Jeff Bezos & co to build the first Clock of the Long Now

Discuss

147 Responses to “Jeff Bezos & co to build the first Clock of the Long Now”

  1. timquinn says:

    This project feels to me like some engineers sat down around a table for a talk and inadvertently invented art. It could benefit from the input of some experts in that field (all respect to Eno, but his visual art has the very same feeling)

    The intention is excellent, but that is never enough.

  2. Ugly Canuck says:

    One more from Mr Warhol, re: artists.

    “An artist is somebody who produces things that people don’t need to have.”

    From the same above-referenced source.

  3. ThinkCritically says:

    ANATHEMA! There! I said it! :)

  4. yrarbil cilbup says:

    I always thought the pyramids were nothing more than royal vanity memorials. Bezos, one of todays ‘royals’ cajoles others into crafting his own vanity personal memorial. What a tool.

    This is just a rube goldberg version of carving your initials in the Grand Canyon. Whoop-De-Doo

  5. Anonymous says:

    ” If the Clock keeps going after we are personally long dead, why not attempt other projects that require future generations to finish? ”

    Apparently because projects with real purpose and impact are much more difficult to plan and get off the ground than useless clocks holed up in the middle of the desert.

  6. TharkLord says:

    Every significant cultural change begins with an idea. An idea that persists and permeates a society. Ideas are subject to the same forces of evolution that drives speciation. What works survives, what doesn’t dies and is replaced. One idea, religion, has been around for a long time and for a while worked pretty well as a survival tool. Lately, it has seemed a bit worn out and useless. A new idea, science, hasn’t been around that long but it seems to be working pretty well. The idea of “us” is one that has been around for a long time. It defined “us” as a family or a tribe which we defended against “them”. “Us” versus “them” worked well for isolated tribes but as our world grows more connected an expanded idea of “us” and an avoidance of labeling others as “them” makes for a much more peaceful planet. We currently have an idea called “now”. “Now” is how we set our priorities in expending our resources and focusing our attention. A “Long Now” is like a broadly defined version of “us”, it expands our scope of what is important, what should be preserved and what should be improved. It also makes for a more pleasant and peaceful planet. The clock is just a symbol for the “long now”. A symbol that will hopefully remind us that “long now” is better for us than “now”.

  7. Anonymous says:

    “…shouldn’t we make sure our civilization [lasts] as well?”

    Well, no. I’d hope our civilizations that are here now change a little bit over a medium period of time, as they always have, and then they should change a little more (the ones that exist, probably current ones will end and new ones will come into existence), and then a little more, and a little more… eventually, if our current civilizations are healthy, they shouldn’t exist anymore since they will have changed over time. Maybe most will have the same name, but they shouldn’t be the same. I don’t think I’m making my point too clearly (need… coffee…) but I hope the idea is coming through.

  8. Drhaggis says:

    For many years I’ve used the Long Now Foundation’s plan to build a 10,000 year clock as a kind of ink-blot test to measure people. Most people are dismissive, immediately listing off reasons why it’s stupid and all the things they think the team is doing wrong. I’ve stop becoming amazed at people’ ability to find fault after only the briefest description of a project.

    Best response I’ve had by far is “I hope my tax dollars aren’t paying for that”. A stunningly short sighted response to a project designed to inspire people to take the long view of things.

    When I find someone who is legitimately interesting and inspired by the project, I know I’ve found a happy mutant, bounding though life, looking for amazing things.

  9. Anonymous says:

    @DrHaggis ~

    Not sure I like your litmus test; I don’t like the Long Now project, I can’t be part of your club? Sorry, I’m a happy mutant, and I don’t like the LN project.

    There was a great article about this project and Danny Hillis in Wired about 10 years ago. Then, people who know Danny well apparently felt this was a trifling project compared to what someone of his brilliance *could* be doing.

    Bottom line: It’s a vanity project. It serves nothing other than to fulfill the wishes of the creator; the response of the audience (assuming there is one) is not material. Personally, I would prefer something a bit more useful.

    M.

    • Gulliver says:

      @ Anon #46

      Bottom line: It’s a vanity project. It serves nothing other than to fulfill the wishes of the creator; the response of the audience (assuming there is one) is not material. Personally, I would prefer something a bit more useful.

      Better get crackin’ then, eh?

  10. Lanval says:

    @DrHaggis ~

    So you have a mutant club based on people’s responses to a vanity project? I guess my version of mutants will be based on their *not* using arbitrary and silly methods for including and excluding members.

    As for the LN clock. It’s always been understood that DH is brilliant, and the clock is interesting; but if you read the old Wired article you’ll find that even people who know DH well are ambivalent about the LN. As they say in the article, he could be doing much more interesting, useful and surprising things. The LN Clock is a vanity project. An interesting one, but it’s done to amuse the creator, who cares about the audience, even if there is one, which isn’t clear at all.

    Here’s the article.

    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/6.05/hillis_pr.html

    Personally, I’d like to see him designing power sources that will last 10,000 years with minimal upkeep.

    L.

    • Brainspore says:

      Personally, I’d like to see him designing power sources that will last 10,000 years with minimal upkeep.

      He did, one is powering the timekeeping mechanism in the clock.

      • Anonymous says:

        Developing power systems for pointless art projects doesn’t qualify. Unless you think pointless are projects are more important than people.

        In short: His power system has no practical app for people. It’s a vanity project. Don’t try to whitewash it.

