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Neil Gaiman Seminar Tickets

Posted on Wednesday, May 20th, 02015 by Andrew Warner
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The Long Now Foundation’s monthly

Seminars About Long-term Thinking

Neil Gaiman presents How Stories Last

Neil Gaiman presents “How Stories Last”

TICKETS

Tuesday June 9, 02015 at 7:30pm Castro Theater

Long Now Members can reserve 1 seat, and purchase a second ticket for half price ($15) join today! General Tickets $30

 

About this Seminar:

Neil’s talk will explore the way stories, myths and tales survive over great lengths of time and why creating for the future means making works that will endure within the oral tradition.

Preternaturally eloquent, Neil Gaiman has told stories in every medium—graphic novels (The Sandman), novels (The Ocean at the End of the Lane; American Gods), short stories (Trigger Warning), children’s books (The Graveyard Book), television (Dr Who), the occasional song (“I Google You”, with Amanda Palmer), and the occasional speech that goes viral (“Make Good Art”).

Members can reserve one complimentary ticket, and purchase one additional ticket for $15.00 (50% off of the General Admission ticket price).

Photograph of Neil Gaiman by Kimberly Butler

Beth Shapiro Seminar Media

Posted on Friday, May 15th, 02015 by Danielle Engelman
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This lecture was presented as part of The Long Now Foundation’s monthly Seminars About Long-term Thinking.

How to Clone a Mammoth

Monday May 11, 02015 – San Francisco

Audio is up on the Shapiro Seminar page, or you can subscribe to our podcast.

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De-extinction science – a summary by Stewart Brand

When people hear about “ancient DNA” in fossils, Shapiro began, the first question always is “Can we clone a dinosaur?” Dinosaurs died out so many millions of years ago, their fossils are nothing but rock (and by the way, there’s no workaround with mosquitoes in amber because amber totally destroys DNA). With no DNA, there’s no chance of cloning a dinosaur. (Sorry.)

The fossils of woolly mammoths, though, are not rock. They died out only thousands of years ago, and their remains are pretty well preserved in frozen tundra, which means there is recoverable DNA. So, Plan A, can we clone a mammoth? It would be like Dolly-the-sheep, where you take nuclear DNA from somewhere in the preserved mammoth body, inject it into the egg of a closely related species (Asian elephant), plant the mammoth embryo in a surrogate mother, and in two years, a newborn woolly mammoth! But as soon as any animal dies, unless it is cyropreserved with great care, all the DNA is attacked by gut bacteria, by water, by temperature change, and soon you have nothing but tiny fragments. Nobody has found any intact cells or intact DNA in frozen mammoth mummies, and probably they never will. So, you can’t clone a mammoth. (Sorry.)

Okay, Plan B, can you sequence a mammoth—reconstruct the entire genome through digital analysis and then rebuild it chemically and plant that in an elephant egg? Ancient DNA, even from the best specimens, is so badly fragmented and contaminated it’s hard to tell what bits are mammoth and how they go together. Using the elephant genome for comparison, though, you can do a pretty good job of approximating the original. Just last week the successful sequencing and assembly of the full woolly mammoth genome—4 billion base pairs—was announced. But all sequencing is incomplete, including the human genome, and maybe important elements got left out. A genome rebuilt from scratch won’t be functional, and you can’t create a mammoth with it. (Sorry.)

Alright, Plan C, can you engineer a mammoth? Take a living elephant genome and cut and paste important mammoth genes into it so you get all the mammoth traits you want. There is an incredibly powerful new tool for genome editing called CRISPR Cas 9 that can indeed swap synthetic mammoth genes into an elephant genome, and this has been done by George Church and his team at Harvard. They swapped in 14 genes governing mammoth traits for long hair, extra fat, and special cold-adapted blood cells. If you can figure out the right genes to swap, and you get them all working in an elephant genome, and you manage the difficult process of cross-species cloning and cross-species parenthood, then you may get mammoth-like Asian elephants capable of living in the cold.

(During the Q & A, Shapiro pointed out that with birds the process is different than with mammals. Instead of cloning, you take the edited genome and inject it into primordial germ cells of the embryo of a closely related bird. If all goes well, when the embryo grows up, it has the gonads of the extinct bird and will lay some eggs carrying the traits of the extinct animal.)

