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Kevin Kelly Seminar Media

Posted on Monday, November 17th, 02014 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.

Technium Unbound

Wednesday November 12, 02014 – San Francisco

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

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Holos Rising – a summary by Stewart Brand

When Kevin Kelly looked up the definition of “superorganism” on Wikipedia, he found this: “A collection of agents which can act in concert to produce phenomena governed by the collective.” The source cited was Kevin Kelly, in his 01994 book, Out of Control. His 02014 perspective is that humanity has come to dwell in a superorganism of our own making on which our lives now depend.

The technological numbers keep powering up and connecting with each other. Their aggregate is becoming formidable, rich with emergent behavior, and yet it is still so new to us that it remains unnamed and scarcely considered.

Kelly clicked through some current tallies: one quintillion transistors; fifty-five trillion links; one hundred billion web clicks per day; one thousand communication satellites. Only a quarter of all the energy we use goes to humans; the rest drives Earth’s “very large machine.” Kelly calls it “the Technium” and spelled out what it is not. Not H.G. Wells’ “World Brain,” which was only a vision of what the Web now is. Not Teilhard de Chardin’s “Noosphere,” which was only humanity’s collective consciousness. Not “the Singularity,” which anticipates a technological event horizon that Kelly says will never occur as an event—”the Singularity will always be near.”

The Technium may best be considered a new organism with which we are symbiotic, as we are symbiotic with the aggregate of Earth’s life, sometimes called “Gaia.” There are pace differences, with Gaia slow, humanity faster, and the Technium really fast. They are not replacing each other but building on each other, and the meta-organism of their combining is so far nameless. Kelly shrugged, “Call it ‘Holos.’ Here are five frontiers I think that Holos implies for us…”

1) Big math of “zillionics” —beyond yotta (10 to the 24th) to, some say, “lotta” and “hella.” 2) New economics of the massive one-big-market, capable of surprise flash crashes and imperceptible tectonic shifts. 3) New biology of our superorganism with its own large phobias, compulsions, and oscillations. 4) New minds, which will emerge from a proliferation of auto-enhancing AI’s that augment rather than replace human intelligence. 5) New governance. One world government is inevitable. Some of it will be non-democratic—”I don’t get to vote who’s on the World Bank.“ To deal with planet-scale issues like geoengineering and climate change, “we will have to work through the recursive dilemma of who decides who decides?” We have no rules for cyberwar yet. We have no backup to the Internet yet, and it needs an immune system.

There is lots to work out, but lots to work it out with, and inventiveness abounds and converges. “We are,” Kelly said, “at just the beginning of the beginning.”

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Ambition: Rosetta Mission Video

Posted on Monday, November 10th, 02014 by Andrew Warner
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This Wednesday, November 12 02014, the European Space Agency‘s Rosetta Mission will deploy the Philae lander onto the 67P Comet after over a decade-long journey.  When this mission was first conceived, the ESA asked to put one of Long Now’s Rosetta Disks on the craft, making the Rosetta Probe the first off-world long-term archive of human language.

To honor the culmination of this historic mission, ESA has released a short science fiction film imagining the potential legacy of the Rosetta Mission. This dramatic, inspiring short was directed by Tomek Bagiński and co-stars Aidan Gillen (of The Wire and Game of Thrones). It’s a reminder of how historic this mission truly is.

Rosetta_mission_selfie_at_comet-e1410372789496
You can watch the live stream of the Rosetta Space Probe sending it’s lander to Comet 67P, from 6:00am to 9:00am PT on November 12 02014.

Here in the Bay Area, The Long Now Foundation is partnering with the Chabot Space Center and swissnex SF to host a breakfast event at the Chabot Space & Science Center. The event will feature the live stream and our own Dr. Laura Welcher giving a presentation about the Rosetta Disk, as well as Chabot’s staff astronomer Ben Burress and a live Skype with Kathrin Altwegg from the European Space Operations Centre, Darmstadt. Doors & breakfast are at 6:00am; tickets and more information can be found here.