        • Brainspore says:

          Developing power systems for pointless art projects doesn’t qualify. Unless you think pointless are projects are more important than people.

          All art projects are created for people and most of what we have from past cultures were pointless vanity projects on some level. Why waste time painting bison on cave walls when you could be doing something USEFUL, buddy? Don’t you care about people???

          Besides, if this clock actually lasts anywhere near ten thousand years then there’s an excellent chance that its design (power source included) will inspire some future civilization. Many of the technological advances made during the renaissance were based on rediscovered records and artifacts of the Roman empire.

        • Gulliver says:

          @ Anon #65

          Developing power systems for pointless art projects doesn’t qualify. Unless you think pointless are projects are more important than people.

          So the only human beings that are “people” are those that don’t find any value in art? I guess I better shut up since I’m not a person then, huh?

          In short: His power system has no practical app for people. It’s a vanity project. Don’t try to whitewash it.

          You tell ‘em, anonymous commenter! Goddam uppity art always ignoring strict utilitarian principles. Why, what need is a Cultural Revolution I tell ya!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Imagine if it were large enough, that some future civilization could build a cult comprised up a series of sequestered groups tasked with winding it’s gears ever 10,100 and 1000 years… somebody MUST have already wrote a novel on this. (Silly idea anyways) :)

  12. Bubba says:

    Very cool. Maybe they can build a concent around it, I’d like to be an avout.

  13. randomguy says:

    What kind of retarded name is The Long Now, anyhow?
    It just sounds awkward when you say it. Like ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’, it just seems painfully obvious that a word is missing. So these people have the foresight to plan for 10000 years in the future, but not the foresight to brainstorm a name that doesn’t sound like stoner’s first though?

  14. Anonymous says:

    “why not attempt other projects that require future generations to finish?”

    There have been many of those: cathedrals, for instance…. the latest, la Sagrada familia in Barcelona, was started in 1882 and will, as projected, be finished in 2026.

    • msaturn26 says:

      True, but they aren’t as well protected as this one would be. Wars can ravage the earth and buildings like cathedrals could be destroyed, but would attack a mountain?
        Personally I like it, as well as the questions it would raise for the future people of this planet.                ^_^ – Good one!

  15. Sork says:

    The larger question is, what good is a timepiece when time no longer has a meaning?

  16. Garst says:

    It’s nice to know that we’re going to have artifacts that will baffle future civilizations. Although, we might confuse them with breast pumps, penis pumps, beer bongs, and marijuana bongs. So I’m not sure why I was concerned we wouldn’t have things that they would never understand.

    • Ambiguity says:

      Although, we might confuse them with breast pumps, penis pumps, beer bongs, and marijuana bongs.

      Nah. My guess is that, should a future civilization find our artifacts, those items are probably the only one’s they would understand, and they’d probably be quite impressed by the civilization they’d construct in their minds to explain us.

      Our disappearance would confuse them.

      • Garst says:

        I know you’re being less serious than I am, but I was thinking they might get confused that they are all for the same thing given their similar structures. I think someone should carve some cave drawing so that future generations don’t think to use a penis pump, breast pump, or marijuana bong as a beer bong. I don’t think we should subject our progenies to that type of humiliation. And the saddest thing about that would be? There would be no one to know to laugh at them for their ignorance.

      • Genoshay2k says:

        Well I was thinking. If they find our artifacts they might do with everyone else does. Take the idea and make it their own. I mean look at Bill Gates and Microsoft.!

      •  Very few things disappear, there would be an abundance of synthetic compounds which have been created through complex processes. Plastics would endure where mere blood, bone and metal cannot. Flinging our perspectives so far into the future is…well, rather, there is too much room for error. So assuming “We” would be impressive, or our “Disappearance” as you say, confusing, is entirely dependent on variables you and I can hardly comprehend.

    • larryw says:

      when it runs out maybe it will cause mass doomsday prophesies. ha. just like the mayans

  17. Michael Smith says:

    It looks very complicated. I imagined something which just counted up with a whole series of digits.

  18. Anonymous says:

    “Are we being good ancestors?”… That’s a profound question, and enshrining that message in a clock that’s meant to last 10,000 years? brilliant…

    It reminds me of a quote I first read mentioned by David Suzuki, and later popularised by Al Gore:
    “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”

  19. macbrak says:

    *wonders if this will cause a bad movie to be made about the end of the world when its about to run down in 10,000 years*

    • jjsaul says:

      Good point… I hope they include some kind pictogram indicating that the end date is arbitrary, not a prophecy.

      I’d suggest a simple image of people fleeing in terror as cicadas the size of sandworms emerge from the ground.

      • rebdav says:

        The clock is neat, but I like cached stuff like the seed bank in Greenland. I bet the strategic oil reserve will not be full by the time the mad max mutants arise.
        Engineering a 10kilo year machine is tricky, if we can figure this out maybe a generational colonization ship to some star next.

        • Mark says:

          I hope nobody sends a colony ship to a star, that would be a huge waste of all the people on board… I mean, stars are kind of hot and would kill everyone on the ship and melt it down into baser elements…

      •  Very good. Nice Wit JJsaul

    • ReallyRiley says:

      12012: The Movie

  20. Anonymous says:

    So what happens in 10,000 years? Does it just stop, or start the cycle over again?

    • Annis Naeem says:

      2012 all over my friend. just because it happens to stop in 10,000 years, it must mean that the world is ending.

