Long Now Foundation

clock of the long now by eddie sotto

long bets

The Long Now Foundation, established in 1996, is a private organization 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, and so uses 5-digit dates to address the Year 10,000 problem (e.g. by writing 02011 rather than 2011).

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.

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 hopes to construct the finished Clock at Mount Washington south of Great Basin National Park near Ely, Nevada.

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 due to 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 two inches (5.08 cm) across. A Version 1.0 of the disc was completed on November 3, 2008.

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 it 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. Bets coming due in 2010 include predictions about peak oil, print on demand, modem obsolescence, and commercially available 100-qubit quantum computers.

The Seminars About Long-term Thinking are a series of monthly lectures in San Francisco, California, presented by the Foundation available as podcasts. 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, the extension of the human lifespan, the likelihood of an asteroid strike in the future, SETI, and the nature of time.

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