Blog Archive for the year 02008

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The Future of Man

Posted on Tuesday, December 23rd, 02008 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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Scientific American has a nice piece on how humans may still be evolving over the next millennium.  Since we can now adapt our environment to ourselves, we often assume that evolution has basically ended.  However the article points out:

“But DNA techniques, which probe genomes both present and past, have unleashed a revolution in studying evolution; they tell a different story. Not only has Homo sapiens been doing some major genetic reshuffling since our species formed, but the rate of human evolution may, if anything, have increased. In common with other organisms, we underwent the most dramatic changes to our body shape when our species first appeared, but we continue to show genetically induced changes to our physiology and perhaps to our behavior as well. “

We just have to keep breeding ourselves smarter and hopefully we will be able to solve the challenges in the next 1000 years… Happy holidays all.

Rick Prelinger “Lost Landscapes of San Francisco”

Posted on Saturday, December 20th, 02008 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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Rick Prelinger

Four Dimensional Cities

Cities are designed and built in three dimensions. Watching Prelinger’s historic footage of San Francisco last night (to a more than overflowing crowd) reminds us however that one of the most compelling dimensions to a city is it’s fourth dimension – time.

*Note that Counter Pulse will be hosting an encore show for those who missed this one on February 11th at 7:30pm.

The crowd gasped at an incomplete 280 freeway, and watched in amazement as horse and buggies dodged in and out of cable car traffic on Market Street in 01905. We sat silent watching the homeless of the forties, and cheered to see Playland by the Beach and Laughing Sal. Rick reminded us, “The past is not passe, it is prologue…

Read the rest of Stewart Brand’s Summary

Stewart Brand on Long Now’s Nevada Clock Site

Posted on Thursday, December 18th, 02008 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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Back in November of 02004 Stewart Brand gave a very comprehensive talk at TED on our plans for the Nevada Clock site.  I had never seen it until TED talks posted it just recently.  Stewart talks through each aspect of our many years of site visits out there, and how we are looking at using the site.  Also if any of you have not seen his City Planet talk, that is also up on TED here.  In addition it looks like TED has followed our lead and is now using the crowd-sourced technology of DotSub to translate their online talks.

Browseable DVD Version of the Rosetta Disk now available

Posted on Tuesday, December 16th, 02008 by Laura Welcher
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Rosetta Disk DVD

A fully browseable version of the Rosetta Disk is now available on DVD from The Long Now store ($15).

The viewer on the DVD is powered by the OpenLayers 2.5 map visualization framework, which allows you to zoom all the way in to read even the microscopic text on both the front and back of the disk. The front side (shown here) is an index listing the 1,500 languages on the disk, and the back contains over 13,000 pages of text with documentation on those languages. Together, both sides of the disk store a collection of information that attests to a richness of our human cultural and linguistic diversity in the 21st century.

One of the principles of archiving is to make and distribute multiple copies of information. This principle goes by the moniker LOCKSS ‘Lots of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe’ — if some copies go missing, others will hopefully survive. And the more copies out there, the better the chance of some surviving. Now, by owning a copy of The Rosetta Disk DVD, you can take part in helping preserve this information for the future.

An archive of the world’s languages makes a great holiday gift! Proceeds from the sale of the DVD go to support continued work on The Rosetta Project.

Antikythera Video

Posted on Friday, December 12th, 02008 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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Stewart Brand sent in this New Scientist update on the Antikythera Device reconstruciton that includes video…


Posted on Thursday, December 11th, 02008 by Kevin Kelly
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Digital continuity is a real problem. Digital information is very easy to copy within short periods of time, but very difficult to copy over long periods of time. That is, it is very easy to make lots of copies now, but very difficult to get the data to copy over a century. For two reasons:

1) Formats change. Because of rapid technological evolution the “language” which one storage media speaks can become obsolete (incomprehensible) in only a few years. Or the hardware that speaks that language becomes so rare, it cannot be accessed. Who can read the data on ten-year old floppy disks?

2) The storage medium itself can decay. Turns out that paper is much more stable over the long term than most digital media. Magnetic surfaces flake, peel, shatter. And the supposed durable CDs and DVDs aren’t very stable either.

