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Saul Griffith Seminar Media

Posted on Saturday, October 3rd, 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.

Infrastructure & Climate Change

Monday September 21, 02015 – San Francisco

Video is up on the Griffith Seminar page.


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


Green infrastructure – a summary by Stewart Brand

Griffith began with an eyeroll at the first round of responses in the US to reducing greenhouse gases, a program he calls “peak Al Gore.” Some activities feel virtuous —becoming vegetarian, installing LED lights, avoiding bottled water, reading news online, using cold water detergent, and “showering less in a smaller, colder house”—but they demand constant attention and they don’t really add up to what is needed.

Griffith’s view is that we deal best with greenhouse gases by arranging our infrastructure so we don’t have to think about climate and energy issues every minute. Huge energy savings can come from designing our buildings and cars better, and some would result from replacing a lot of air travel with “video conferencing that doesn’t suck.“ Clean energy will mostly come from solar, wind, biofuels (better ones than present), and nuclear. Solar could be on every roof. The most fuel-efficient travel is on bicycles, which can be encouraged far more. Electric cars are very efficient, and when most become self-driving they can be lighter and even more efficient because “autonomous vehicles don’t run into each other.” Sixty percent of our energy goes to waste heat; with improved design that can be reduced radically to 20 percent.

Taking the infrastructure approach, in a few decades the US could reduce its total energy use by 40 percent, while eliminating all coal and most oil and natural gas burning, with no need to shower less.

Subscribe to our Seminar email list for updates and summaries.

Clock of the Long Now on Display at Deutsches Museum in Munich

Posted on Tuesday, September 15th, 02015 by Charlotte Hajer
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Anthropozän_Spalte_de_cropFor the next twelve months, the first prototype of the Clock of the Long Now will be on display at the Deutsches Museum in Munich, Germany. It forms part of their Welcome to the Anthropocene exhibit – an interactive and multidisciplinary museum experience meant to prompt reflection and discussion about the notion of a ‘human era’.

“Spanning 1400 m2, the world’s first large exhibit on this important issue of the future reviews and surveys the concept of the Anthropocene through an analysis of such themes as urbanism, mobility, nature, evolution, nutrition, and human-machine interaction. The exhibit visualizes the history, present, and future of this human era, intersecting technology and the physical sciences with art and media. Historical exhibits guide us along our way through the Anthropocene, recent scientific discoveries and projects present challenges and potential solutions, and artistic design encourage contemplation.”


This is the first time the Prototype has left London’s Science Museum since it was installed there, and the first time the prototype is on display in continental Europe. To learn more, you can explore the exhibit’s English-language catalog, German-language website, or take a virtual tour. Originally scheduled to run until January, the exhibit has already been extended to September 02016, and can be visited any time during museum opening hours, daily from 9 AM and 5 PM local time.

Long Now’s Laura Welcher Speaks in London on September 25, 02015

Posted on Friday, September 11th, 02015 by Andrew Warner
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Long Now London Meetup
Friday, September 25, 02015
7:00 PM at Newspeak House
133-135 Bethnal Green Road, E2 7DG, London

Languages are works of art, great libraries, how-to guides for living on planet Earth, windows into our minds and inalienable human rights. The Rosetta Project is The Long Now Foundation’s first exploration into very long-term archiving. It serves as a means to focus attention on the problem of digital obsolescence, and ways we might address that problem through creative archival storage methods.

Laura’s talk, titled ‘”The Rosetta Project: Strategies for Very Long-term Archiving” will focus on the Rosetta project and her experience with building this at Long Now. If you are interested hearing Laura speak and meeting fellow long-term thinkers, please RSVP at the Meetup site here.

James Fallows Seminar Tickets

Posted on Thursday, September 10th, 02015 by Andrew Warner
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The Long Now Foundation’s monthly

Seminars About Long-term Thinking

James Fallows on Civilization's Infrastructure

James Fallows on “Civilization’s Infrastructure”


Tuesday, October 6 02015 at 7:30pm SFJAZZ Center

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


About this Seminar:

Infrastructure decisions—and failures to decide—affect everything about a society for centuries. That long shadow, James Fallows points out, is what makes the decisions so difficult, because “We must choose among options whose consequences we can’t fully anticipate.” What we do know is that infrastructure projects are hugely disruptive and expensive in the short term, and neglecting to deal with infrastructure is even more disruptive and expensive in the long term. What would a healthy civilization do?

These days California is making decisions about high-speed rail, about water supply for agriculture, about driverless cars, about clean energy—all infrastructure issues with long, uncertain shadows. Fallows reminds us that “Everything about today’s California life is conditioned by decisions about its freeway network made 60-plus years ago, and by the decision to tear up the Southern California light-rail network in the decades before that.” (That remark came in a 15-part series of blogs about high-speed rail in California that Fallows posted at He approves of the project.)