  21. Anonymous says:

    How appropriate… Just got sent this comic:
    http://d3uwin5q170wpc.cloudfront.net/photo/141807_700b.jpg

  22. halfacre says:

    Agreed, but if “getting better” means “less hubris,” don’t put the statement on the site in the first place.

  23. Stefan Jones says:

    It’s about . . . time.

  24. allybeag says:

    Gosh, I hope I live long enough, and am still fit enough when the time comes, to go and visit it when they set it going.

  25. winkybb says:

    I like the concept here. However, I am a little worried that a prototype was completed just in time to ring in the new millennium at the “end of 1999″. As every time-pedant knows, the new millennium didn’t start until 2001. They were a year early, just like 99.9999% of the rest of us.

    • dculberson says:

      Say what now? A “new millennium” is not strictly defined as beginning at any particular point. Hell, a new millennium began just as I typed this. Perhaps you’re thinking of the century convention?

      There’s a valid debate about which is correct as the beginning of the “second millennium,” 2000 or 2001, but it’s far from decided enough to be pedantic about one or the other.

      • winkybb says:

        Thanks for the correction regarding the strict definition of a millennium. Of course it can be any 1000 year period. I was using a fairly commonly applied restriction of that definition. I was aware of some debate on the century convention, but thought the majority opinion amongst those who contemplate such things was on the side of 2001 being the first year of the 21st century (and third millennium?). Apologies if I’m wrong.

  26. Drhaggis says:

    @Lanval and Anon #46

    I don’t have a club, I have some friends.

    When sharing things one thinks is cool, a common response is to be argumentative, dismissive and rude. When I get the converse response, it tells me the person is not only unique, but likely genuinely curious and joyful to be around, which can be described as happy mutant. For many years The Long Now clock has been of interest, and thus that is what I tried to share with others.

    It’s true for anything I think is cool: “Hey I’m currently into BLANK right now”, if the response is argumentative, dismissive and rude, I have a good idea what I’m in for with that person. I’ll keep trying, but it’s a good indicator we’re not going to be BFFs. I like being around people who can tell the difference between a debate and a conversation.

    In turn, when someone tells me what cool thing is keeping them busy, I try not to sit as a vulture at the edge of the conversation waiting to strike with scornful, half-informed barbs.

    My original comment was worded poorly, sounding like support of the Long Now clock was a necessary and sufficient condition for happy mutanthood. This was not my desire and I would like to correct that.

  27. max hodges says:

    silly self-serving vanity project. Most people get a granite tombstone; the rich build Great Pyramids and Super-sized Timepieces.

    • halfacre says:

      Thanks, max. My thoughts exactly.

      “We are as gods and might as well get good at it.”

      Nothing arrogant about putting that on your 2-page website.

      “We aren’t planning to build the animations for the 100, 1,000, and 10,000 year anniversary chambers, but will instead leave those to future generations.”

      Apparently, they haven’t planned for the distinct possibility that nobody in 10,000 years will give a shit.

      It does look like it could be a wonderful piece of machinery, though. Shame they’re stuffing it away in a mountain. Should be in a museum where we could all enjoy it. I’d go in a minute.

      • Brainspore says:

        “We are as gods and might as well get good at it.”
        Nothing arrogant about putting that on your 2-page website.

        Maybe so, but it’s an arrogance that’s at least four centuries old:

        “What a piece of work is a man! How noble in
        Reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving
        how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel!
        in apprehension how like a god!” —Shakespeare (Hamlet)

        And let’s face it, if you’re not big on the supernatural human beings are as close to gods as you’re likely to meet. We can split the atom, alter our own genome, send men and machines across the solar system, and turn ordinary sand into computing devices that let us debate the relative arrogance of our species from anywhere on the planet. Why not try to build a machine that lasts ten thousand years? The worst that can happen is we fail.

        • halfacre says:

          It’s a technology website, and we get all caught up in our technological advances when comparing ourselves to gods. What yardstick other than power is there? Kenneth Clark’s paean to Civilization seems powerful old and quaint, but at least it’s a view that we’ve gotten more godlike in ways other than our increasing ability to squeeze more mflops out of a single chip, blow bigger holes in the ground, etc etc.

          Hubris is at least 4 centuries old and methinks Hamlet was commenting tongue-in-cheek. In fact, the Bard’s genius has trickled down even into my own family’s behavior. After hearing any blowhard’s rant my mother was known to shake her head and mutter “What a piece of work!”

          • Brainspore says:

            …we get all caught up in our technological advances when comparing ourselves to gods.

            Why not? Our species has accomplished a lot and has potential to do much more, so there’s nothing wrong with recognizing that unique ability/power/responsibility for what it is. It’s not like we’ve yet met any other species more godlike than ourselves.

            It’s also about the long view into the future. If a person from ten thousand years ago could glimpse us today there’s little doubt they would consider us “godlike”. It’s reasonable to assume we would have a similar view of what our future descendants will one day accomplish.

          • halfacre says:

            Why not? Because hubris leads to downfall.

            “…our future descendants will one day…” *MAY* one day. My bets are hedged.

          • Brainspore says:

            “Godlike” doesn’t imply infallible or invulnerable, just powerful. Most gods in the history of our world’s religions are flawed beings, many destroyed by their own mistakes and hubris— thus the entreaty to “get good at” being gods.

          • halfacre says:

            Agreed, but if “getting better” means “less hubris,” don’t put the statement on the site in the first place. Which was my original point.

