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Danny Hillis publishes new essay on Long-Term Timekeeping in the Clock of the Long Now

Posted on Tuesday, November 7th, 02017 by Ahmed Kabil
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Danny Hillis, Long Now co-founder and designer of the 10,000 Year Clock, has a new essay, “Long-Term Timekeeping in the Clock of the Long Now” in the book The Science of Time 2016: Time in Astronomy & Society, Past, Present and Future (published November 02017). The Science of Time 2016 presents “information on the science and history of time and its impact on sciences, cultures, religions, and future developments in the field:”

The uses of time in astronomy – from pointing telescopes, coordinating and processing observations, predicting ephemerides, cultures, religious practices, history, businesses, determining Earth orientation, analyzing time-series data and in many other ways – represent a broad sample of how time is used throughout human society and in space. Time and its reciprocal, frequency, is the most accurately measurable quantity and often an important path to the frontiers of science. But the future of timekeeping is changing with the development of optical frequency standards and the resulting challenges of distributing time at ever higher precision, with the possibility of timescales based on pulsars, and with the inclusion of higher-order relativistic effects. The definition of the second will likely be changed before the end of this decade, and its realization will increase in accuracy; the definition of the day is no longer obvious. The variability of the Earth’s rotation presents challenges of understanding and prediction.

In this symposium speakers took a closer look at time in astronomy, other sciences, cultures, and business as a defining element of modern civilization. The symposium aimed to set the stage for future timekeeping standards, infrastructure, and engineering best practices for astronomers and the broader society. At the same time the program was cognizant of the rich history from Harrison’s chronometer to today’s atomic clocks and pulsar observations. The theoreticians and engineers of time were brought together with the educators and historians of science, enriching the understanding of time among both experts and the public.

The book can be purchased here. (Hillis’ individual chapter in the book is also available for purchase.)

Can “Zebras” Fix What “Unicorns” Break?

Posted on Thursday, October 26th, 02017 by Ahmed Kabil
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Long Now Partners with Zebra Movement to Help Bring Long-Term Thinking to Startups and Venture Capital

The disruptive potential of Silicon Valley, epitomized in the mantra to “move fast and break things”, was once praised as its killer feature. These days, it is increasingly perceived as a bug.  Startups come and go, but the underlying structure of tech and venture capital persists. Entrepreneurs and investors have grown accustomed to the idea of limited runway, quick exits, and short-term gains, while accepting a 90% failure rate among startups as simply the cost of admission for playing the game. “Growth becomes the overriding motivation,” Noam Cohen wrote in a recent piece for The New York Times. “Something treasured for its own sake, not for anything it brings to the world.”

Entrepreneurs Jennifer Brandel, Mara Zepeda, Astrid Scholz, and Aniyia Williams are after a different sort of disruption—one that transforms tech and venture capital through long-term thinking and alternative business models that result in both profit and social impact. They call their project the Zebra Movement.

Founders of the Zebra Movement. From left: Jennifer Brandel, Co-Founder and CEO of Hearken; Mara Zepeda, Co-Founder and CEO of Switchboard; Astrid Scholz, Co-Founder and CEO of Sphaera; and Aniyia Williams, Co-Founder and CEO of Tinsel / Black & Brown Founders.

It started in 02016, when the Zebra founders wrote a provocative essay that deployed sex metaphors to critique the startup status quo of chasing “unicorns”:

Much is made about Silicon Valley’s culture of “innovation.” But the model for startup venture financing, and the system of rewards driving this supposed innovation, isn’t creative — it’s masturbatory. It wastes potential. It’s uninspired. It leaves founders like us staring at the ceiling.

Yes, we want to build businesses that succeed financially. But we also want so much more than that, and we aren’t alone. Most of the founders we know, many of whom happen to be women, are driven to build companies that generate money and meaning. And they’re in it for the long haul — not just to get their jollies, make their names, and exit.

The essay went viral, generating responses from hundreds of founders, investors, and advocates. The Zebra founders followed with a manifesto earlier this year to provide the beginnings of a solution to what they called the “broken” structure of technology and venture capital.

This is an urgent problem. For in this game, far more than money is at stake. When VC firms prize time on site over truth, a lucky few may profit, but civil society suffers. When shareholder return trumps collective well-being, democracy itself is threatened. The reality is that business models breed behavior, and at scale, that behavior can lead to far-reaching, sometimes destructive outcomes.

[…]

A company’s business model is the first domino in a long chain of consequences. In short: “The business model is the message.” From that business model flows company culture and beliefs, strategies for success, end-user experiences, and, ultimately, the very shape of society.

