Blog Archive for the ‘Announcements’ Category

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Mariana Mazzucato Seminar Media

Posted on Wednesday, April 16th, 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 Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Private vs. Public Sector Myths

Monday March 24, 02014 – San Francisco

Video is up on the Mazzucato Seminar page for Members.

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

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Government as radical, patient VC – a summary by Stewart Brand

The iPhone, Mazzucato pointed out, is held up as a classic example of world-changing innovation coming from business.

Yet every feature of the iPhone was created, originally, by multi-decade government-funded research. From DARPA came the microchip, the Internet, the micro hard drive, the DRAM cache, and Siri. From the Department of Defense came GPS, cellular technology, signal compression, and parts of the liquid crystal display and multi-touch screen (joining funding from the CIA, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Energy, which, by the way, developed the lithium-ion battery.) CERN in Europe created the Web. Steve Jobs’ contribution was to integrate all of them beautifully.

Venture Capitalists (VCs) in business expect a return in 3 to 5 years, and they count on no more than one in ten companies to succeed. The time frame for government research and investment embraces a whole innovation cycle of 15 to 20 years, supporting the full chain from basic research through to viable companies. That means they can develop entire new fields such as space technology, aviation technology, nanotechnology, and, hopefully, Green technology.

But compare the reward structure. Government takes the greater risk with no prospect of great reward, while VCs and businesses take less risk and can reap enormous rewards. “We socialize the risks and privatize the rewards.” Mazzucato proposes mechanisms for the eventual rewards of deep innovation to cycle back into a government “innovation fund”—perhaps by owning equity in the advantaged companies, or retaining a controlling “golden share” of intellectual property rights, or through income-contingent loans (such as are made to students). “After Google made billions in profits, shouldn’t a small percentage have gone back to fund the public agency (National Science Foundation) that funded its algorithm?” In Brazil, China, and Germany, state development banks get direct returns from their investments.

The standard narrative about government in the US is that it stifles innovation, whereas the truth is that it enables innovation at a depth that business cannot reach, and the entire society, including business, gains as a result. “We have to change the way we think about the state,” Mazzucato concludes.

Subscribe to our Seminar email list for updates and summaries.

Explore Urban Infrastructure at the MacroCity Conference, May 30-31

Posted on Tuesday, April 15th, 02014 by Charlotte Hajer
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We rarely see in full the cities that we live in. Focused on our daily lives, urban dwellers are often only dimly aware of the numerous, enmeshed layers of critical infrastructure that quietly hum in the background to make modern life possible.

Come and explore the amazing stories and surprising histories to be found lurking just below the surface of our cities at MacroCity, a two-day, whirlwind tour of this bigger picture of urban life. The event brings together a diverse set of panelists, speakers, and participants to explore the vast, often overlooked networks of infrastructure that surround us. The line-up includes rogue archivist and Lost Landscapes creator Rick Prelinger, as well as Laci Videmsky of the New California Water Atlas.

The schedule also includes a variety of field trips, offering an opportunity to explore first-hand some of the vast networks of infrastructure that sustain the Bay Area.

Organized by the Bay Area Infrastructure Observatory, the conference will take place on May 30-31 at SPUR and the Brava Theater in San Francisco. The Long Now Foundation is partnering with BAIO on the event, and Long Now members receive a 25% discount on tickets – please check your email for your discount code.

Field trips will take place on May 30th, with most of the speakers scheduled for May 31st. A basic pass to the talks can be reserved for $100; the deluxe pass for $150 includes access to a field trip, as well. Half-price tickets are available for members of the nonprofit community; please see the event registration page for more information.

Watermark: New Film by Edward Burtynsky

Posted on Monday, April 14th, 02014 by Charlotte Hajer
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Every living thing requires water. We humans interact with it in a myriad of ways, numerous times a day. But how often do we consider the complexity of that interaction?

Renowned photographer and former SALT speaker Edward Burtynsky explores these questions in a new film. Co-directed by Burtynsky and filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal,

Watermark is a feature documentary film that brings together diverse stories from around the globe about our relationship with water: how we are drawn to it, what we learn from it, how we use it and the consequences of that use. … Shot in stunning 5K ultra high-definition video and full of soaring aerial perspectives, this film shows water as a terraforming element and the scale of its reach, as well as the magnitude of our need and use. This is balanced by forays into the particular: a haunting memory of a stolen river, a mysterious figure roaming ancient rice terraces, the crucial data hidden in a million year old piece of ice, a pilgrim’s private ritual among thousands of others at the water’s edge.

The film is part of Burtynsky’s larger Water project, which also includes a book and an exhibition of dramatic large-format photographs. Watermark will be playing at theaters throughout the United States this month and the next; you can find a list of screenings here.