          • Gulliver says:

            It’s also about the long view into the future. If a person from ten thousand years ago could glimpse us today there’s little doubt they would consider us “godlike”. It’s reasonable to assume we would have a similar view of what our future descendants will one day accomplish.

            I guess it depends on what you mean by gods. Was ever before so much ink, blood and endorphins spilled over a word so meaningless?

        • Jesse M. says:

          Brainspore, if you see that quote in the context of the play, it seems like Hamlet intends the “What a piece of work is man!” to be sarcastic or at least rhetorical–he first explains that various things other people view as wondrous he views in a much darker way because of his melancholy mood (immediately before the “what a piece of work” section he says “indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire,—why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours”), then he does something similar with “man”, building him up rhetorically only to finish off with “And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me: no, nor woman neither”

          • Ugly Canuck says:

            Hamlet has/had his problems, but we are not Hamlet.

            It’s all in the attitude the observer (Hamlet) decides to adopt as his own: what Hamlet sees (the parts of the world) do not actually change during the soliloquy, but only his description of them, and from that change grows the change in his attitude towards them.
            But perhaps that change in the description of things, is change enough for a person to change the way in which they act. And not just on stage.

            A change in description apparently exacts a change in attitude.

            OT: Whaddaya mean, ‘exact change only’?

          • Gulliver says:

            One thing I noticed a long time ago about Shakespearian characters’ soliloquies and polemics is how mercurial and flippant they tend to be. Prince Hamlet’s a good case for bipolar disorder, me thinks.

      • SamSam says:

        Well, we (humans) are as gods. With nuclear weapons we have the power to destroy this entire planet a hundred times over. With our cars’ idling exhausts we have the power to heat this world to a degree that could lead to the extinction of dozens of species, beyond those species we have already driven to extinction.

        Nothing wrong with saying we ought to “get good at” thinking about the future a little.

        “Apparently, they haven’t planned for the distinct possibility that nobody in 10,000 years will give a shit.”

        Seems likely to me that future generations would be interested in a mechanical artifact from centuries past — see the thousands of tourists and archeologists that visit the pyramids each year. Of course, I think it’s unlikely that anyone would ever animate the 1000 year chamber, though. Imagine someone coming up and saying that it was time for them to paint new illustrations in the pyramids.

        “Shame they’re stuffing it away in a mountain. Should be in a museum where we could all enjoy it. I’d go in a minute.”

        Yup. Because that’s exactly the idea behing a 10,000-year project — instant gratification for you with minimal effort required.

        • halfacre says:

          My comments weren’t about the clock per se. I love clocks and horology and this is a wonderful example. Should someone dig it up in 10,000 years they certainly will be filled with wonder, especially if it’s still ticking and chiming by then.

          You missed the point, that being that the whole project is blanketed under a suffocating arrogance and presumption that somebody, at that time, will want to continue this project begun by these self-styled gods of the distant past.

          That something should survive 10,000 years is largely a matter of luck. Perhaps a little hope and humility would be more appropriate.

      • David Gwozdz says:

        It would be good to have one in a museum. But at the same time how many have stayed open for 10,000 years? Even the oldest museum http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ennigaldi-Nanna%27s_museum is only a little over 2500 years old and was open for 30years or so.
        So even a mega clock in a museum would at best be found in disrepair long before the 10,000 year mark.

  28. Richard Kirk says:

    They may be able to get a clock to work for 10000 years if left to itself. But can they make a clock that is proof against each and every jerk that wants to dick with it? Because there is always some jerk willing to have a crack, like the one that smashed the Portland vase, or the one that attacked Michaelangelo’s Pieta. Or some nutter that says measuring time with gears is against the Will of the Great Fish, according to Holy Writ. You are going to need some self-maintaining defence system like Castle Heterodyne.

    Being good ancestors? 10000 years of whacking destructive jerks, and powering the mechanism off their bodies seems pretty good to me.

  29. UUbuntu says:

    For a long-term project, it seems to be using some short-term/current assumptions. If civilization is gone, who’s to say what kind of numeric or calendar system will arise? And why should we use decades/centuries/millenia as markers?

    While it does seem safe (when thinking about the next few millenia) to use solar/lunar events as time-unit markers for days/years, the base-10 option seems somewhat arbitrary, since we really don’t know how people will measure time 1000 years in the future, and a better system might be built around a base-2, and “special” events occur at multiples of years 16, 64, 256, 1024, 4096, 16384. And the starting date would not be built around “year 2011″ (or 2012, or …), based (loosely) on a birthday of one human being, but some point point based on some recognizable cosmic event that will occur in the next century, and set that point as “year 0″, where the clock “starts” counting.

    This way an archeologist of the distant future might actually understand exactly when we built this thing in terms of time that isn’t based on our current culture or even our current biology.

    • jjsaul says:

      Just the kind of questions the project intends. As such, basing it on the common math and calendar serves the real purpose, that of starting such conversations among as broad a slice of humanity as possible.

      My own opinion is that any catastrophe capable of eliminating all record of base-10 math is unlikely to leave humans around to adopt anything else. But your point suggests another very interesting project… a primer, as from Sagan’s Contact.

  30. Anonymous says:

    My only concern is if some nut job religion sprouts up around this clock, where they figure out when it stops ticking and say the world is going to end.

    Hmm i think this has happened before, mayan calendar anyone?

  31. winkybb says:

    I like the concept here. However, I am a little worried that a prototype was completed just in time to ring in the new millennium at the “end of 1999″. As every time-pedant knows, the new millennium didn’t start until 2001. They were a year early, just like 99.9999% of the rest of us.