We believe that developing alternative business models to the startup status quo has become a central moral challenge of our time. These alternative models will balance profit and purpose, champion democracy, and put a premium on sharing power and resources. Companies that create a more just and responsible society will hear, help, and heal the customers and communities they serve.

The founders enlisted the Zebra as the symbol for their movement:

Why zebras?

  • To state the obvious: unlike unicorns, zebras are real.
  • Zebra companies are both black and white: they are profitable and improve society. They won’t sacrifice one for the other.
  • Zebras are also mutualistic: by banding together in groups, they protect and preserve one another. Their individual input results in stronger collective output
  • Zebra companies are built with peerless stamina and capital efficiency, as long as conditions allow them to survive.

Thousands responded after the Zebra founders proposed a conference to gather together and further define the goals and ethos of their movement. DazzleCon (a “dazzle” being a gathering of zebras) will be taking place from Wednesday, November 15 to Friday, November 17, 02017 in Portland, Oregon. Long Now has joined the Rockefeller Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Knight Foundation, among others, in supporting the Zebra founders by sharing resources, ideas and strategy for considering and applying long-term thinking to the growing conversation within the movement. We will be co-partnering with DazzleCon for the evening program of keynote talks on Wednesday, November 18th. (The evening program is open to the public; Long Now members can receive a $15 discount by entering the promo code LONGNOWDAZZLE on the Eventbrite page). 

We asked one of the founders, Mara Zepeda, to reflect on the role she believes long-term thinking should play in technology and Silicon Valley:

I grew up with many tattered copies of the Whole Earth Catalog. I would later connect with Howard Rheingold, who sits at the intersection of the Whole Earth Catalog ethos and technology, as a friend and teacher (we also both graduated from Reed College). I believe the deep, nuanced, systems thinking approach the Long Now Foundation promotes is so necessary in today’s culture. As the co-founder and CEO of a technology company, I’ve noticed its absence most acutely in technology, where a pervasive “winner takes all” culture of investor profits, billion dollar companies, and quick exits reigns supreme. Long-term thinking is what is so desperately needed in these times.

We need to return to the values of thinkers like Stewart Brand, Alan Kay, Howard Rheingold, Christopher Alexander, and Douglas Engelbart who believed that technology should augment humans, and create thriving ecosystems of collective intelligence.

In The Clock of the Long Now, Stewart Brand quotes institutional management advisor Rosabeth Moss Kanter. The gist is that people who take the long view will do so when they trust their leaders, the rules of the game are fair, they will share equitably in the returns, and feel a commitment to those who come after them. Zebra companies embody and promote these values of trust, shared prosperity, and a long-term investment in the earth, community, and each other.

Aligning around these principles creates better people, more ethical products, cooperative communities, and a kinder and more equitable world. We are thrilled to partner and share this wealth of knowledge across disciplines and generations.

If you’re interested in attending DazzleCon, or would like to know more about the Zebra Movement, head here. To attend the evening program at a discounted rate, enter LONGNOWDAZZLE on the Eventbrite page.

Select Interval Talk Videos Now Online

Posted on Wednesday, June 7th, 02017 by Mikl Em
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Neal Stephenson at The Interval

As we mark the 3-year anniversary of the Conversations at The Interval lecture series, we’ve released video of more than a dozen Interval talks for the first time. HD video of fifteen select talks is now on The Interval website, free for everyone to enjoy.

Production of these talks was funded by donations from The Elkes Foundation, Because We Can, and Margaret & Will Hearst. Thanks to them and the ongoing support of Long Now members we can share these, and all our Long Now videos, free with the public.

Speakers featured include Long Now co-founder Stewart Brand; science fiction authors Neal Stephenson (shown above), Kim Stanley Robinson, and Andy Weir; artist Jonathon Keats; and internet archivist Jason Scott. Talk subjects range from interplanetary travel to the Internet of Things; digital preservation to the science of human taste; deep time art to the connection between genetics & ideology. You can see the full list of videos here.

Don’t know which to watch first? Here are a few suggestions:

Our first Interval speaker ever was Wired editor Adam Rogers who discussed the 10,000 year history of booze and the science behind it. You can see in the video and below how much The Interval has changed in 3 years.

Adam Rogers: Proof: The Science of Booze (May 02014)

Watch Adam Rogers at The Interval, May 02014

In the 01980s Jason Scott was an active participant in dial-up Bulletin Board Systems–one of the earliest networked communities. When he realized the content of the BBS era was in danger of disappearing he became, almost by accident, an archivist. Ever since, while some take the short-term view, Jason has stepped up to be a good ancestor for those who will inhabit the future networked world.