James Fallows is the journalist’s journalist, covering in depth subjects such as China, the Mideast, flying, the military, Presidential speeches (he once wrote them for Jimmy Carter), journalism itself, and his native California. Based at The Atlantic magazine for decades, he blogs brilliantly and has produced distinguished books such as Postcards from Tomorrow Square, Blind into Baghdad , and Breaking the News: How the Media Undermine American Democracy.

This will be the first time he speaks about civilization entire.

SALT Summaries Kindle Book Update Available

Posted on Thursday, September 3rd, 02015 by Andrew Warner
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The Salt Summaries

Since their inception in 02003, the Seminars About Long-term Thinking have featured over 100 speakers from a wide range of disciplines. Curated by Stewart Brand, each of these Seminars address some aspect of long-term thinking. From the ideas presented and discussed in the live event, he crafts a summary which captures and elucidates these ideas.  A few days after a Seminar, this summary gets posted to the SALT list and blog, but we also collect these distillations in a book, “The SALT Summaries”. Every six months we update the Kindle eBook with the most recent Seminars, and we wanted to let our readers know how they can now update their Kindle book.

After you login to your Amazon account, go to the Manage Your Kindle page. On that page, you should see the cover of the book with an update option hovering above it. If you click update, the update should transfer to all of your devices. Thank you for supporting the Seminars About Long-term Thinking.

Sara Seager Seminar Media

Posted on Tuesday, September 1st, 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.

Other Earths. Other Life.

Monday August 10, 02015 – San Francisco

Video is up on the Seager Seminar page.


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


To find living exoplanets – a summary by Stewart Brand

Thanks to recent exoplanet research, Seager began, we now know that nearly all of our galaxy’s 300 billion stars are accompanied by planets, and a unexpectedly high number of them are rocky like Earth, and many of those orbit in a “habitable” range—meaning that they could harbor liquid water and perhaps life. How can we detect that life?

(To learn about the 4,700-plus planets so far discovered, Seager recommended an exciting dynamic map and encyclopedia from NASA called “Eyes on Exoplanets.” Seager predicts that “If an Earth 2.0 exists, we have the capability to find and identify it by the 02020s.”)

The way to discover life from a distance is to search for spectrographic evidence of “biosignature gases” such as oxygen or methane in the planetary atmosphere. To do that we have to acquire direct imaging of the rocky planets, but we can’t because our telescopes are blinded by the brilliance of the planet’s star, a billion times brighter than the planet. “It’s like looking for a firefly next to a searchlight, from thousands of miles away,” Seager said. Even the next planet-discovery telescope, called TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite), which is coming in 02018, will not be able to study exoplanet atmospheres.

The solution that Seager has been working on is called Starshade. To perfectly occult a star with a perfectly dark, hard-edged shadow, it will be deployed tens of thousands of kilometers from its telescope. It will be a disk 15 to 20 meters in diameter, with a perimeter of exotically shaped “petals” to defeat the effect of light diffracting around the edges of the disk. The edges have to be geometrically exact and machined to razor sharpness. The Starshade would fly in formation with a telescope located at the stable Lagrange point called L2, a million miles from Earth in the direction away from the Sun. The cost, including launch, will be about $650 million—not currently budgeted by NASA.

Now that we know planets are extremely common, one of the profoundest questions is whether life is also common in our galaxy, or is it extremely rare? Seager thinks that life abounds out there, and we will be able to point to examples in this century.

Subscribe to our Seminar email list for updates and summaries.

Alexander Rose speaking in Portland September 17th

Posted on Monday, August 31st, 02015 by Andrew Warner
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On Thursday, September 17th, Alexander Rose (Executive Director of Long Now) will give a talk on how to design for 10,000 years, including how he approached many of the unique design challenges of The Clock.

Thursday, September 17th
5:30 – 7:30 pm
Lincoln Recital Hall (PSU)
1620 SW Park Avenue

General Admission: $10
Tickets available here!


Saul Griffith Seminar Tickets

Posted on Friday, August 14th, 02015 by Andrew Warner
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The Long Now Foundation’s monthly

Seminars About Long-term Thinking

Saul Griffith on Infrastructure and Climate Change

Saul Griffith on “Infrastructure and Climate Change”


Monday September 21, 02015 at 7:30pm SFJAZZ Center

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


About this Seminar:

So far we are trying to deal with climate change at the wrong time scale. A really deep problem cannot be solved by shallow innovations, no matter how clever. The scale of climate change requires thinking and acting in multi-decade terms at the level of infrastructure—personal as well as societal. Get it right, and “the result can be like living in a beautifully managed garden.”