  32. Anonymous says:

    > Why would anyone build a Clock inside a mountain with the hope that it will ring for 10,000 years? Part of the answer: just so people will ask this question, and having asked it, prompt themselves to conjure with notions of generations and millennia.

    Hah! Who are you kidding? If civilization ends and begins again, this is going to be remembered as a being a religious monument, clearly important in ceremonies of ancient worship.

  33. Gulliver says:

    New program from 12,011 C.E…

    “Doctor Zaxias, please tell us a little about you’re research. Tell our audience what you discovered.”

    “Well, we know the ancients had a highly accurate calendar; it even accounted for leap seconds due to the slowing of day/night rotations. Contrary to common belief, they were actually a very intelligent civilization before ecological calamity wiped them out. They dedicated entire economic sectors to forecasting future events. Why else would they build this Long Now Clock we reconstructed from the ruins of Earth if not to warn us? People are ignoring the writing on the wall. Buy my book and discover the truth. There is only one year left…”

    NSFW:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2okpvQDXtk

  34. DIYer says:

    We already do have other projects that will last 10,000 years. Each and every one of our nuclear fisson plants (or at least the spent fuel therein) will need to be cared for.

  35. Moriarty says:

    I don’t know – it’s hard to imagine an event that would destroy all traces of the decimal system, but leave this clock and people to puzzle over it.

  36. JonStewartMill says:

    Don’t tell me I’m the only person who immediately thought of the Clock People from Tom Robbins’ novel Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.

  37. SamSam says:

    KK’s piece was beautiful. I would love to see this clock with my grandchildren some day.

  38. roboton says:

    To all you naysayers: Honey Badger Don’t Give a Sh*t.

  39. joetrip says:

    because what good is the end of civilization if we don’t know what time it ended?

  40. Anonymous says:

    >> If you have a Clock ticking for 10,000 years what kinds of generational-scale questions and projects will it suggest?

    Questions like “Jesus F Christ will that clock ever stop with the ticking?”

    (Actually, Stewart Brand’s book about this project is very interesting).

  41. MarkM says:

    I’m betting anyone who’s highly religious would find any type of project like this quite uninteresting. Why bother concerning oneself with a distant future which, really, cannot exist, those wonderful end times being so very close and all. It’s this narrow-mindedness which will curse our descendants.

    • SamSam says:

      I think the “highly religious” people you are referring to are only one thin stripe of religious people. Most religious people in the world don’t believe that we are in end times.

      I would think Hindus would find this interesting, as their calendar har eras of hundreds of thousands of years, and epochs of millions of years (4.2 million, I think) before the world is destroyed and starts over again.

      I would think that the Mayans would be similarly interested. There are some indications that their calendars had ways of describing dates over 400 million years in the future.

  42. hipdadiddy says:

    So this is what Bezos is spending his billions on, now that he doesn’t have to worry about any of his money going to support the disabled and jobless here in Washington State. Last November he was instrumental in defeating the introduction of a state income tax, one that would have affected only the super-wealthy, passage of which would have spared us the most brutal cuts to education and social welfare in state history. Thanks to Bezos and his plutocrat pals, Washington is still saddled with THE most regressive (i.e., hardest on the poor) tax system in the entire nation. But, hey–what’s a little human suffering, compared to the kick Jeffy will get out of building this useless, multi-million dollar toy?

  43. Recluse says:

    Reminds me of the ‘Kicksey- Winsey’ from Weis and Hickman’s Deathgate series ‘Dragon’s Wing’ Book

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Death_Gate_Cycle

  44. Anonymous says:

    At the time I assumed that the best option was Teller’s, that is that the construction should be simulated and let the long now clock be a myth. Now I read that the clock is under construction: I now hope that the myth construction is currently underway as this would be the only way to have an ethernal long now clock (IMHO, of course). In case, they’re doing a good job with the myth creation, impressive!
    Alex

  45. Tamooj says:

    Wow. I’m more than a little surprised by all the ignorance I’m reading in the comments… Usually BoingBoing readers are more astute and thorough than this.

    First; do the homework before you post knee-jerk comments – the CLN project is not designed to rundown in 10k years. It’s designed to *last* at least that long. It might run for 100k years.

    Second: It’s not really designed to give anything per se to future generations except the same message it’s trying to give THIS generation; Humans aren’t really wired to think clearly about looooong stretches of time, and so we are habitually short-sighted with all our planning. We should strive in all our current endeavors to keep the bigger/longer picture in mind, and that doing this is actually *hard*. In delivering a powerful lesson about time, a pyramid-like self-sustaining clock is a wonderfully elegant self-referential symbol.

    Third: All the know-nothing comments like “all fission powerplants”… sigh. Please stop parroting half-educated soundbites – Plutonium-only plants are really rare now, and while more LWR plants are burning MOX fuel in order to get rid of all the weapons-grade Pu that’s laying around, the majority of the nuclear waste will ladder down to inert in about 500 years. Also, if someone really thinks that over the 29,000 year half-life of Pu239 we won’t learn enough about physics to simply transmute the stuff into something harmless then you weren’t paying attention in History class either (in addition to sleeping though Science class).

    • Gulliver says:

      First; do the homework before you post knee-jerk comments – the CLN project is not designed to rundown in 10k years. It’s designed to *last* at least that long. It might run for 100k years.

      I was just being silly. I think the clock is cool.

      I really hope this thread doesn’t decay into another nuclear-sparring match rehash. It’s not the topic.