Rick Prelinger Seminar Tickets

Posted on Thursday, November 6th, 02014 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, 9

Rick Prelinger presents “Lost Landscapes of San Francisco, 9″

TICKETS

Thursday December 4, 02014 at 7:30pm Castro Theater

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

 

About this Seminar:

This year’s LOST LANDSCAPES (the 9th year in a row!) will bring together familiar and unseen archival film clips showing San Francisco as it was and is no more.

Blanketing the 20th-century city, from the Bay to Ocean Beach, this screening includes San Franciscans at work and play; peace rallies in Golden Gate Park; early hippies in the Haight; a walk on the incomplete Golden Gate Bridge; newly-discovered images of Playland and the waterfront; families living and playing in their neighborhoods; detail-rich streetscapes of the late 1960s; 1930s color images of a busy Market Street; a selected reprise of greatest hits from years 1-7; and much, much more.

As usual, you’ll be the star at the glorious Castro — audience members are asked to identify places and events, ask questions, share their thoughts, and create an unruly interactive symphony of speculation about the city we’ve lost and the city we’d like to live in.

Larry Harvey Seminar Media

Posted on Wednesday, November 5th, 02014 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.

Why The Man Keeps Burning

Monday October 20, 02014 – San Francisco

Video is up on the Harvey Seminar page.

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

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The Hundred Year Burn – a summary by Paul Saffo

Stewart Brand’s flight from London was delayed causing him to miss this talk, so this months Seminar was hosted by Long Now executive director Alexander Rose, and the write up is by board member Paul Saffo.

Burning Man is like one of those birthday candles you can’t blow out,” observed Burning Man’s primary founder and Chief Philosophical Officer. Indeed, Burning Man has thrived in the face of Burners and skeptics alike declaring it dead after each of its first 25 years. Too big, too fashionable, too many rich people, too hard to get in: each year the rationale changes, and Burning Man continues to thrive.

Half of the secret is simplicity. Consider the Man. Before anything exists on the playa, Burning Man begins with a single stake pounded into the ground marking the spot where the Man will stand. This is the axis mundi of Burning Man, the point on which everything converges, from the radiating streets to the final ritual of the burn. The stake itself is the object of a spontaneous ritual: as it is placed each year, each crew-member gives the stake a few hammer-blows to drive it in.

The other half of Burning Man’s secret is transformation. “Just when you are done with one existential challenge, then you encounter another.” For example, in recent years, forty percent of Burning Man’s population are newcomers. “I am pretty comfortable with that – it is new energy that keeps things very much alive,” observed Harvey.

Burning Man is now setting on a course to thrive for another 75 years. Its Ten Principles are the compass and the newly established Philosophical Center is the think tank and “collective memory and conscience” helping guide Burning Man on this 100-year journey. Harvey observed that, “Corporations have a remarkably short life-span, while cities have a remarkably long life-span – drop an atom bomb on it and it comes right back. We will find our way. It always looks dubious when we set out because we are setting out in the dark. But your faith always guides you.” Our advice: mark your calendar for the last Monday of August 02090 and sign up early; the tickets are certain to sell out fast.

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Rosetta Probe Landing: Live Stream & Breakfast Event

Posted on Monday, November 3rd, 02014 by Austin Brown
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ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

On November 12, 02014 from 6:00am to 9:00am PT, you can watch the live stream of the Rosetta Space Probe (which carries our Rosetta Disk) sending its lander, Philae, down to comet 67P.

Here in the Bay Area, The Long Now Foundation is partnering with the Chabot Space Center and swissnex SF to host a breakfast event at the Chabot Space & Science Center. The event will feature the live stream and our own Dr. Laura Welcher giving a presentation about the Rosetta Disk, as well as Chabot’s staff astronomer Ben Burress and a live Skype with Kathrin Altwegg from the European Space Operations Centre, Darmstadt. Doors & breakfast are at 6:00am; tickets and more information can be found here.

For over a decade, Long Now has closely watched the European Space Agency’s Rosetta Mission as it has orbited the Sun in search of comet 67P and untold scientific breakthroughs. This pioneering space probe was launched in early 02004, maneuvered itself into orbit around comet 67p earlier this year, and on November 12 it will be the first human-made craft to make contact with the nucleus of a comet.

