Airdate: How We Got to Now

2015-02-23_2341This week on ABC a new 6-part series How We Got to Now sees innovation expert Steven Johnson chart the twists and turns of history, science, business and technology that have brought us to where we are today.

It tells the stories of the unlikely people whose passion for problem solving led to astonishing practical solutions and inventions that changed the world.

In the first episode he explores the technology of Clean.

Dirty water has killed more humans than all the wars of history combined, but in the last 150 years a series of radical ideas, extraordinary innovations and unsung heroes have changed our world and the very way we live our lives.

Steven takes a plunge into a sewer to understand what made one maverick engineer decide to lift the entire city of Chicago with screw jacks in order to build America’s first sewer system underneath it. Houses, shops and hotels are raised 10ft high while business continues as usual.

While on a waterslide Steven tells us about John Leal and how he deliberately poisoned the water supply of 200,000 people but transformed the way we live. In 1908 the consensus was that chlorine was lethal but he believed differently. Without authorisation Leal added it into the city’s water and made it safe to drink. Imagine if it hadn’t worked? It would have been written into the history books as mass murder.

This isn’t just about the world becoming a cleaner place. The iphone, the subway, flat screen TVs and even the bikini are the result of the valiant efforts of the unsung heroes of clean.

9:30pm Thursday ABC.

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