    • AnthonyC says:

      Exactly!
      If it’s still radioactive, it’s still giving off energy. Do we really believe that no one in the next 10k years will ever bother trying to harness that energy?

    • Jesse M. says:

      Also, if someone really thinks that over the 29,000 year half-life of Pu239 we won’t learn enough about physics to simply transmute the stuff into something harmless then you weren’t paying attention in History class either (in addition to sleeping though Science class).

      Pretty sure nuclear physics is already sufficiently well-understood that if “transmuting radioactive elements into something harmless” were allowed by the laws of physics, we would know about it already–”history” does not justify the belief that if you can imagine something in a sci-fi story, science will eventually discover a way to do it (for example, there are very good reasons to think faster-than-light travel will never be possible). A more reasonable proposal is that in the future it will become economical to just send this stuff off into space where it won’t cause any environmental damage.

  46. Anonymous says:

    Find a 10,000-year-old artifact, I dare you. Some ancient potsherds, maybe, but the earliest significant artifacts (architectural, machines) date from around 3500 BC, so a little over 5000 years. So it is with the Mayan calendar also.

    We have found much more ancient fossils. But the way to 10,000-year history of built goods can only happen with extreme armour. In a favourable climate. Away from the beaten path, so it doesn’t get developed on.

    For the optimist view see: Broch of Birsay.

    The pessimist view would be better supported if we only knew what had been lost. Temporal distribution of literature gives us but a slim clue.

    • Jesse M. says:

      “Find a 10,000-year-old artifact, I dare you. Some ancient potsherds, maybe, but the earliest significant artifacts (architectural, machines) date from around 3500 BC”

      If you define architecture as “significant” that’s not true (likewise for stone sculpture), see for example this story on the ancient temple at Göbekli Tepe in Turkey, which is about 12,000 years old (another article here). A bit more recent but still a lot older than 3500 BC is the settlement at Çatalhöyük, also in Turkey, which existed from about 7500 BC to 5700 BC (there’s a page devoted to excavations there here). There are also architectural remains from Jericho dating back to about 9400 BC, and the smaller settlement of Lepenski Vir which has remains of a bunch of buildings from 6500 BC to 5500 BC.

      • Anonymous says:

        Thank you. Colour me more informed, thanks to you, good sir.

        My concern does remain, however. Multi-generational artifacts rarely survive. We need a way fo help them do so, for those who are interested.

        Unintentional and forgotten time capsules give us an incomplete snapshot of history. If only we could archive more data. So far, dead-tree writing and art has given us the best return.

        It reminds me of the moralistic 50s scifi story of the transmitter in the cave that goes off with Hiroshima, to inform whoever’s on the other end…

      • Drew Quail says:

        The Sphinx…and before you attribute it to the Egyptians of 3500 years ago, look into it a little more closely.  A new generation of open-minded geologists, archaeologists, and paleontologists (working independently from the hide-bound, closed-minded tenured academics who call themselves “Egyptologists”, who are only interested in the narrow research that continues to ratify and protect the little academic fiefdom which they jealously protect–to the point of impeding further new work at the Sphinx itself) have used seismography, ground-penetrating radar, erosional data (there is deep, measurable water erosion on its body) and climatological records to determine that The Sphinx was carved in situ from an exposed outcropping approximately 10,000 years ago, when it sat in a lush, rain-soaked grassland that today is the Sahara.  The pharaoh’s face we see on it now (out-of-proportion-small, if you consider it objectively, as artists and draftsmen have done) WAS carved much later OVER and INTO the original, in order for a particular pharaoh to put his image on it and make it part of the pyramid complex–I won’t go into what these “rogue scientists” now theorize how the ORIGINAL face looked (it’s a mind-blower), but rather recommend that you investigate this and the rest of their revealing-but-yet-unfinished-project for yourself, if you’re truly interested.  You may not be;  I can see that you are educated and well-informed on matters ancient and prehistoric, and many in that community refuse to even look at, let alone consider, any evidence that violates long-accepted versions of our civilization’s accepted timeline.  To scoff at and dismiss out-of-hand such efforts, to disrupt the search for truth whether by active participation in blocking physical access to a site (as is the case here) or to ignore, dismiss and deride the honest efforts of those whose hypotheses you find threatening may be “politics as usual”, but is reprehensible, in fact is anti-science and, in the long run, anti-intellectual.

  47. pupdog says:

    Man, I came in for a Stephenson joke and got spanked in the first post. Nice work…

  48. 2k says:

    I see an image of Ray, head bowed into shadow, dust settling on his pate as he checks the final bell for accuracy against his watch.

  49. Hannah says:

    I agree, Bill. But for as much as they are spending on this…you might as well just use the sun and moon to tell time.

  50. Robin Doyel says:

    what about when time changes?  is someone gonna go reset it every 6 months or do they not have time changes in that part of the country like arizona?

  51. dan says:

    How much money is being dumped into this project again??  Could we just fix the damn natl.debt instead?!?

  52. Sounds like people 10,000 years from now will have their new doomsday scare date.  “Oh no!  When the Clock of the Long Now reaches ten-thousand years old, the clock will stop and the world will end!”
    At any rate, it’s a really cool idea.

