INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Whole Earth Review WINTER 1998 - by Stewart Brand
THE LONG NOW
That phrase is from Brian Eno, the British musician/artist. If the photographs of the Earth from space gave us "the big here", and changed everything, what could we make or find that would deliver a sense of "the long now?" Responsibility, after all, lives more in time than in space.
How about a big, slow clock? And a very patient library?
We're building a ten-thousand-year Clock and a ten-thousand-year Library, under the auspices of the Long Now Foundation, over which I get to preside. The purpose of the Library is to manage information over centuries, ideally a hundred of them. (Why ten thousand years? That's the approximate age of civilisation so far, starting from humanity's first farms and towns. Figure we're in the middle of civilisation's story, with at least ten thousand years yet to go.) Some of the roles the Library might take on are: Very Long Term Scientific Studies; Mail to the Future; Responsibility Record (documenting the debate on issues with long-term consequences and then re-examining those debates later, when the consequences have occurred); Golden Canon; Digital Continuity; and others. What would you like from a ten-thousand-year Library?
Other board members include Brian Eno, along with Danny Hillis, former Whole Earth editor Kevin Kelly, Peter Schwartz, Paul Saffo, Doug Carlston, and Esther Dyson. Hillis, who designed the current generation of massive parallel supercomputers, has invented a digital-mechanical Clock which can scale up to mountain size and be repaired with Bronze Age technology. Currently we're building the working prototype, eight feet high. We're looking for sites to build a very big city Clock (for visibility) and an extremely big desert Clock (for real longevity).