What forces have shaped humanity most?
Kurt Andersen, host of Studio 360 on NPR, is a journalist and the author of the novels Hey Day, Turn of the Century, The Real Thing, and his latest non-fiction book Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History. He has written and produced prime-time network television programs and pilots for NBC and ABC, and co-authored Loose Lips, an off-Broadway theatrical revue that had long runs in New York and Los Angeles. He is a regular columnist for New York Magazine, and contributes frequently to Vanity Fair. He is also a founder of Very Short List.
Andersen began his career in journalism at NBC's Today program and at Time, where he was an award-winning writer on politics and criminal justice and for eight years the magazine's architecture and design critic. Returning to Time in 1993 as editor-at-large, he wrote a weekly column on culture. And from 1996 through 1999 he was a staff writer and columnist for The New Yorker. He was a co-founder of Inside.com, editorial director of Colors magazine, and editor-in-chief of both New York and Spy magazines, the latter of which he also co-founded.
From 2004 through 2008 he wrote a column called "The Imperial City" for New York (one of which is included in The Best American Magazine Writing 2008). In 2008 Forbes. com named him one of The 25 Most Influential Liberals in the U.S. Media. Anderson graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College, and is a member of the boards of trustees of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the Pratt Institute, and is currently Visionary in Residence at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. He lives with his family in New York City.
Kurt Andersen: I would say that the various technologies beginning, or at least having a spiking point in the middle of the 19th Century, with photography, and the telegraph, and the railroads which all came to be history in the same decade or two. But that really is a set of forces, technological innovation and capitalist, or I suppose non-capitalist, exploitation of those technologies have led us to where we are today. Because to me, the Internet and television and all the rest – jet planes even – are just refinements on what was essentially invented between 1825 and 1850. The technological innovations right at the middle of the 19th Century that I mentioned – telegraph, photography, speed, steam engines – obviously steam engines came a little earlier – but got going in the 1930s and ‘40s – that moment, if you can call 20 years a moment, is hugely influential.
Recorded On: July 5, 2007
All our gadgets were really invented in the 1840s.
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