Saul Griffith is an inventor and meta-inventor, currently founder of Otherlabs in San Francisco (devising such things as soft robotics, soft exoskeletons, cheap solar tracking, and conformable gas tanks.) He is a MacArthur Fellow and frequent TED dazzler. His 02009 SALT talk on Climate Change Recalculated is the most viewed video in our twelve-year series.

Ramez Naam Seminar Media

Posted on Friday, August 7th, 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.

Enhancing Humans, Advancing Humanity

Wednesday July 22, 02015 – San Francisco

Video is up on the Naam Seminar page.


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


Enhancing humans and humanity – a summary by Stewart Brand

Beginning with the accelerating pace of biotech tools for human health and enhancement, Naam noted that health issues such as disease prevention will be drastically easier to implement than enhancement. Preventing some hereditary diseases can be done with a single gene adjustment, whereas enhancement of traits like intelligence or longevity entails the fine tuning of hundreds of genes. He favors moving ahead with human germline engineering to totally eliminate some of our most horrific diseases.

Over time he expects that human gene editing will lead in the opposite direction from the enforced conformity depicted in Brave New World and the film “Gattaca.” Instead people will relish exploring variety, and the plummeting costs of the technology will mean that the poor will benefit as well as the rich.

Naam’s brain discussion began with the Sergey Brin quote, “We want Google to be the third half of your brain.” Brain interface tools are proliferating. There are already 200,000 successful cochlear implants which feed sound directly into the nervous system. There is a digital eye that feeds pretty good visual data directly to the brain via a jack in the side of the user’s head. There is a hippocampus chip that can restore brain function in a rat.

Rat brains have been linked so that what one rat learns, the other rat knows. The paper on that work was titled “Meta-organism of Two Rats on the Internet.” Humans also have been linked brain to brain at a distance to share function. Zebrafish have been lit up to show all their neurons firing in real time. Coming soon is the deployment of “neural dust” that can provide ultrasonic communications with tens of thousands of neurons at a time.

How profound are the ethical issues? Naam observed that we already have many of the attributes of telepathy in our cell phones and smart phones. They came so rapidly and cheaply that they erased most of the concerns about a “digital divide.” Half of the world is now on the Internet, with the rest coming fast. And rather than a divider, the technology proved to be an equalizer and a connector, fostering economic growth and the rapid spread and sifting of ideas.

Digital connectivity, he argued, is widening everyone’s “circle of empathy.” A viral video started the Arab Spring. Viral videos are changing how everyone thinks about race in America. These technologies, he concluded, are making humans more humane.

One question from the audience inquired about the origin of so much reference in the Nexus series to group meditation as the epitome of mind sharing. Naam noted that Buddhists, including the Dalai Lama, are highly interested in brain science, and his own experiences of the ecstacy of mind sharing were at a rave at Burning Man and a ten-day Vipassana Meditation Retreat in Thailand.

I asked if he agreed with the current round of panic about superintelligent artificial intelligence posing an existential threat to humanity. He said no. The dark scenarios imagine an AI so smart it implements new and grotesquely harmful pathways to solve a poorly contextualized problem. Naam pointed out that “Software almost never does anything well by accident.” (A flock of Tweets burst from the theater with that line.) And the dark scenarios imagine an isolated rogue super-capable AI. In reality nothing really capable is developed in isolation.

Subscribe to our Seminar email list for updates and summaries.

World Future Society Conference July 24-26

Posted on Thursday, July 9th, 02015 by Andrew Warner
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Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 12.39.48 PM

On July 24-26, the World Future Society’s annual conference WorldFuture 2015: Making the Future will be taking place at the Union Square Hilton in San Francisco. Speakers include Long Now Board Members Peter Schwartz & Paul Saffo and Seminar Speakers Rusty Schweickart & Ramez Naam.

Long Now Members get a 20% discount on tickets on single days & the full conference, please check your email for the discount code for the conference.

Founded in 01966, the World Future Society (WFS) is the longest-running global membership organization for futurists and the foresight minded.  Its mission is to improve decision-making about the future by empowering futurists, fostering networks, and advancing knowledge and action on future critical issues.

Every summer, WFS hosts their annual conference, WorldFuture. Designed to bring futurism to the mainstream and introduce a new entrepreneurial generation to the power of foresight, Making the Future reflects the intersection of foresight and action: three days of diverse, interactive sessions designed to unite hundreds of attendees identifying and addressing future-critical issues.. This year, WFS welcomes Long Now Members to join them with  special offers, from whole conference discounts to one-day passes and free entry for students living at home for local residents.

The World Future Society Annual Summer Conference
July 24-26, 2015
Union Square Hilton Hotel