Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Age of the Long Now

The complete antithesis of the Age of Now lies in the mountains in West Texas near the home of Jeff Bezos. While everyone is trying to meet the immediate needs and impulses of our fast moving society (Jeff included!), The Long Now foundation is building a 10,000 year clock to change how we think about time and get us talking about the long-term. What does 10,000 years mean for us in our responsibility to the advancement of the human race and the protection of our planet?

The clock is scheduled to mark every year, each decade, centuries, millenniums and a tenth millennium. There is a different chime programmed for each day of 10,000 years. If how we communicate fundamentally changes, the “manual” for the clock can be translated into more than 2,500 historic languages – so hopefully someone from the future will be able to decipher it.

When you’re building something that is going to last 10,000 years, you’re immediately forced to think about time differently. We don’t know what things are going to be like in the future, but we can get a sense of how much things can change. If you think back 10,000 years, we were in the nascent stages of civilization. We were learning how to domesticate animals, cultivate crops and live in one place instead of wandering the open lands looking for food. Now look at us! Maybe still globetrotting in search of opportunity but our lifestyles bear little resemblance to our forebears.

The 10,000 year clock is a project with no known completion date and no fixed budget. Last I read, Jeff has invested about $42 million of his own money into its development. The founders and the board of the Long Now Foundation are a TED Conference in their own right – among them Danny Hillis, creator of massive parallel computing; Stewart Brand, creator of the Whole Earth Review; Kevin Kelly, senior maverick at Wired; musician Brian Eno; forecaster Paul Saffo. I love the craziness of it.

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