Where is Rosetta?

For the latter purpose, the Rosetta probe carries Philae, a small landing craft bristling with scientific instruments and the harpoons and drills necessary to “landing” on a low-gravity object like a comet. At just four kilometers in diameter, comet 67P’s gravity is but a millionth of what we feel on Earth, which makes the landing a uniquely challenging endeavor.

While Philae descends towards the comet’s surface and immediately after it has touched down, it will perform a bevy of tests and observations in order to send back as much data as possible – via Rosetta, still orbiting the comet – in case any part of this tricky maneuver goes awry and damages or destroys the craft. Assuming the landing and deployment of Philae’s instruments goes according to plan, the probe will continue to monitor and study the comet as it approaches the Sun and heats up. At some point in March of 02015, it is expected that comet 67P’s proximity to the Sun will cause Philae to overheat, ending its useful life.

While Rosetta has been in orbit around comet 67P, it has been studying the terrain in search of a relatively safe landing spot for Philae. The comet’s landscape is characterized primarily by jagged cliffs and boulders, but the ESA team identified five potential options before choosing their preferred target for the November 12, 02014 landing.

ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Rosetta-Disk-on-Rosetta-Probe
The location of the Rosetta Disk on the Rosetta Spacecraft

Near the turn of the century, while the mission was coming together here on terra firma, a member of the ESA team contacted Long Now because of our own Rosetta Project.

The ESA’s Rosetta probe was inspired by the Egyptian artifact, just as our Rosetta Project was, because of what an essential historical “key” it represented. By allowing linguists and historians to decipher the long-forgotten hieroglyphics of ancient Egypt, the Rosetta Stone “unlocked” the writings of the rich and long-standing culture that built the Great Pyramids, the Great Sphinx and ruled the Nile delta for millennia.

Photo by Hans Hillewaert

ESA’s scientists hope that comet 67P will serve a similar unlocking role for our understanding of life on Earth. It’s hypothesized that the molecules that eventually became DNA and gave rise to all living things on our planet came not from the Earth itself, but instead from comets and asteroids of the early solar system. By landing Philae directly onto the comet’s surface, scientists will have their first opportunity to directly analyze the material of a cometary nucleus for signs of the ancient organic molecules that can confirm this theory.

Long Now’s Rosetta Project has created a micro-etched, nickel disk meant to last thousands of years that houses an archive of human languages so that future archaeologists and linguists might be able to unlock the writings of civilizations whose languages are likely to be lost in coming centuries.

Inspired by the resonance of this hope to unlock knowledge of the past and future, the ESA team offered to put a copy of the Rosetta Disk on the Rosetta Probe and at this very moment an archive of 1,500 human languages is floating out among the solar system, in orbit around comet 67P.

Karen Marcelo at The Interval: San Francisco’s Art and Tech-Hacking History

Posted on Thursday, October 30th, 02014 by Mikl Em
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Karen Marcelo with SRL's Pulse Jet
Karen Marcelo photo by Jay Bain

Karen Marcelo (dorkbot SF, Survival Research Labs)
Tuesday November 4, 02014 7:30pm
at The Interval (check-in at 6:30)
Advanced Tickets recommended

Programmer, artist, and founder of dorkbot SF, Karen Marcelo discusses the tradition of San Francisco Bay Area technologically-minded artists and hackers in the past, present and future. For decades a curious creativity has thrived in the shadows of the high tech industry’s most famous valley. More J. G. Ballard than VC Capital. Un-monetized, non-productized, often subversive and sometimes in fact quite dangerous. Karen has been creating work herself and curating a community of tech makers and re-animators from way before 3-D printers, Maker Faire, or Arduinos existed.

From San Francisco to Silicon Valley, since at least the late 01970s when Survival Research Labs was founded, the wealth of technological know-how and hand-me-down / cast-off resources in the area have led to all kinds of artistic endeavors of decidedly uncommercial sorts. Made by people with day jobs in mainstream tech firms or outsiders with an axe to grind, there’s a rusty cutting edge at the back of the tech startup garage. On Tuesday we’ll talk about it and The Interval.

