Steven Johnson

Writer. Nine books, most recently How We Got To Now, also a PBS/BBC2 television series. Three kids, one wife. Marin/Brooklyn.


The Spark File


Looking back at all the tools and techniques that I've developed over the years as a writer, it occurs to me that most of them are, in one way or another, grappling with two critical mental forces: the power (and weakness) of human memory, and the sometimes overwhelming drive to procrastinate.

Let's start with memory, and put off procrastination for the time…


Apocalyptic Schadenfreude

What the New York Times — and everybody else — gets wrong about California’s water crisis.



A Billion Points of Light

How the laser beam ushered in the age of big-box shopping


THERE IS A PREDICTABLE FLOW to the way technological advances change society…


Flash Forward

How the flashbulb changed the face of urban poverty


How the flashbulb changed

Publications edited by Steven Johnson

Tools And Strategies For A Writing Life

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The Shadow Plot

Thoughts, experiences, and commentary about the world’s most interesting automobile company.

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Tesla in a Teapot

The Hummingbird Effect


The Hummingbird Effect

How new ideas surprise us


THIS IS HOW CHANGE happens in the natural world: sometime during the Cretaceous age, flowers began to evolve colors…


Plug Versus Pump

What people don’t get about the convenience of electric cars


Yesterday, Tesla announced its plan to radically expand its Supercharger stations


The Pay Ratio

Why equality is good for business—and why the tech sector should be a role model for fairness, and not just innovation


At the New Yorker blog, George Packer responded to my earlier post, Learning From Los Gatos, with a few thoughtful and generous remarks. I think we are in agreement that the politics of Silicon Valley are weirder and more…


Learning From Los Gatos

Why Silicon Valley is not the second coming of the Gilded Age. 


It’s no surprise that George Packer—one of the most gifted writers in the business—has hit upon a fascinating topic in his latest New Yorker piece: the emerging politics of Silicon Valley. While the essay is behind a paywall, it’s definitely worth tracking down if you’re not…


The Shadow Plot

Why It’s Okay To Cheat On Your Projects


A few years ago I found myself at a party in conversation with a musician whose career had involved a series of experiments with different genres of sound. At some point in our exchange, I made a passing reference to his “capacity for reinventing himself,” or something along those lines. He shook his head before…


Tesla Is The New Apple


Sure, it’s an obvious comparison, one that’s been made many times in the past year or two. But it’s a comparison that’s worth pondering in some detail -- not just for…


Model S In The City


Like a lot of people I know, I’ve been watching the extended dispute between Tesla CEO Elon Musk and The New York Times, sparked originally by Times reporter John Broder’s