In San Francisco, Watermark will be screened at the Opera Plaza Theater  for one week, starting this Friday, April 18. Come see the film on opening day for a chance to hear Burtynsky speak about the film: he will attend the 4.30 PM and 7.00 PM shows in person for a post-screening Q&A with the audience.

More information about the Water Project book can be found here, and the accompanying photographs will be on exhibit at the Rena Bransten Gallery in San Francisco through the end of the month.

 

The Interval at Long Now: Opening in May

Posted on Thursday, April 3rd, 02014 by Charlotte Hajer
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The Interval is the name of Long Now's new salon space in San Francisco. Opening Spring 02014

We are excited to announce that we will be opening The Interval at Long Now in May. We have our first event scheduled for May 27th, but our doors will open prior to that. In June we’ll present Rachel Sussman, a previous Seminar speaker, at the Salon. We will announce that as soon as the date is finalized. Details on a series of opening events in May–including some member and donor-exclusive ones–will be forthcoming.

We are offering some special thank you gifts to charter supporters who give during this critical phase of the project, in the lead-up to opening. Everyone who donates prior to opening will be considered a charter Interval supporter.

Here are some of the benefits, besides the gifts you may have already received:

  • Special opening events in May
  • All (new) donors over $500 will receive a Long Now etched shot glass.
  • All charter supporters will be listed at the space on our donor wall.
  • Every donor ($10 or higher) will receive a digital copy of the Manual for Civilization book list with an exclusive forward written just for the charter supporters.

If you have been waiting for the right time, this is it – every donation counts. We really need your support now to finish this project: please spread the word. And if every one of our existing donors can inspire a friend to give at the same level, then we will exceed our goal.

At Long Now we have high standards for design, and we wanted to build a venue that we’d be proud to put our name on – a venue that would inspire and welcome both our members and the general public. We think we’ve done it. Here are some of the highlights of what we are all building together:

  • Ambient music and video installation by Brian Eno, played on a custom-designed Meyer Galileo sound system
  • The Manual for Civilization library: 3,500 essential texts, crowdsourced from our extended community
  • Chalkboard robot built by Swiss artist Jürg Lehni
  • Salon-style events to complement our Seminars About Long-term Thinking
  • A robot that makes bespoke gins from specially distilled botanicals
  • Tea list by Samovar tea lounge, including special aged Pu-erh tea
  • Coffee by Sightglass coffee
  • Specially distilled gin and whiskey by St George Spirits
  • Aged St George whiskey served from the barrel
  • Bar and beverage program designed by Jennifer Colliau (Small Hand Foods)
  • Mixologist-quality non-alcoholic concoctions (one of Jennifer’s specialties)

The Interval building also serves as Long Now’s headquarters. It is a place where anyone can come for some long-term thinking and conversation; a place to be inspired and surrounded by the long-term ideas that have sustained global civilization; and a place to hear (and talk) about new ideas coming from the fields of science, technology, art, and culture.

With that in mind, we ask you to take part in this project, whether at the $10 or $10,000 level. Every gift helps as we approach opening day. You’ll gets lots of benefits, including the Manual for Civilization master list, and your name will appear at this unique venue that you helped make a reality.

Thanks for your support of Long Now! We hope we continue to inform and inspire you.

Tony Hsieh Seminar Tickets

Posted on Thursday, March 27th, 02014 by Andrew Warner
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The Long Now Foundation’s monthly

Seminars About Long-term Thinking

Tony Hsieh presents Helping Revitalize a City

Tony Hsieh presents “Helping Revitalize a City”

TICKETS

Tuesday April 22, 02014 at 7:30pm SFJAZZ Center

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

 

About this Seminar:

Can a successful company and a run-down downtown vitalize each other?

Tony Hsieh, CEO of the phenomenally successful Zappos, is betting exactly that in Las Vegas.  He moved his company headquarters into the former city hall and is integrating the Zappos campus into the surrounding neighborhood, meanwhile investing millions to provide a dense urban experience for the locals as well as his employees.  His “Downtown Project” declares: “We’ve allocated $350 million to aid in the revitalization of Downtown Las Vegas. We’re investing $200 million in real estate, $50 million in small businesses, $50 million in education, and $50 million in tech startups.”

The fantasy is well along into impressive reality, according to a January 2014 article in Wired.  What is being learned may change how cities and companies think of themselves—and of each other.

Hsieh’s theory of urban vitality comes from Edward Glaeser’s book The Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier.  His theory of company vitality he has spelled out in his own book, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose.