Come hear about the history of loud, fiery machines and hacker artists in San Francisco and surrounding areas from someone at the center of the noise for years. Karen will talk about tech and art projects including her own work with Survival Research Labs and organizing dorkbot SF for more than a decade.

Our Interval event series tends to sell out ahead of time, so get your tickets now!  Donate to The Interval and you’ll be on our early notification list for all of our Tuesday salon talks.

 

Alexander Rose on The 10,000 Year Clock @ The Interval, Tuesday 10/28

Posted on Thursday, October 23rd, 02014 by Mikl Em
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Zander photo by Chris Michel small
Alexander Rose photo by Christopher Michel

Alexander Rose: Designing for Longevity
Building The 10,000 Year Clock
Tuesday October 28, 02014 at 7:30pm
at The Interval (check-in at 6:30)
Advanced Tickets recommended

Late in the last millennium, Danny Hillis told a small group of friends about his idea for building a monument-scale clock that would last for 10,000 years. The group included Stewart Brand, Kevin Kelly, and Brian Eno – and the conversations that followed led to the founding of The Long Now Foundation in 01996. Ever since then, Long Now has worked to bring the Clock into reality.

Alexander Rose has been there almost from the start. The first employee of Long Now, he assisted Danny Hillis in early design work. Now he is the Foundation’s Executive Director and serves as the project manager for the full-sized Clock construction which is now underway in Texas. In his talk at The Interval he will discuss both the beginnings of the Clock project and where we are today.

The Clock has been built slowly, methodically, with a dedication to doing it right for the long term. And without a short-term deadline. The design process has been slow and painstaking. Our prototypes are built from the highest-quality materials and feature hand-crafted custom work. Our durability testing approximates the wear of slow moving mechanisms running for thousands of years.

Tickets are still available but space is limited and this talk will sell out

This talk will also include the lessons that Long Now’s team has learned from studying these previous millennial design projects. Alexander has travelled the world researching other projects designed to last for a thousand years or more. These include the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, the Granite Mountain Records Vault built by the Mormon Church, and most recently Ise Grand Shrine in Japan.

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Alexander Rose is Executive Director of The Long Now Foundation and project manager of the construction of the full-sized 10,000 Year Clock which is now underway in West Texas.

Zander Rose and the first Clock prototype

Alexander’s combat robots have won six world championship titles and appeared in the TV show BattleBots. Alexander has built large pyrotechnic displays for the Burning Man festival, robotic bartenders, and other dangerous machines. He is part of the Thiel Fellowship Network, and founded the Robot Fighting League.

The Manual for Civilization takes The Knight Foundation News Challenge

Posted on Saturday, October 18th, 02014 by Mikl Em
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Manual for Civilization Knight News Challenge

What captures your imagination about the future of libraries?

That’s the question asked by The Knight Foundation in an open call for innovative library projects. There have been 680 proposals from around the country, and only a few days remain to give feedback and “Applaud” your favorites.  We think our Manual for Civilization project fits well with The Knight Foundation’s News Challenge funding goal:

We view libraries as key for improving Americans’ ability to know about and to be involved with what takes place around them. The library has been a vital part of our communities for centuries—as keepers of public knowledge, spaces for human connection, educators for the next generations of learners. While habits are changing, those needs have not. We want to discover projects that help carry the values of libraries into the future.

Take a moment to read our proposal, comment, and click the Applause button to show your support for the Manual for Civilization. Many projects will be funded to fulfill the News Challenge’s aim of [accelerating] media innovation by funding breakthrough ideas in news and information. Your applause could help the Manual be one of them.

The Manual for Civilization is a crowd-curated library of the 3500 books most essential to sustain or rebuild civilization. Knight Foundation funds will help us complete our collection of books–including many rare, hard-to-find titles. It would also support live events to engage the community and online initiatives providing broader access to the project. Read more on the News Challenge website.