Jason Scott: The Web in an Eye Blink (February 02015).

Jason Scott at The Interval, "The Web in an Eyeblink" February 24, 02015

How does the frame of long-term thinking change the way we consider the present, past, and future of refugees and others migrating under duress? We assembled a panel of academics and experienced non-profit workers to discuss this important topic.

The Refugee Reality panel discussion (February 02016).

Watch Refugee Reality at The Interval, February 02016

If you enjoy Long Now’s long-running Seminar podcast and the videos of that series, we think you’ll enjoy these talks, too. An audio podcast of Interval talks will launch soon!

Our Interval series continues with new talks every month. Next up is our special daytime talk by authors Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland on Wednesday, June 14. And then on June 27, geologist Miles Traer discusses “The Geological Reveal” a deep time rock record history of the SF Bay Area.

June 14, 02017 at 12pm: Neal Stephenson & Nicole Galland at The Interval June 27, 02017: Miles Traer at The Interval " The Geological Reveal: How the Rock Record Shows Our Relationship to the Natural World"

 

If you can’t make The Interval talks in person we have a video livestream
exclusively for Long Now members. So you can watch live from anywhere.

We also have short clips from Interval talks on the Long Now YouTube and Facebook pages. We hope you enjoy them, and if so that you’ll share them with others. Here’s a clip of Kim Stanley Robinson’s 02016 talk:

Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland speak at The Interval: June 14, 02017

Posted on Tuesday, June 6th, 02017 by Mikl Em
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Authors Neal Stephenson & Nicole Galland at The Interval on Wednesday, June 14

Next week is the 3-year anniversary of Long Now’s Interval cafe and bar opening to the public in San Francisco. Since 02014 we’ve produced sixty-six long-term thinking lectures at The Interval.

On this milestone week we’re pleased to welcome authors Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland on Wednesday, June 14, 02017 to discuss their novel The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. which debuts next week. This will be a special daytime event that starts at noon Pacific Time.

Tickets for this event sold out in less than an hour to Long Now members; one of our member benefits is early access to buy Interval event tickets. But, as we do for all our talks, we will host a live video stream of this event—starting at 12:30pm PT (UTC -7:00). The earlier time will we hope allow Long Now members and fans around the world will tune in, as it’s a more convenient hour in many time zones than our usual evening talks.

You do have to be a Long Now member to watch on the Long Now site. Membership starts at $8/month and comes with lots of benefits. So we hope you will consider joining if you are not yet a member; and if you are, we hope you will spread the word!

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. features time travel, ancient texts,
 19th century technology, 
a language expert as protagonist, and magic. Sounds like the perfect summer reading for imaginative long-term thinkers!

This is Neal’s second visit to The Interval. In 02015 he talked about his novel Seveneves with Stewart Brand. Video of that talk is now live on The Interval site. He and Nicole will be joined in conversation by Long Now’s Executive Director Alexander Rose.

Neal’s long-time connection with The Long Now Foundation goes back to 01998 when he offered some design ideas about the 10,000 Year Clock to our co-founder Danny Hillis. Those sketches became the basis for his novel Anathem, published a decade later, which Neal launched with a Long Now event in San Francisco. In 02014 he not only gave us a list of books for the Manual for Civilization project, but he personally donated to help us build The Interval.

All of this makes his and Nicole’s visit during The Interval anniversary week even more special. We’re excited to learn more about the book and to share this event live with our members everywhere. We hope you will join us! More about the June 14 event.

Neal Stephenson & Nicole Galland at The Interval, June 14 02017

Frank Ostaseski Seminar Tickets

Posted on Friday, March 17th, 02017 by Andrew Warner
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The Long Now Foundation’s monthly

Seminars About Long-term Thinking

Frank Ostaseski on What the Dying Teach the Living

Frank Ostaseski on “What the Dying Teach the Living”

TICKETS

Monday April 10, 02017 at 7:30pm SFJAZZ Center

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

 

About this Seminar:

Frank Ostaseski is a Buddhist teacher, lecturer and author, whose focus is on contemplative end-of-life care. His new book, The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully, will be released in March 02017.

 

Katherine Fulton joins Long Now Board

Posted on Friday, March 3rd, 02017 by Ahmed Kabil
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In 01994, Katherine Fulton was in the middle of writing a profile of Stewart Brand for the Los Angeles Times magazine. She wondered, after more than thirty years of “finding things and founding things,” what Brand was scheming next. A friend of Brand’s told her to ask about the “clock project.” She received a cryptic answer:

[Brand] stiffens. “Very tentative. Very fragile. Probably, possibly might not happen. Don’t know who’s involved, if anybody. So I just can’t talk about it until it’s real enough to talk about, and maybe not then. No offense intended.”