Dvd-Scratches-Main Full

As an example of the latter, here’s New York Time’s tech guru David Pogue lamenting the unadvertised short lifespans of homemade DVDs:

I’ve got all of the original iMovie projects backed up on DVD, in clear cases, neatly arrayed in a drawer next to my desk.

Guess what? On the Mac I use for video editing, most of the DVD’s were unreadable. They’re less than four years old!

I know, of course, that home-burned DVD’s, which rely on organic dye that deteriorates with time, are nowhere near as long-lived as commercially pressed discs. But man. Four years? Scared the bejeezus out of me.

OK, listen up people!

The only way to archive digital information is to keep it moving. I call this movage instead of storage. Proper movage means transferring the material to current platforms on a regular basis — that is, before the old platform completely dies, and it becomes hard to do. This movic rythym of refreshing content should be as smooth as a respiratory cycle — in, out, in, out. Copy, move, copy, move.

In other words, anything you want moved to the future has to be given attention to keep it moving forward.

We don’t know what the natural movage respiration cycle is for digital media yet since it is still very new, but I suspect the cycle is much shorter than we think. I would guess it is 5 years. No matter what digital format you have your precious stored on, you should expect to move it onto new media in five years — and five years after that forever!

Move it, move it, move it.


Find more posts about Digital Dark Age on this blog

Chickens come home to roost in 02008

Posted on Tuesday, December 9th, 02008 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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 The Foreign Policy journal has an excellent top ten list for 02008.  Top ten worst predictions.  This type of accountability is exactly why we started Long Bets. Excerpts below:

“[A]nyone who says we’re in a recession, or heading into one—especially the worst one since the Great Depression—is making up his own private definition of ‘recession.’” —Donald Luskin, The Washington Post, Sept. 14, 2008

“If [Hillary Clinton] gets a race against John Edwards and Barack Obama, she’s going to be the nominee. Gore is the only threat to her, then. … Barack Obama is not going to beat Hillary Clinton in a single Democratic primary. I’ll predict that right now.” —William Kristol, Fox News Sunday, Dec. 17, 2006

“There is a real possibility of creating destructive theoretical anomalies such as miniature black holes, strangelets and deSitter space transitions. These events have the potential to fundamentally alter matter and destroy our planet.” —Walter Wagner,  regarding the Large Hadron Collider

Biomimetic shatterproof ceramics

Posted on Monday, December 8th, 02008 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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 The MIT Tech Review published an article last week on a new type of engineered ceramic from UC Berekeley that is tough and resilient instead of the usual brittle stuff that allows cracks to propagate.  They did this by engineering the structure to be more like that of mother of pearl found in abalone shells.  While they laud it for its high performance applications, we are quite interested in it as a long lasting material for the 10,000 Year Clock. We already plan on using engineered ceramics for bearings and other wear components, but the elimination of ceramics only real drawback, that it can shatter, really opens up the engineering possibilities.

From the article:

“To shape their ceramics into nacre-like structures, the Berkeley researchers first create a water suspension of the material to be patterned–in this case, aluminum oxide. Then they chill it in a very controlled way. “You take the heat out at one end,” explains Ritchie. This leads to long, thin structures that the researchers press into microscale, brick-like structures after heating them to evaporate the water. When this process is repeated, it creates a layered, porous structure of aluminum oxide bricks connected to one another by column-like structures–the same shapes found in natural nacre. Then, to mimic the protein glue in the abalone shell, the researchers fill the spaces with a polymer. This process is described online in the journal Science this week. Other groups have made thin films of biomimetic materials; the Berkeley group has succeeded in making large pieces.

The scanning electron microscope image (lower image above), taken during a stress test, shows one source of the material’s toughness: damage is widely distributed in small, contained cracks.”

Long Now Media Update

Posted on Friday, December 5th, 02008 by Danielle Engelman
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The latest Seminars About Long-term Thinking are now available as audio downloads or podcasts and in hi-res video for Long Now members.

*Drew Endy and Jim Thomas in “Synthetic Biology Debate” – video now available

19 Cities with 20 Million people in the next century

Posted on Friday, December 5th, 02008 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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 Bryan Campen let me know about this new piece by the founder of the TED conference, Richard Saul Wurman called 19.20.21.  It is bascially an animated info-graphic site looking through the main demographic and resource trends, and how they will play out over the next 90 years.  Very well done.