Long Now Foundation
|Founded||January 4, 1996|
|President Stewart Brand, Brian Eno|
The Long Now Foundation, established in 1996, is an American public, non-profit organization based in San Francisco that seeks to become the seed of a very long-term cultural institution. It aims to provide a counterpoint to what it views as today's "faster/cheaper" mindset and to promote "slower/better" thinking. The Long Now Foundation hopes to "creatively foster responsibility" in the framework of the next 10,000 years. In a manner somewhat similar to the Holocene calendar, the foundation uses 5-digit dates to address the Year 10,000 problem (e.g., by writing "02018" rather than "2018"). The organisation's logo, a capital X with an overline, is a representation of 10,000 in Roman numerals.
Civilization is revving itself into a pathologically short attention span. The trend might be coming from the acceleration of technology, the short-horizon perspective of market-driven economics, the next-election perspective of democracies, or the distractions of personal multi-tasking. All are on the increase. Some sort of balancing corrective to the short-sightedness is needed-some mechanism or myth which encourages the long view and the taking of long-term responsibility, where 'long-term' is measured at least in centuries. Long Now proposes both a mechanism and a myth.
When I was a child, people used to talk about what would happen by the year 02000. For the next thirty years they kept talking about what would happen by the year 02000, and now no one mentions a future date at all. The future has been shrinking by one year per year for my entire life. I think it is time for us to start a long-term project that gets people thinking past the mental barrier of an ever-shortening future. I would like to propose a large (think Stonehenge) mechanical clock, powered by seasonal temperature changes. It ticks once a year, bongs once a century, and the cuckoo comes out every millennium.
The Foundation has several ongoing projects, including a 10,000-year clock known as the Clock of the Long Now, the Rosetta Project, the Long Bet Project, the open source Timeline Tool (also known as Longviewer), the Long Server and a monthly seminar series.
Clock of the Long Now
The purpose of the Clock of the Long Now is to construct a timepiece that will operate with minimum human intervention for ten millennia. It is to be constructed of durable materials, to be easy to repair, and to be made of largely valueless materials in case knowledge of the clock is lost or it is deemed to be of no value to an individual or possible future civilization; in this way it is hoped that the Clock will not be looted or destroyed. Its power source (or sources) should be renewable but similarly unlootable. A prototype of a potential final clock candidate was activated on December 31, 1999, and is currently on display at the Science Museum at London. The Foundation is currently building the Clock of the Long Now in Van Horn, Texas. The project has no expected completion date. “If it’s finished in my lifetime we’re doing it wrong,” said project director Alexander Rose.
The Rosetta Project is an effort to preserve all languages that have a high likelihood of extinction over the period from 2000 to 2100. These include many languages whose native speakers number in the thousands or fewer. Other languages with many more speakers are considered by the project to be endangered because of the increasing importance of English as an international language of commerce and culture. Samples of such languages are to be inscribed onto a disc of nickel alloy three inches (7.62 cm) across. A Version 1.0 of the disc was completed on November 3, 2008.
Long Bet Project
The Long Bet Project was created by the Long Now Foundation to propose and keep track of bets on long-term events and stimulate discussion about the future. The Long Now Foundation describes The Long Bet Project as a "public arena for enjoyably competitive predictions, of interest to society, with philanthropic money at stake." One example bet would be on whether people will regularly fly on pilotless aircraft by 2030.
Seminars About Long-term Thinking
In November 2003, the Long Now Foundation began a series of monthly Seminars About Long-term Thinking (SALT) with a lecture by Brian Eno. The seminars are held in the San Francisco Bay Area and have focused on long-term policy and thinking, scenario planning, singularity and the projects of the foundation. The seminars are available for download in various formats from the Long Now Foundation. They are intended to "nudge civilization toward making long-term thinking automatic and common". Topics have included preserving environmental resources, the deep past and deep future of the sciences and the arts, human life extension, the likelihood of an asteroid strike in the future, SETI, and the nature of time.
Long Now Foundation Debate Format
The point of Long Now debates is not win-lose. The point is public clarity and deep understanding, leading to action graced with nuance and built-in adaptivity, with long-term responsibility in mind.
