, Morton Bast, Thu-Huong Ha The future. When it comes down to it, it’s not about flying cars, flashy robots, jetpacks, or awesome sunglasses. It’s about the little things we can do to advance healthcare, better education, create opportunities, improve connections between each other, and make lives just a little bit easier. In […]

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Technology

On our reading list: Steven Johnson’s book Future Perfect

September 18, 2012

Steven Johnson’s new book, Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age, tackles subjects ranging from underground music video makers to New York’s 311 telephone service to the planning of the French railway system to Capt. “Sully” Sullenberger and the “miracle on the Hudson.” His point? That new solutions to old problems are […]

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Quotes from Steven Johnson

One of the founding moments of public health in the 19th century effectively poisoned the water supply of London much more effectively than any modern day bioterrorist could have ever dreamed of doing.
Steven Johnson
TEDSalon 2006 • 475K views Jan 2007
Informative, Fascinating
Nothing really says … interactivity — which was so exciting and captures the real, the Web Zeitgeist of 1995 — than ‘Click here for a picture of my dog.’
Steven Johnson
TED2003 • 166K views Oct 2008
Informative, Fascinating
Who decides that SoHo should have this personality and that the Latin Quarter should have this personality? There are some kind of executive decisions, but mostly the answer is — everybody and nobody.
Steven Johnson
TED2003 • 166K views Oct 2008
Informative, Fascinating