Steven Berlin Johnson is an American popular science author and media theorist. Steven grew up in Washington, D.C., where he attended St. Albans School. He completed his undergraduate degree at Brown University, where he studied semiotics, a part of the school's modern culture and media department. He also has a graduate degree from Columbia University in English literature.
Johnson is the author of twelve books, largely on the intersection of science, technology, and personal experience. He has also co-created three influential websites: the pioneering online magazine FEED, the Webby Award-winning community site, Plastic.com, and the hyperlocal media site outside. in.
A contributing editor to Wired, he writes regularly for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, and many other periodicals. Johnson also serves on the advisory boards of a number of Internet-related companies, including Medium, Atavist, Meetup.com, Betaworks, and Patch.com.
He is the author of the best-selling book Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter (2005), which argues that over the last three decades, popular culture artifacts such as television dramas and video games have become increasingly complex and have helped to foster higher-order thinking skills.
His book Where Good Ideas Come From advances a notion to challenge the popular story of a lone genius experiencing an instantaneous moment of inspiration. Johnson instead argues that innovative thinking is a slow, gradual, and very networked process in which "slow hunches" are cultivated and completed by exposure to seemingly unrelated ideas and quandaries from other disciplines and thinkers. He lists the themes he has identified from studying which environments and conditions have been correlated, historically, with high innovation. He argues that they make theoretical sense because of their tendency to effectively explore the "adjacent possible", Stuart Kauffman's concept (which Johnson cites) of the space of innovations waiting to be made from combining immediately-available notions and solutions.
His book Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age was released in September 2012. In August 2013, PBS announced that Johnson would be the host and co-creator of a new six-part series on the history of innovation, How We Got to Now, scheduled to air on PBS and BBC Two in the Fall of 2014.
Since May 2018, Johnson has hosted the podcast American Innovations, created by Wondery. Johnson is a co-host (with David Olusoga) of the PBS/Nutopia 4-part series Extra Life: A Short History of Living Longer, which premiered on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. Respective hour-long episodes include "Vaccines", "Data", "Medicine", and "Behavior."