Alexander Rose Speaking at Chabot Space & Science Center

Posted on Saturday, March 15th, 02014 by Andrew Warner
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future-fridays2013On Friday March 21st, the Executive Director of The Long Now Foundation, Alexander Rose, will be speaking about The 10,000-Year Clock at the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland. The talk is part of their Future Fridays speaking series, which brings science and technology leaders to the Bay Area for conversation with the community. Past speakers include Bill Nye, Michio Kaku, and Robert Weiss; upcoming 02014 speakers include former SALT speakers Ed Moses and Will Wright.

alexander-roseThe Chabot Space & Science Center is offering Long Now Members discounted advanced tickets for this talk. Tickets can be found here, and the member discount code is “RSVP1014”.

For more information on the talk and the series, please visit the Future Fridays website.

We hope to see you there!

The Chalkboard Robot for The Interval

Posted on Thursday, March 13th, 02014 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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Viktor – 5000 Years of Chairs, by Jürg Lehni

One of the features we’ve included in our design for The Interval at Long Now from the very beginning has been a chalkboard robot. To be located next to the presenter screen, we imagined it could be used live in presentations, write Long Bets challenged at the bar, or write live messages and menu items. We had thought that we would be developing this robot ourselves, until we were introduced to the work of Swiss artist Jürg Lehni. With support by Swissnex, Jürg recently visited San Francisco to participate in shows with SOMArts and the SFMOMA with his very own chalk drawing machine called Viktor (shown in the video above). We contacted Jürg while he was in town, and as chance would have it, he was just then including references to Stewart Brand, the Well, and the Whole Earth Catalog into the live drawing event he would be participating in that evening (click on the image below to see what it drew that night).

JurgLehniViktor

We invited Jürg to Long Now the next week, and discussed how we might work together. We are now pleased to announce that we have commissioned Jürg and his team in Switzerland to build a custom version of his chalkboard robot for our space, as well as the software to interface with it. We will also be working with Jürg to develop content for the robot and figure out how to make it a platform for use by visiting speakers and artists.

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The design is extremely elegant and robust, using an unconventional system of pulleys that is driven by high-quality Maxon Swiss servo motors to triangulate the drawing tool. The motors are coordinated by an open-source controller developed by Jürg himself. We will be bringing Jürg back to San Francisco for installation and commissioning of the robot this spring. All we need now is your help to finish fundraising for the space, so we can make this happen.

We are in the home stretch. Every donation counts! Please donate to help us raise the last $100,000 and create an amazing place for us all.

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You can see more about artist Jürg Lehni and his amazing robots at his site here.

Mariana Mazzucato Seminar Primer

Posted on Monday, March 10th, 02014 by Andrew Warner
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Since the Enlightenment and its corresponding assumptions of social-technological progress, scholars have debated what political and economic systems best facilitate technological growth.
These days, one of the common assumptions of the technology sector is that the government is fundamentally a limiting force when it comes to innovation. This view is a well-established conservative position since the advent of the Chicago School of Keynesian Economics, but even among progressives, there’s a strong sentiment that the government doesn’t have what it takes to innovate and bring new technologies to the helm. Headlines seem to support this theory: it takes the private sector a fraction of the cost to send rockets to space, new laws banning disruptive technology companies like AirBnb and Uber seem to crop up every week. A cursory glance at this issue would seem to suggest that when it comes to developing new technologies, Thomas Jefferson’s maxim still rings loud and true: That government which governs best, governs least.

5579b77b74fa8628aaa2b0fb97317742e3d7b6c1_254x191Enter Mariana Mazzucato. Currently the RM Phillips chair in the Economics of Innovation at the University of Sussex, she also has a long resume of academic positions at other prestigious universities, including University of Denver, London Business School, Open University, and Bocconi University. Her research focuses on the role of the State in modern capitalism, and her analysis runs counter to the tech communities’ common understanding of how technologies come to market. Mariana Mazzucato’s research shows that many of the technologies that form the backbone of our technological revolutions were the direct result of multi-decade research by the state. Consider the examples of computers, the internet, and GPS–all of these technologies were developed and funded by the government for decades before entering the consumer market, and it’s impossible to imagine an iphone without these technologies.

In his 02011 SALT talk, Geoffrey West noted that the average lifespan of a company is merely 10 years. On such short time scales, it’s hard for companies to invest in technologies that don’t have immediate market potential. It’s not a coincidence that Apple or Google came to fruition under the auspices of a government that heavily invested in these technologies: the computer manufacturer was able to build its first machine by virtue of a $500,000 investment from an obscure government entity, and the search engine’s revolutionary algorithm was developed through research that was funded by the National Science Foundation. When one then considers the network of publicly-funded universities and labs (which developed technologies such as HTML and touchscreens), the mythos of the lone entrepreneur/inventor starts to look incomplete at best.

Mazzucato’s analysis forces us to ponder a rather uncomfortable question: Why do we systematically downplay these long-term investments by the government, and champion the companies that bring these mature technologies to market?