  53. Dave Kaye says:

    Ticking for 10,000 years?  I would take an under…

  54. J-T says:

    Why in Texas?  We all know what time it is……

  55. With the technologies of today and the abilities to think and reason and the will to do good is not a sure or even a fair chance that our civilization will live on.  The off shore island may be for good or bad.  We just don’t know a lot of even simple things.  We don’t know that liar’s loan is bad.  Can’t feel that trickle down econ is bad.  If it work we could revisiting at the beginning of the Greek where ruling class are like Gods.

  56. Charlotte Rains Dixon says:

    Cool idea.  But, really? The public schools in my city have no money and we’re spending cash on clocks that run 10,000 years just to promote an idea?

  57. By they way, since when do we measure time on a base-10 system? There are 24 hours in a day, 60 minuutes in an hour and 60 seconds in a minute. That ain’t base-10.

    If there is a change in how we measure time, I doubt they will do away with the day or year. Although if we move to another planet somewhere, we might have to. Just saying.

  58. Tina says:

    What a person does with their money is their business. No matter how dumb we think it is. 

  59. Marbran says:

    Sounds like a concept out of Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” series.

  60. Matt H says:

    I would like to comment that this clock would not make sense;  If it is based on a “Day” (Time required for the earth to rotate one time) period. I understand that it is supposed to tick for 10,000 years.  What if the length of a day changes?  For example after the tsunami that struck Indonesia on Christmas day 2004, due to the shifting tectonic plates that caused the Earth quake, the length of a day was decreased.  I concede that the length of a day was changed by a mere thousandth of a second.  But that was just 1 event.  Multiply that by the number of events that will occur over the next ten thousand years and you may start talking about a significant figure time.  So the Clock would not be accurate.  Making it a giant object that is moving but is not accurate.  Why not leave them a Jack in the Box.

    So what then would be a worthy 10,000 year mechanical device? 

    Perhaps we could use such colossal assets to create a new calendar, cure some disease.  A new calendar that is based on something that can never become incorrect due to changes on our planet.

    What that would be I do not know?

    • Drew Quail says:

      Well, THAT would tell them something, too, once they figured it out…in fact, it would constitute REALLY IMPORTANT INFORMATION, at the very least some kind of fundamental explanation for “What happened?” in the interim–as a change in the length-of-day or year will have required apocalyptically transformative Earth-changes of the highest order.  In fact, it strikes me that the very “mechanical” nature of the device and its design might well not just reflect such changes, but, with examination, mathematical figuring and thought might help to EXPLAIN them, at least what in fact had occurred.

  61. Drew Quail says:

    First, I’d like to note that I wish I had come across the lively and erudite discussion that went on here about 2 months back–I noted this project (and commented on it) at the time it was first announced, then had occasion to revisit this site only now.  
    As for the project itself, it’s relative “value” and details of the context that surround and arise from it, it is important to remember that its supposed “intent” may not be important in the long run–in fact, fascinating as it may turn out to be to an artifact’s “future researchers”, its functional existence is likely to be its central importance, its greatest significance by far.
    Such a project’s current cultural context, including opinions regarding Bezos’ political and financial machinations (and/or any ego-driven bid for personal immortality), however valid, neither negate its larger effort to speak for and to us as a civilization now, nor change its resonant message across time–and will fall away to insignificance over the eons we deal with here, in any event.
    All in all, I’d have to say that, as both “art that speaks to us now” and “a monument that allows us to speak to the future”, this is on balance a worthy effort.  It may lack the solid and explicit practicality, mysterious and profound, of the Georgia Guidestones, but is in its own way clear and straight forward, a message and a technological demonstration. 

  62. Ibn Insha says:

    What is the purpose of this clock? It is beyond me. Being good ancestors means having good morals, giving good training to their children to be able to think for themselves, provide for themselves and their families, being able to defend themselves, not relying on others and not stealing from their children’s future.

  63. Analyzer says:

    I can imagine 9,996 Years later….Everyone thinks its the end of the world….Their ancestors(us) predicted it and put it inside a mountain for a reason…..

    It sounds like the mayan calendar all over again…

  64. siehow says:

    Who is going to wind it?  Maybe solar power should be considered.

  65. The Future Civilazations will just act the way we are acting with the Mayan calender ending 12-21-2012. The end is near!!!! 

  66. For a clock to measure time it must base itself on a changing physical attribute. Early clocks based themselves on the sun (Sundials). This is OK as long as you don’t need to know what time it is after dark. Another early design used the amount of time it takes water to fall into a bucket which automatically empties itself. For this you need to fill it either with water of have a supply from a stream or lake and a lower area for the water to fall into. Another is a pendulum. It requires energy and has problems if you try and carry it around with you. Then you have a mechanical clock that relies on the mass of a spinning wheel mechanism for its time calculating. It too requires energy either a wound up spring or the motion of your hand or another mechanism. Then there is the quartz crystal electronic clock that relies on the size of the crystal and its piezoelectric properties. Today the national bureau of standards uses an atomic clock. This is currently the most accurate measurement of time on the planet. From the picture this clock looks to be mechanical. Why they picked this design and how much attention it will need for the next 10,000 years the author did not say. For the last two hundred years humankind has been able to harness all kinds of ways to use energy to meet our needs. We have never been closer together than we are today. Yet the most important questions have been formulated but not solved. War and famine still stalk us. We see the problems but don’t agree on the methods or solutions.