Why bring back extinct animals? Certainly not to live in zoos. But in the wild they could restore missing ecological interactions. Shapiro described Sergey Zimov’s “Pleistocene Park” in northern Siberia, where he proved that a dense herd of large herbivores can turn tundra into grassland—”the animals create and maintain their own grazing environment.” The woolly mammoth was a very large herbivore. Its return to the Arctic could provide new habitat for endangered species, help temper climate change, increase the population of elephants in the world, and bring excitement and a reframed sense of what is possible to conservation.

Furthermore, Shapiro concluded, the technology of de-extinction can be applied to endangered species. Revive & Restore is working on the black-footed ferret, which has inbreeding problems and extreme vulnerability to a disease called sylvatic plague. Gene variants that are now absent in the population might be recovered from the DNA of specimens in museums, and the living ferrets could get a booster shot from their ancestors.

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Michael Shermer Seminar Media

Posted on Wednesday, May 6th, 02015 by Andrew Warner
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This lecture was presented as part of The Long Now Foundation’s monthly Seminars About Long-term Thinking.

The Long Arc of Moral Progress

Tuesday April 14, 02015 – San Francisco

Video is up on the Shermer Seminar page.

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Audio is up on the Shermer Seminar page, or you can subscribe to our podcast.

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Moral Progress – a summary by Stewart Brand

Shermer began with Martin Luther King’s statement in Selma, March 1965: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” What if we look at that arc in terms of trendlines instead of headlines?

In the mid-19th century there were almost no democracies. Now there are 118, out of a total of 196 nations. Women’s suffrage only began to take off in the early 20th century (led in the US by Inez Milholland on her white stallion) and by the end of the century nearly all nations had adopted it (even Saudi Arabia may catch up this year). Gay rights are gaining legal and popular support in this very decade, with the transition in popular opinion about same-sex marriage arriving in 2011. Shermer noted that research shows that support is greatest in younger generations and in people associated with no religion, and that pattern is standard with most forms of moral progress.

Animal rights, Shermer said, is just now taking off in earnest, inspired by the 18th-century Enlightenment social reformer, Jeremy Bentham, who wrote, “The question is not Can they reason? nor Can they talk? but Can they suffer?” The Enlightenment brought the power of abstract reasoning and science to social and moral problems and provided the tools to defy the unreasoning demands of strict ideologies and religions. Voltaire declared, “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

Shermer ended with Martin Luther King’s observation that “we were made for the stars, created for the everlasting, born for eternity,” and that stardust—us–can come to embody morality is the long arc of moral progress.

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Neal Stephenson at The Interval: May 21, Book Signing and Livestream

Posted on Friday, May 1st, 02015 by Mikl Em
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Neal Stephenson at The Interval on May 21, 02015; photo by Kelly O'Connor
Neal Stephenson speaks at The Interval on May 21, 02015. Photo by Kelly O’Connor

Best-selling author Neal Stephenson will visit The Interval at Long Now in San Francisco to read from and sign his new book in a special daytime event: 12:30 to 2pm on Thursday May 21, 02015.

The talk itself is sold out but Long Now members can hear Neal live on May 21 via the Long Now member website. Neal is making two other appearances in the Bay Area, and we are thrilled that he is including The Interval in his tour.

You can join more than 6500 long-term thinkers around the world as a Long Now member

Signed copies of SEVENEVES can be pre-ordered to pick up the day of Neal’s reading. Book sales benefit Long Now and the Friends of the San Francisco Library. Pre-ordered books can be picked up at Readers Bookstore near The Interval. We will not be shipping books. More details here.

Neal Stephenson's SEVENEVES at The Interval on May 21, 02015

SEVENEVES comes out on May 19th. Here’s what Neal has to say about his new book:

SEVENEVES is a very old project; I first started thinking about it when I was working at Blue Origin, probably circa 2004. The kernel around which the story nucleated was the space debris problem, which I had been reading about, both as a potential obstacle to the company’s efforts and as a possible opportunity to do something useful in space by looking for ways to remediate it

You can read the beginning of SEVENEVES on Neal’s site.