Twenty-three years later, the “clock project” is real enough to talk about. And Katherine Fulton, who became one of the world’s leading experts on the future of philanthropy in the years following her profile on Brand, has joined the Long Now Foundation’s Board of Directors.

“It feels like coming home,” says Fulton.

“Half of the board are friends and former colleagues. But for the last ten years or so I’ve been working in really different environments, so to actually reconnect with them in this way and to learn again from them, and to share some of what I know in the process from my adventures, should be really fun.”

Katherine came to know many future Long Now board members as a journalist in the early 01990s. Katherine realized earlier than most that the rise of the web would bring about immense, civilization-scale changes. She immersed herself in the ideas and projects of futurists and technologists like Esther Dyson, Peter Schwartz, Paul Saffo, Stewart Brand, and Kevin Kelly.

Katherine Fulton (far right) onstage with the Long Now Board at the Member Summit in Fall 02016 | photo by Gary Wilson 

“I wanted to be side-by-side with the people solving these problems,” she recalls.

Her profile on Stewart Brand provided that opportunity. She spent an intense week in San Francisco documenting the unique intellectual environment of the Global Business Network, the consulting firm co-founded by Brand and Schwartz that counted many future Long Now board members among its ranks.

Less than six months after the profile was published, Brand called Katherine to ask if she might be interested in working at GBN. She was. At GBN, Katherine mastered the scenario planning toolkit and advised leaders in more than a dozen industries as they sought to adapt more skillfully to rapid change.

Hailing from a family dedicated to community service, Katherine understood the civic value of philanthropy from an early age. But as the twenty-first century began, the field of philanthropy underwent massive changes. The wealth was coming not from heirs but private actors looking to shape public policy. New technologies enabled entirely new ways of giving.

Applying the lessons of scenario planning to the “New Philanthropy,” Katherine emerged as a leading thinker on impact investing and the future of philanthropy. She built and served as President of Monitor Institute, a consulting practice for the social sector focused on solving major social and environmental challenges.

In a 02006 Long Now talk, Katherine outlined her mission to make philanthropy open, big, fast and connected in service of the long term. She also discussed the deeper implications of the new philanthropy and the necessity of long-term thinking to address them.

“There are problems that are impossible if you think about them in two-year terms— which everyone does,” she said at the talk, quoting Danny Hillis. “But they’re easy if you think about them in fifty-year terms.”

Katherine hopes to apply that same long-term thinking, as well as her twenty years of experience working with nonprofits and foundations, to Long Now as an institution:

I’m interested in the human side of Long Now. I’m interested in how we design an institution around the active community and the projects, and then include the people who engage in the ideas, even if they’re not directly a part of the community. How do we expand on that? Now that the Long Now is twenty years old, how do you think about the next twenty years? The next two hundred, the next thousand?

For Katherine, the Clock of the Long Now inspires questions around long-term governance, responsibility, and accountability.

“If the whole idea is to foster long-term responsibility, we have to rethink the design of institutions,” she continues. “In a massively distributed world, how do you design institutions for that world? How do you foster responsibility, and more importantly, ensure accountability?”

Important questions. We couldn’t be happier to have Katherine Fulton on board to help answer them.

 

Bjorn Lomborg Seminar Tickets

Posted on Wednesday, March 1st, 02017 by Andrew Warner
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The Long Now Foundation’s monthly

Seminars About Long-term Thinking

Bjorn Lomborg's Seminar From Feel-Good to High-Yield Good: How to Improve Philanthropy and Aid

Bjorn Lomborg’s Seminar ”From Feel-Good to High-Yield Good: How to Improve Philanthropy and Aid”

TICKETS

Monday March 13, 02017 at 7:30pm SFJAZZ Center

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

 

About this Seminar:

Bjorn Lomborg does cost/benefit analysis on global good. There are surprises when you examine what are the highest-yield targets in the domains of health, poverty, education, reduced violence, gender equality, climate change, biodiversity, and good governance. Reducing trade restrictions floats to the top: $1 spent yields $2,000 of good for everyone. Contraception for women is close behind, with a whole array of benefits. For health go after tuberculosis, malaria, and child malnutrition. For climate change, phase out fossil fuel subsidies and invest in energy research. For biodiversity, focus especially on saving coral reefs.

Most aid and philanthropy decisions are made based on persuasive sounding narratives, and we relish taking part in those stories, even if the actual results are mixed. But the results of the most pragmatic approach, built on statistics and economic analysis rather than narrative, can be stunning.

