Once every 10,000 years or so, you think back on life. Frolicking in new civilizations, rise and fall of governments, the best pie recipe conjured by humans… Then without a second thought to the present, thoughts turn to the next 10,000 years. What do you do? If you’re The Long Now Foundation you build a massive 200 ft tall clock in the side of a mountain with a little help from Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos and songwriter/musician, Brian Eno.
The Long Now
The Long Now is a team of Engineers that came together in 1996 for an incredible undertaking. The conversation began by an email sent from computer scientist Danny Hillis to a group of friends. Their focus? Long-term thinking and responsibility. Their goal? Build an icon to long-term thinking in the form of a massive mechanical clock. Seems slightly eccentric, but over the past 16 years they’ve brought on sponsors, built a prototype and have started construction on just one of the full-scale version.
“The Clock is now being machined and assembled in California and Seattle. Meantime the mountain in [Van Horn] Texas is being readied. Why would anyone build a Clock inside a mountain with the hope that it will ring for 10,000 years?”
Why? So people ask that question… then think about what a clock that ticks for ten millennia really means against the backdrop of civilization and getting the kids to soccer practive on time. A slew of partners are supporting the project. Among the product development mix are Autodesk, Geomagic and PTC. They’re using PTC Mathcad and Creo to run calculations and build parts of the clock and Autocad to layout the prototype plans (you can download. see below.) Luke Khanlian is one of the Clock Engineers of the project and shed some insight to the process.
“We had to essentially pick up on the mechanical clock design from 100 years ago so that it would last for 10,000 years and combine those designs with technology and ideas of present day. From a design perspective, we wanted to make it timeless (no pun intended) and of course it needed to be 10,000 years compliant in a functional state.”
Prototype of the clock design planned for Great Basin National Park in Nevada. Image: forpaws
They also captured the interest of Jeff Bezos, who donated the land in West Texas for the project. Brian Eno, who is responsible for creating iconic sounds and music over the past four decades is responsible not only for the name of The Long Now Foundation, but also the chiming that generations of people will hear from the clock over the next 1000 decades.
Fellow traveler and rock musician Brian Eno named the organization The Long Now Foundation to indicate the expanded sense of time the Clock provokes – not the short now of next quarter, next week, or the next five minutes, but the “long now” of centuries. Eno also composed the never-repeating melody generator that rings the Clock’s chimes inside the mountain…This Clock in the Mountain is being funded and built on property owned by Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon.com. Bezos is also active in designing the full experience of the Clock.
I recommend looking through some of the videos on the Long Now Vimeo channel and their photos on Flickr, to get a sense of their projects and the focus on long term thinking. It’s interesting and slightly ironic to note also that the long term thinking for their projects will be made up of a lot of short-term thinking about the future. More info on the clock at The Long Now.