Long Now’s co-founder Stewart Brand will host this event and talk with him onstage after the reading. Stewart Brand, Ryan Phelan, and Long Now’s Revive and Restore project are acknowledged by Neal for providing useful background for SEVENEVES.

This will be Neal Stephenson’s first visit to The Interval. We are honored that Neal was one of the earliest donors to our Interval ‘brickstarter’ as well. And we can’t wait to show him Long Now’s new home in San Francisco.

Beth Shapiro Seminar Tickets

Posted on Monday, April 20th, 02015 by Andrew Warner
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The Long Now Foundation’s monthly

Seminars About Long-term Thinking

Beth Shapiro presents How to Clone a Mammoth

Beth Shapiro presents “How to Clone a Mammoth”

TICKETS

Monday May 11, 02015 at 7:30pm Marines Memorial Theatre

Long Now Members can reserve 2 seats, join today! General Tickets $15

 

About this Seminar:

Beth Shapiro is far from a giddy enthusiast about de-extinction. She knows more than nearly anyone about the subject because she is a highly regarded biologist in the middle of the two leading efforts in the new field—to resurrect extinct woolly mammoths and passenger pigeons. She knows exactly how challenging the whole process will be and how imperfect the later stages of success might appear.

An evolutionary biologist who created and runs the paleogenomics lab at UC Santa Cruz, Shapiro is a careful skeptic, a great story teller and explainer, and an extremely productive scientist. In this talk she spans the full de-extinction narrative from DNA editing all the way to revived populations in the wild—from lab work with CRISPR Cas 9 and primordial germ cells through to the ethical and practical issues of restoring a long-absent keystone species in its former ecosystem.

“The goal of de-extinction,” she points out, “is to restore ecosystems; to reinstate interactions between species that no longer exist because one or more of those species are extinct. We don’t need to create exact replicas of extinct species to achieve this goal.” She concludes, “De-extinction uses awesome, exciting, cutting-edge technology to take a giant step forward. De-extinction is a process that allows us to actively create a future that is really better than today, not just one that is less bad than what we anticipate.”

Beth Shapiro is a MacArthur Fellow, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer, and author of the new book from Princeton University Press, How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-extinction.

Paul Saffo Seminar Media

Posted on Wednesday, April 15th, 02015 by Mikl Em
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This lecture was presented as part of The Long Now Foundation’s monthly Seminars About Long-term Thinking.

The Creator Economy

Tuesday March 31, 02015 – San Francisco

Video is up on the Saffo Seminar page.

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Audio is up on the Saffo Seminar page, or you can subscribe to our podcast.

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The Creator Economy – a summary by Stewart Brand

Media innovations drive economic shifts, Saffo began. “We invent new technology and then use it to reinvent ourselves.”

  1. The Industrial/producer Economy: At the beginning of the 20th century the leading scarcity was stuff, and so manufacture was systematized. By 1914 one of Ford’s workers could buy a Model T car with four month’s salary. Production efficiency won the Second World War for the allies. In 1944 the US was producing 8 aircraft carriers a month, a plane every five minutes, and 50 merchant ships a day. The process became so efficient that its success ended the dominance of that economy. That always happens. “Every new abundance creates an adjacent scarcity.“
  2. The Consumer Economy The new scarcity was desire. 1958 brought the first credit card. The CEOs of leading companies shifted from heads of production to heads of marketing. Container ships doubled global trade.
  3. The Creator Economy: In 1971 Herbert Simon predicted, “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently.” The new scarcity turned out to be engagement. The mass media television channels that had dominated the Consumer Economy were overwhelmed by personal media–YouTube, eBay, Facebook, Wikipedia, Twitter, Google, Etsy. Hollywood was overwhelmed by video games. (The blockbuster movie “Avatar“ opened in 2009 with a $73 million weekend. The previous month, the game “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” sold $310 million in 24 hours.)

