We all have certain things, which with the passage of time we can point back to and say it shaped our thinking. I remember in my childhood watching a TV series called Connections.
Connections was a TV series created by (and starring) James Burke. His main thing is he looks at the modern world around us and traces the technology we have back to the earliest recorded history. For each invention he traces he talks about how some innovation in technology sparks another one, sometimes in a completely unrelated field.
There were actually two Connections series, one in the 1970s and I think one in the 1990s. I much prefer the 1970s one I think. What interests me about these shows is that many of the innovations were created by ordinary people, not necessarily scientists and inventors. They saw a problem, gathered information and then came up with a solution. This solution then migrated around the world until it came across a person who had a different problem but the new information became a piece of a new solution and so on. The other really interesting thing is how long a time period he covers. Sometimes it takes hundreds of years from one innovation to the next. I believe this is largely because of the slow rate of communications in ancient times.
So James Burke’s show was about the things I blog about: Innovation from individuals, the spread of ideas, and how technology changes society. Something you can really see in the shows is how society is shaped by technology but not by anyone’s plan. It just happens inevitably. I believe this is still true today but at a much faster pace.
I was very happy to find you can watch pretty much the whole series on YouTube. Here’s the first episode to get you started. Enjoy!