Wonderland: How Play Made The Modern World

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Popular historian Steven Johnson describes his book Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World as a history of play – pastimes that humans have invented to amuse themselves and serve as an escape from the everyday grind. In the book, Johnson examines how fun and leisure, the seemingly idle and frivolous aspects of society, have helped shape it.
Here are some interesting insights and historical tidbits from Wonderland:

1. The human brain desires novelty
The drive for novelty and wonder in humans is a strong one. Whenever humans encounter novelty, the brain produces a pleasure drug known as Dopamine. Humans are hardwired to seek out surprise in order to reward themselves with this ‘novelty bonus’.

2. Play is delightful
The delight derived from experiencing the new is the lure of play. Play is addictive since it offers the potential for a different
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By driving us to experiment and amaze, “The propulsive force of delight” has driven many path-breaking innovations, which first appear in history as toys or amusements. Johnson believes that “if you do a paternity test on many of the modern world’s most important ideas or institutions, you will find, invariably, that leisure and play were involved in the conception, as well.”

5. Coffeehouses created social networks
The invention of public eating and drinking establishments is largely responsible for some of the cultural and ideological revolutions in history. The development of the coffeehouse life allowed for ‘serendipity’, diversity, and social networking, which made possible natural collaboration and exchange of ideas, and led to a staggering number of innovations. “The first public museums, insurance companies, formal stock exchanges, weekly magazines—all have roots in the generative soil of the coffeehouse,” says Johnson.

6. Android phones descend from a roulette
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