Mass participation became the new normal. Stuff is cheap; status comes from creation. Value is created by engagement—from Wikipedia entries to Google queries to Mechanical Turk services to Airbnb to Uber to Kaggle analyses. Burning Man sets the standard of “no spectators.” Makers insist that “If you can’t open it, you don’t own it.”

Saffo advised recalling four warnings for revolutionaries. 1) There are winners and losers 2) Don’t confuse early results with long-term outcomes. 3) Successful insurgents become over-powerful incumbents 4) Technologies of freedom become technologies of control.

If we want privacy now, we have to pay extra for it. As with our smart phones, we will subscribe to self-driving cars, not own them. With our every move tracked, we are like radio-collared bears. Our jobs are being atomized, with ever more parts taken over by robots. We trade freedom for convenience.

Over the 30 or so years remaining in the Creator Economy, Saffo figures that we will redefine freedom in terms of interdependence, and he closed with Richard Brautigan’s poem about a “cybernetic ecology” where we “are all watched over by machines of loving grace.”

Subscribe to our Seminar email list for updates and summaries.

Michael Shermer Seminar Tickets

Posted on Wednesday, March 18th, 02015 by Andrew Warner
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The Long Now Foundation’s monthly

Seminars About Long-term Thinking

Michael Shermer presents

Michael Shermer presents “The Long Arc of Moral Progress”

TICKETS

Tuesday April 14, 02015 at 7:30pm SFJAZZ Center

Long Now Members can reserve 2 seats, join today! General Tickets $15

About this Seminar:

Steven Pinker writes: “Shermer has engaged the full mantle of moral progress and considered how far we have come and how much farther that arc can be bent toward truth, justice, and freedom.”

“Through copious data and compelling examples Shermer shows how the arc of the moral universe, seen from a historical vantage point, bends toward civil rights and civil liberties, the spread of liberal democracy and market economies, and the expansion of women’s rights, gay rights, and even animal rights. Never in history has such a large percentage of the world’s population enjoyed so much freedom, autonomy, and prosperity. The steadily unfolding revolution of gay marriage gives Shermer the opportunity to show how rights revolutions of many different kinds come about.“ [Steven Pinker is the author of The Better Angels of Our Nature. He gave a SALT talk on “The Decline of Violence” in 02012.]

Michael Shermer’s new book is The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom. His previous books include The Believing Brain and The Science of Good and Evil. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of Skeptic magazine and has a monthly column in Scientific American.

Warren Buffett maintains his lead in his $1 million Long Bet

Posted on Friday, March 13th, 02015 by Andrew Warner
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In 02008, Warren Buffett placed a Long Bet that will take until 02017 to resolve. He predicted that for those ten years, “the S & P 500 will outperform a portfolio of funds of hedge funds, when performance is measured on a basis net of fees, costs and expenses.

Below is a summary of how things went in the seventh year of this Bet, as published by Fortune Magazine:

Warren Buffett adds to his lead in $1 million hedge-fund bet

warren-buffett

By Carol Loomis

Seven years into a 10-year performance wager, the Berkshire Hathaway CEO is winning easily.

Results are in for the seventh year of what’s sometimes called The Million-Dollar Bet—Warren Buffett’s 10-year wager that the S&P 500 would outperform a sampling of hedge funds—and, for now at least, it’s looking like a rout for the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.

Under the terms of the wager, Buffett is betting (with his own money, not Berkshire’s) on the stock market performance of an S&P 500 index fund while Protégé Partners, a New York money manager, is banking on five funds of hedge funds (the names of which have never been publicly disclosed) that Protégé carefully picked at the outset. Through the seven years, Vanguard’s 500 index fund, as represented by its Admiral shares, is up 63.5%. That’s the portfolio carrying Buffett’s colors. Protégé’s five hedge funds of funds are, on the average—the marker the bet uses—up an estimated 19.6%. (The “estimated” takes into account that not all of the five funds have final figures for 2014).

A charity of the winner’s choice will receive $1 million—or more, which we’ll get to in a moment—at the bet’s end.

This was the sixth straight year that the contest has tilted in Buffett’s direction: The Admiral shares were up 13.6% in 2014 and the average gain for the funds of funds was 5.6%. Only in the first year of the bet—which began in 2008, a year that was a train wreck for both the economy and the stock market—did the funds of funds win, so to speak. They were down, on average, only 24%. The Admiral shares plummeted by 37% that year.