In operation, "There are two debaters, Alice and Bob. Alice takes the podium, makes her argument. Then Bob takes her place, but before he can present his counter-argument, he must summarize Alice's argument to her satisfaction — a demonstration of respect and good faith. Only when Alice agrees that Bob has got it right is he permitted to proceed with his own argument — and then, when he's finished, Alice must summarize it to his satisfaction."
Mutual understanding is enforced by a reciprocal requirement to describe the other's argument to their satisfaction, with the goal being more understanding after the event than there was beforehand.
Opened in June 2014, The Interval was designed as social space in the foundation's Fort Mason facility in San Francisco. The purpose of The Interval is to have a public space where people can come together to discuss ideas and topics related to long-term thinking, as well as provide a venue for a variety of Long Now events. The Interval includes lounge furniture, artifacts from the foundation's projects, a library, audio/video equipment, and a bar serving tea and coffee during the day, and cocktails during the night. In October 2014 The Interval was named by Thrillist as one of the best new bars in America.
In popular culture
Neal Stephenson's science fiction novel Anathem was partly inspired by the author's involvement with the Clock of the Long Now project. As a result of Brian Eno's work on the clock project, an album entitled January 07003 / Bell Studies for The Clock of The Long Now was released in 2003. English songwriter Owen Tromans released a single entitled "Long Now", and inspired by the foundation, in 2013.
The Board of Directors of the Long Now Foundation is composed of the following members, as of December 2011:
- All Species Foundation
- Big History
- Longue durée
- Pioneer plaque
- Seven generation sustainability
- Voyager Record
- "About Long Now". The Long Now Foundation. Retrieved December 13, 2011.
- "Projects". The Long Now Foundation. Retrieved December 13, 2011.
- Chabon, Michael (January 2006). "The Omega Glory" (PDF). Details. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-11-03. Retrieved December 13, 2011.
- Hills, Danny. "The Millennium Clock". Wired. Retrieved December 13, 2011.
- "Prototype 1–10,000 Year Clock". The Long Now Foundation. December 31, 1999. Retrieved December 13, 2011.
- "The Long Reach of Long Now". The Attic. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
- "The Rosetta Project". The Long Now Foundation. Retrieved December 13, 2011.
- "Macro to micro etching". The Long Now Blog. November 3, 2008. Retrieved December 13, 2011.
- "Long Bets – The Arena for Accountable Predictions". The Long Now Foundation. Retrieved December 13, 2011.
- Rose, Alexander (December 31, 2009). "Long Bets in 02010". The Long Now Foundation. Retrieved December 13, 2011.
- "Seminars About Long-term Thinking Podcasts". The Long Now Foundation. Retrieved December 13, 2011.
- "Seminars About Long-term Thinking". The Long Now Foundation. Retrieved December 13, 2011.
- "Drew Endy, Jim Thomas: Synthetic Biology Debate - The Long Now". longnow.org. Retrieved June 24, 2017.
- "Niall Ferguson, Peter Schwartz: Historian vs. Futurist on Human Progress - The Long Now". longnow.org. Retrieved June 24, 2017.
- Sloan, Robin (September 5, 2014). "The steel man of #GamerGate". medium.com. Retrieved June 24, 2017.
- "New York Times Sunday Magazine". New York Times. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
- "The Interval Named one of the 21 best new bars in the America". Thrillist. Retrieved November 23, 2014.
- "January 07003". Enoshop.co.uk. Retrieved February 20, 2014.
- "Long Now: Owen Tromans: MP3 Downloads". Amazon.com. October 7, 2013. Retrieved February 20, 2014.
- "Board – The Long Now". The Long Now Foundation. Retrieved December 13, 2011.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Long Now Foundation.|
- Official website
- The Rosetta Project
- The Long Bets Foundation
- A Look at Accountable Predictions Radio feature about The Long Bet Project, from the U.S. public radio program 'Marketplace'
- "Buffett's big bet: The celebrated investor wagers a tidy sum that even carefully chosen hedge funds won't return more than the market over time" (Fortune Magazine on a Longbets bet)