  67. Mr. Bezos vanity and moral character aside; What is this “message” that a 10,000 year clock is supposedly going to convey? Simply that we were smart enough to make one? By definition of Long Now this clock ironically doesn’t lend itself so well to that concept, other than assuming human civilization will even last that long without destroying itself. And we all know what happens when one “assumes”.  I’m not here to declare the project wrong or right, but wouldn’t all this effort be better spent on something that strengthens our sense of community and pulls us together as a whole to work toward a better future? As opposed to building something that will only serve its full purpose should it be lost and forgotten only to be dug up by some archaeologist to “Assume” it was more than what it is… an interesting idea.

  68. Ed Cude says:

    why not spend money on it . cant spend money on how to cure disease or sickness if so what would we do with all theses doctors and school that teach them why stop cancer , aids , heart disease there to mush money to be made 

  69. ……… there are mountains in Texas ?

  70. carmine giardino says:

    We already have a timepiece that lasts much longer than 10,000 years…it’s called a sundial.

  71. Bob Mellen says:

    How about filling the mountain with Nuclear Waste. When they try to destroy the clock they will die a horrible death. Peaple can create a whole religion and state that “if you defile the great golden God clock, you will be visited upon by the most horrible death known to man!” Wo be to mankind!

  72. This is kind if idiotic, but if it’s what people want to do.  If it takes a clock in a mountain to make you think beyond your own life and lifespan, then you have a serious problem.

  73. Ed Hanley says:

    When this clock has run down, and has sat for another ten thousand years as a silent, rusting mechanical mystery for continuing civilizations that rise and fall in the land that was Texas, the nuclear waste buried and forgotten in Yucca Mountain, Nevada, will be only 1% less lethal than it’s burial day. We are the forgotten ancients, and our gift down hundreds of generations will be the most mysterious, the most forgotten, and the most lethal.

  74. The idea is brilliant but it only ticks as landmark after all. -doNn

  75. quizzicalcitizen says:

    I love this project and
    the underlying philosophy. It is all inspiring. But as an archaeologist who has
    seen how the past is consistently destroyed over time, I would suggest that
    there be no free access to the interior and that the door be very effectively
    disguised instead of crafting it out of tantalizing jade and metal. Every site
    in the region where I work has been thoroughly plundered of all useable or
    attractive materials, with even common field stone scavenged from rudimentary
    house platforms.  The amazing metals of
    this clock, with rustproof stainless steel and titanium, would quickly be mined
    into non-existence if our civilization falls apart.

  76. George Dodge says:

    I like the idea of a clock that will only be wrong one day because the rotation of the planet has very slightly slowed.  :D

  77. Rob Campbell says:

    Wait a minute…i thought it took humans billions of years to evolve…hmmm…what is 10,000 years of time going to tell anyone that evolves in billions of years from now? This goes right along with the notion that we have no purpose…BUT to serve ourselves…In the beginning the world was without form…God is the Alpha and the Omega…think we venture to tell time to the timeless creator of heaven and earth?  C’mon people, humble…foReal!…for us time exists right now…in eternity time doesn’t exist…where do you want to spend your “time” (life)? Jesus is the redeemer of time, call on him and live eternally…”For we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is not seen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 5:19

  78. tyler says:

     In response to Sork: 
    A simple time keeping device, in the hands of humans, has the power to apply order to disarray and to cultivate a civilization.

  79. chris_pf99 says:

    Ed Hanley, “When this clock has run down, and has sat for another ten thousand years
    as a silent, rusting mechanical mystery for continuing civilizations
    that rise and fall in the land that was Texas, the nuclear waste buried
    and forgotten in Yucca Mountain, Nevada, will be only 1% less lethal
    than it’s burial day. We are the forgotten ancients, and our gift down
    hundreds of generations will be the most mysterious, the most forgotten,
    and the most lethal”

    Right; since we’ve already built all these time bombs, what’s all the fuss about this clock?

  80. If a clock is buried in a mountain with no one around to hear it, does it still make a ticking noise?

  81. Dennis Huggins says:

    All i can say is “Whats The Point” seems like a dumb idea to start with the world and its starving and homeless ppl could use the help not some dumb clock thats a waste of money i bet he gets took in the long run.

  82. BF says:

    It won’t last.  It’ll be ravaged by young punks who can’t read or tell time.

  83. forrestdoyle says:

    It should be built in Guatamala instead of Texas with numbers and text in Mayan.

  84. they better build it by 12/20/2012… im going to make sure there are 5 bullets left in this house on the next day 1 for each of the cats and 1 for my husband and 1 for me, with my luck, the gun will jam when it’s my turn, my husband will be home late from work, and the cats will be hiding under the beds where I cant reach or see them. Then – ill finally get the gun unjammed, take care of business for myself, and again with my luck, 12/21/2012 will skip to 12/22/2012 and the only thing that happned was that I died because of some stupid anti-leap year where we just skip a date and the world will be a better place for it, and then the 23rd, My husband will have won the lottery and the cats somehow never puke on the carpet again, and the cat box cleans itself. And we never have to pay rent again..all because the gun jammed and i got skeered.. moral of the story, im chicken, and ill stick with carbon monoxide… and i also realized i dont give a shit about a 10,000 year old clock the aliens have been telling time longer than weve been around already so….also, since the Mayans were so damn smart, why didnt THEY think of making this clock? hmmmmm? HMMMMMMM???

  85. gratefulfilms says:

    “Many of the technological advances made during the renaissance were
    based on rediscovered records and artifacts of the Roman empire.”

    Good point. But books, manuscripts, writings were even more helpful; why doesn’t Bezos try to preserve those, on acid-free paper or something?

  86. I heard that in 10,000 years.that clock is gonna’ be a real mutha to rewind.

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