Now this looks interesting: Steven Johnson is doing a six-episode series on PBS about the 500-year histories of several aspects of modern life. Sounds right up my alley…and also quite Connections-ish.
The show builds on many of themes in the innovation history trilogy of The Ghost Map, The Invention Of Air, and Where Good Ideas Come From, but is based on new material with a completely different structure. Each hour-long episode takes one facet of modern life that we mostly take for granted — artificial cold, clean drinking water, the lenses in your spectacles — and tells the 500-year story of how that innovation came into being: the hobbyists and amateurs and entrepreneurs and collaborative networks that collectively made the modern world possible. It’s also the story of the unintended consequences of these inventions: air conditioning and refrigeration didn’t just make it possible to build ski slopes in the desert; they also triggered arguably the largest migration of human beings in the history of the species — to cities like Dubai or Phoenix that would otherwise be virtually uninhabitable.
Outside of the nature documentaries like Planet Earth, I haven’t seen a decent science series on TV in a long while — most of them are too slow with too much filler and not enough actual, you know, science — so I’m not getting my hopes up too high, but hoping this one bucks that trend.