Kevin Kelly Seminar Tickets

Posted on Thursday, October 16th, 02014 by Andrew Warner
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The Long Now Foundation’s monthly

Seminars About Long-term Thinking

Kevin Kelly presents Technium Unbound

Kevin Kelly presents “Technium Unbound”

TICKETS

Wednesday November 12, 02014 at 7:30pm SFJAZZ Center

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

 

About this Seminar:

What comes after the Internet? What is bigger than the web? What will produce more wealth than all the startups to date? The answer is a planetary super-organism comprised of 4 billion mobile phones, 80 quintillion transistor chips, a million miles of fiber optic cables, and 6 billion human minds all wired together. The whole thing acts like a single organism, with its own behavior and character — but at a scale we have little experience with.

This is more than just a metaphor. Kelly takes the idea of a global super-organism seriously by describing what we know about it so far, how it is growing, where its boundaries are, and what it will mean for us as individuals and collectively. Both the smallest one-person enterprises today, and the largest mega-corporations on Earth, will have to learn to how this Technium operates, and how to exploit it.

Drew Endy Seminar Media

Posted on Thursday, October 2nd, 02014 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 iGEM Revolution

Tuesday September 16, 02014 – San Francisco

Video is up on the Endy Seminar page.

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

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Massively collaborative synthetic biology – a summary by Stewart Brand

Natural genomes are nearly impossible to figure out, Endy began, because they were evolved, not designed. Everything is context dependent, tangled, and often unique. So most biotech efforts become herculean. It cost $25 million to develop a way to biosynthesize the malaria drug artemisinin, for example. Yet the field has so much promise that most of what biotechnology can do hasn’t even been imagined yet.

How could the nearly-impossible be made easy? Could biology become programmable? Endy asked Lynn Conway, the legendary inventer of efficient chip design and manufacturing, how to proceed. She said, “Go meta.” If the recrafting of DNA is viewed from a meta perspective, the standard engineering cycle—Design, Build, Test, Design better, etc.—requires a framework of DNA Synthesis, using Standards, understood with Abstraction, leading to better Synthesis, etc.

“In 2003 at MIT,” Endy said, “we didn’t know how to teach it, but we thought that maybe working with students we could figure out how to learn it.” It would be learning-by-building. So began a student project to engineer a biological oscillator—a genetic blinker—which led next year to several teams creating new life forms, which led to the burgeoning iGEM phenomenon. Tom Knight came up with the idea of standard genetic parts, like Lego blocks, now called BioBricks. Randy Rettberg declared that cooperation had to be the essence of the work, both within teams (which would compete) and among all the participants to develop the vast collaborative enterprise that became the iGEM universe—students creating new BioBricks (now 10,000+) and meeting at the annual Jamboree in Boston (this year there are 2,500 competitors from 32 countries). “iGEM” stands for International Genetically Engineered Machine.

Playfulness helps, Endy said. Homo faber needs homo ludens—man-the-player makes a better man-the-maker. In 2009 ten teenagers with $25,000 in sixteen weeks developed the ability to create E. coli in a variety of colors. They called it E. chromi. What could you do with pigmented intestinal microbes? “The students were nerding out.” They talked to designers and came up with the idea of using colors in poop for diagnosis. By 2049, they proposed, there could be a “Scatalog” for color matching of various ailments such as colon cancer. “It would be more pleasant than colonoscopy.”

The rationale for BioBricks is that “standardization enables coordination of labor among parties and over time.” For the system to work well depends on total access to the tools. “I want free-to-use language for programming life,” said Endy. The stated goal of the iGEM revolutionaries is “to benefit all people and the planet.” After ten years there are now over 20,000 of them all over the world guiding the leading edges of biotechnology in that direction.

During the Q&A, Endy told a story from his graduate engineering seminar at Dartmouth. The students were excited that the famed engineer and scientist Arthur Kantrowitz was going to lead a session on sustainability. They were shocked when he told them, “‘Sustainability‘ is the most dangerous thing I’ve ever encountered. My job today is to explain two things to you. One, pessimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Two, optimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

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