In Fortune (which exclusively wrote about the beginning of the bet in 2008 and has since annually made public how the bet stands), Buffett pictured himself after the 2008 tumult as a tortoise, up against a hare. Since then, Buffett has stuck to the plot of the Aesop fable and methodically moved ahead of his rival.

With only three years left in the bet, is there a scenario that would leave Protégé closing the yawning gap and winning? One scenario, maybe, and it is articulated by Ted Seides, the Protégé partner who in 2007 negotiated the bet with Buffett (after Buffett, in a speech, threw out a challenge to the hedge-fund world). Says Seides: “The odds now are that we’ll need to see a severe market contraction for our side of the ledger to stage an epic comeback.”

And he adds the deeper meaning of such a contraction. “One lesson from 2008 is that no one wins when that occurs,” says Seides.

To amend that statement only slightly, this contest will definitely have one certain winner: The charity that gets the proceeds of the bet. The odds say that will be Girls Inc. of Omaha, which Buffett designated to get the money if he emerged the victor.

The amount handed over, though, is not likely to be $1 million, because of changes that Buffett and Protégé made in the wager a couple of years ago. The original bet stipulated that each side in the bet would put up $320,000 to be invested in a zero-coupon bond that after 10 years would be worth $1 million. Thus the name of the bet.

But, when the recession hit, interest rates went down so insistently—which sent zero-coupon bonds up—that the valuation of the bond that Buffett and Protégé bought was by the fall of 2012 very close to the promised land of $1 million.

The two contenders then agreed that the bond would be immediately liquidated and the proceeds put into the B stock of the company that Buffett heads, Berkshire Hathaway. Buffett also issued a guarantee: He will pay the winning charity $1 million if the Berkshire stock bought isn’t worth that much at the bet’s end.

And what’s happened since those changes? Berkshire, like the S&P 500 overall, has done well, and the bet’s stock is now worth about $1,680,000.

That’s a tough figure for headline writers to handle. In its annual rundown, Fortune will probably stick to the “Million-Dollar Bet,” even as that description—for the minute, at least—understates the case.

Carol J. Loomis, who retired recently from Fortune as a senior editor-at-large, is a long-time friend of Warren Buffett’s, a Berkshire Hathaway shareholder, and editor of Buffett’s annual letter to shareholders.

Long Now at Cal Academy Nightlife

Posted on Thursday, March 12th, 02015 by Andrew Warner
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On Thursday, March 19, 02015, Long Now will be participating in the California Academy of Sciences Nightlife event. The theme for the evening is “Time Capsule”, and Long Now executive director Alexander Rose will be giving a short talk in the African Hall. Long Now will also have a table with various artifacts from our projects that usually live behind glass.

The Nightlife series is an opportunity for adults to explore the California Academy of Sciences in the evening with cocktails, music, and themes that feature collaborations with local organizations. The event goes from 6pm to 10pm, tickets can be found here.

 

Paul Saffo Seminar Tickets

Posted on Monday, March 9th, 02015 by Andrew Warner
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The Long Now Foundation’s monthly

Seminars About Long-term Thinking

Paul Saffo presents The Creator Economy

Paul Saffo presents “The Creator Economy”

TICKETS

Tuesday March 31, 02015 at 7:30pm

Cowell Theater at Fort Mason

Long Now Members can reserve 1 seat, and purchase additional tickets at half-price.
Join today! General Tickets $15

 

About this Seminar:

According to futurist (and Long Now board member) Paul Saffo, the ‘new economy” anticipated in the late 01990s is arriving late and in utterly unexpected ways. Social media, maker culture, the proliferation of sensors, and even the 02008 market crash are merely local phenomena in a much larger shift. What unfolds in the next few years will determine the shape of the global economy for the next half-century and will force a profound rethink of economic theory.

Paul Saffo teaches forecasting at Stanford and Singularity University. Journalists rely on him for cruelly telling quotes about everything from the monthly disruptions in Silicon Valley to the yearly turmoils in the global economy.