The Clock of the Long Now
William Daniel “Danny” Hillis is an inventor, engineer, mathematician, author and co-founder of The Long Now Foundation. In 1986 he conceived of The Clock of the Long Now, a mechanical timepiece designed to operate for 10,000 years. Several prototypes have been made, and the finished machine will be based inside a mountain in Texas, on land owned by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos who’s reportedly thrown $42 million into the project. It’s one of those ideas you could believe was designed to specifically to annoy people who’ve been trained to think only in terms of the next quarter’s profits or “performance” against “targets”, but its main purpose is to get people thinking in terms of ‘deep time’, to consider how decisions made in this lifetime might impact those living on planet earth many years in the future. This goes way beyond the mindscape I grew up in during the 1970’s, when the dreams of the space age were quickly mutating into nightmares of a dystopian future, be they post-apocalyptic wastelands or Orwellian regimes of total control. Our culture is now choked on such visions, visions that now seem curiously dated. The TV news, depending on where it decides to focus, consistently shows us scenes that look straight out of Mad Max 2 or Logan’s Run, which suggests to me that our ideas have failed to keep up with the pace of change and that we desperately need new ideas and need to look further, much further than perhaps we’ve ever done before. Such a change in thinking might prevent ruining the future, but might also go some way towards improving the now.