To learn more about the economics of innovation, come see Mariana Mazzucato on March 24th at the SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco. You can reserve tickets, get directions and sign up for the podcast on the Seminar page.

Subscribe to the Seminars About Long-term Thinking podcast for more thought-provoking programs.

Chime Generator Table for The Interval at Long Now

Posted on Thursday, March 6th, 02014 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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We want to share some of the details about The Interval, our public space in San Francisco which opens this Spring. We’ve planned a series of updates that will include an introduction to our Chalkboard Robot, more about Brian Eno’s sound & light installations in the space, documentation of the final construction work, and details on when the doors of The Interval will open, later this year.

First we’d like to tell you about our Chime Generator Table, which will be a centerpiece at The Interval. The Chime Generator prototype itself was a much-enjoyed feature at the first incarnation of our public space. Here it is back in 02006 on the opening day of Long Now’s old Museum and Store:

Long Now Chime Generator Museum 02006 Scott Beale

At the 02006 opening of Long Now’s Museum and Store, photo by Scott Beale

This functioning Chime Generator is a prototype at about one tenth the scale of the one that is now being built for the Clock of the Long Now. The mechanism rings a series of ten bells, utilizing an algorithm designed by Long Now Board members Danny Hillis and Brian Eno to vary the order each day for more than 3.5 million permutations in total. This allows our Clock to play a different bell sequence for nearly every day of the next 10,000 years.

The prototype was originally designed for us by Paolo Salvagione and Greg Staples, and was built by Christopher Rand. It is made mostly of waterjet aluminum with steel gears, screws, and bearings.

Over the years we have used both tubular bells (seen above) and metal “singing bowls” to demonstrate how the Clock will generate its daily song. For its life as a table, we’ve designed around the mechanism itself. While it is not built to last 10,000 years, this prototype did a vital job in proving a concept that we are now using in building the full-sized Clock. Now it has a job to do at The Interval.

As a table, the Chime Generator will be both a functioning piece of furniture and a museum artifact. As shown below, it awaits a slab of plate glass which will be placed on top. When you visit The Interval you can set your coffee or cocktail down and gaze into the inner workings of this piece of our Clock design. We hope it inspires as many questions and conversations as it has bell ringing permutations.

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We have only weeks left to finish our fundraising for this space, and are currently about $100,000 short of our goal. We’re asking for your help: please consider donating to support this project. Any amount you can give brings us closer to the finish line! We have unique gifts to offer our donors, amongst other benefits. As an Interval supporter, you’ll be the first to hear news about the venue, you can suggest books for the Manual for Civilization and vote on other submissions, and best of all, you’ll receive invitations to our special pre-opening parties, the very first events at The Interval!

Here’s one more shot of the Chime Generator, this time with singing bowls attached, from the Anathem release event in 02008. It shared the stage with Long Now co-founders Stewart Brand and Danny Hillis, as well as Anathem author Neal Stephenson, who is himself a donor to our Interval ‘brickstarter’.

Neal Stephenson donated to The Interval

The Interval at Long Now

Posted on Monday, March 3rd, 02014 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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The Interval is the name of Long Now's new salon space in San Francisco. Opening Spring 02014

Today we are proud to introduce you to The Interval. You know it already as “The Long Now Salon.” But all along we knew our new space at Fort Mason in San Francisco needed a name all its own.

The Interval will be a bar, museum, event venue, cafe, and archive. A welcoming public space and a gathering place for The Long Now Foundation’s fans, friends, and members.

An interval is a measure of time or the space between. An intervening period, a pause within time that is in a way time-less. Long Now’s mission is to foster long-term thinking and responsibility. And implicitly we want to change the way people perceive time. All times intersect at The Interval: a place for longer nows, discussing the future, enjoying the present, celebrating the past.

The Interval opens very soon, in just a matter of weeks. We need your help to complete the funding for this unique venue. Our ‘brickstarter’ campaign has raised more than two-thirds of what’s needed, but we still have about $100,000 to go as we finish construction and approach opening.

Recent progress includes installing new doors at the entrance to The Interval:

The Interval is Long Now's new bar, cafe and venue

Every donation helps bring this new space to life. And we have devised some special ways to say “thanks” for your tax-deductible gift. These include special events just for donors in the first days of The Interval, Long Now gifts, and special “bottle keep” drinks at the venue. All the details are here.

Soon we’ll have exciting announcements about Brian Eno’s sound and visual design for the space, more about the Manual for Civilization, our chalkboard robot, the opening date, pre-opening events and the amazing cocktail & cafe menus we’ll be serving.

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We invite you to join the list of hundreds of supporters including Long Now’s Board, past speakers, eminent authors, artists, scientists, and people around the world. Every gift helps us toward our goal.