Bjorn Lomborg is author of Prioritizing the World (02014), Cool It (02007), and The Skeptical Environmentalist (02001).

Jennifer Pahlka Seminar Tickets

Posted on Wednesday, January 11th, 02017 by Andrew Warner
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The Long Now Foundation’s monthly

Seminars About Long-term Thinking

Jennifer Pahlka presents Fixing Government: Bottom Up and Outside In

Jennifer Pahlka presents “Fixing Government: Bottom Up and Outside In”

TICKETS

Wednesday February 1, 02017 at 7:30pm SFJAZZ Center

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

 

About this Seminar:

Code for America was founded in 02009 by Jennifer Pahlka “to make government work better for the people and by the people in the 21st century.”  

The organization started a movement to modernize government for a digital age which has now spread from cities to counties to states, and now, most visibly, to the federal government, where Jennifer served at the White House as US Deputy Chief Technology Officer.  There she helped start the United States Digital Service, known as “Obama’s stealth startup.”

Now that thousands of people from “metaphysical Silicon Valley” are working for and with government, what have we learned?  Can government actually be fixed to serve citizens better—especially the neediest?  Why does change in government happen so slowly?

Before founding Code for America, Jennifer Pahlka co-created the Web 2.0 and Gov. 2.0 conferences, building on her prior experience organizing computer game developer conferences. She continues to serve as executive director of Code for America, which is based in San Francisco.

Steven Johnson Seminar Tickets

Posted on Monday, December 12th, 02016 by Andrew Warner
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The Long Now Foundation’s monthly

Seminars About Long-term Thinking

Steven Johnson presents Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World

Steven Johnson presents “Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World”

TICKETS

Wednesday January 4, 02017 at 7:30pm SFJAZZ Center

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

 

About this Seminar:

Steven Johnson is a writer and co-creator of the PBS series How We Got To Now. His latest project is the book and podcast Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World.

Lost Landscapes of San Francisco, 11 Seminar Tickets

Posted on Tuesday, November 15th, 02016 by Andrew Warner
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The Long Now Foundation’s monthly

Seminars About Long-term Thinking

Rick Prelinger presents Lost Landscapes of San Francisco, 11

Rick Prelinger presents “Lost Landscapes of San Francisco, 11″

TICKETS

Tuesday December 6th & Wednesday December 7, 02016 at 7:30pm Castro Theater

Long Now Members can reserve 2 seats, join today! General Tickets $20

 

About this Seminar:

Our annual Lost Landscapes of San Francisco show with Rick Prelinger will run for 2 nights this year and a portion of the proceeds are going directly to support the Prelinger Library!

Members can reserve tickets on either Tuesday December 6 or Wednesday December 7, 02016; the show is at 7:30pm at the Castro Theater (doors are at 6:30pm) on both nights.

Tuesday 12/6/16: On Tuesday night, we’ll be having our Long Now Winter Party for members and their guests after the show on the Mezzanine of the Castro Theater, with wine, beer and holiday snacks. Please join us to celebrate another year of thought-provoking Seminars and other Long Now achievements!

Wednesday 12/7/16: The Wednesday showing will also feature a presentation on the Prelinger Library. On both evenings you can purchase $50 Prelinger Library Patron Tickets, which include reserved seating in the theater. 100% of proceeds from the sale of these tickets go directly to the library!

The eleventh year of Lost Landscapes of San Francisco, the annual archival film program that celebrates San Francisco’s past and looks towards its future.

This year’s program features new scenes of San Franciscans working, playing, marching and partying during the Great Depression; unseen footage of Seals Stadium and the Cow Palace in the late 1930s; the reconstruction of Market Street and Embarcadero Plaza in the 1970s; rare footage of southeastern San Francisco and the Hunters Point drydock; the 1975 Gay Freedom Day parade; a 1940s-era ode to our fog; many more newly discovered gems; and greatest hits from past programs.

As always, the audience makes the soundtrack at the glorious Castro Theatre! Come prepared to identify places, people and events; to ask questions; and to engage in spirited real-time repartee with fellow audience members.

Part of your Lost Landscapes ticket price this year benefits Prelinger Library, San Francisco’s famed experimental research library that supports artists, historians, community members, and researchers of all kinds. Your purchase of a Patron Ticket directly benefits the library.

Founded by Megan & Rick Prelinger in 02004, the Library contains over 60,000 books, periodicals, maps and ephemeral print items available for research and reuse. Prelinger Library is a community-supported resource open to the public, keeping regular hours in the South of Market neighborhood; details and hours at http://www.prelingerlibrary.org.