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Adrian Hon Seminar Media

Posted on Monday, August 4th, 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.

A History of the Future in 100 Objects

Wednesday July 16, 02014 – San Francisco

Video is up on the Hon Seminar page.


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


Future artifacts – a summary by Stewart Brand

Speaking from 02082, Hon described 5 (of 100) objects and events from this century’s history he felt most strongly evoked the astonishing trends that have transformed humanity in the past 8 decades.

Not all developments proved to be positive. One such was Locked Simulation Interrogation. In 02019 in Washington DC, frustrated by a series of 5 unsolved bombings, the FBI combined an unremovable top quality virtual reality (VR) rig with detailed real-time brain scanning to run a suspect through a cascade of 572 intense simulations designed to draw out everything the suspect knew about the bombings. As a result the 6th bombing was averted, and the technique of adaptive VR became a standard law enforcement tool. But over time it was found to be unreliable and often harmful, and in 02033 the Supreme Court declared it to be unconstitutional.

By the 02040s people’s comfort with mood drugs and discomfort with lives that felt meaningless (mass automation had replaced many forms of work) led to the Fourth Great Awakening. In 02044 a religious entrepreneur found a way to transform human nature and acquire converts to the “Christian Consummation Movement” with a combination of one eyedropper, 18 pills, and an “induction course of targeted viruses and magstim.” Inductees were made more empathic, generous, trusting, and disciplined. The movement grew to 20 million Americans by the 02070s before it leveled off. The world learned what could be done with desire modification.

A lasting monument to humanity’s progress off planet was Alto Firenze, the first space station designed for elegance. Constructed in 02036, it progressed through a series of beautifications and uses from hotel to conference center and art museum to eventually being declared a World Heritage Site. In 2052 it was moved to L5 and thus escaped the cascade of debris collisions that completely emptied the over-crowded low-Earth orbit later that year.

Perhaps it was the steady increase of older people, along with continuing trends in self-quantification and “gamification,” that led to the Micromort Detector in 02032. “What if you could have a number that told you exactly how risky an action, any action, was going to be?“ The Lifeline bracelet measured the wearer’s exact health condition along with the environment and the action being contemplated and displayed how risky it would be in “micromorts”—a unit representing one chance in a million of death. Go canoeing—10 micromorts. Two glasses of wine—1 micromort. The bracelets became tremendously popular, though they were found to increase anxiety badly in some users. Later spinoffs included the Microfun Detector and Micromorals Detector.

Signs of ancient life were found on Mars in 2028, on Europa in 2048. “By the time extrasolar alien life was first imaged in 2055, celebrations were considerably smaller, the wonder and excitement having been eroded by the slow drip of discoveries. By then, everyone had simply assumed that life was out there, everywhere.“ One planet now discovered to have signs of intelligent life is 328 light years away. Thus the Armstrong Expedition, using an antimatter-fueled lighthugger craft bearing only artificial intelligences set out to make contact in 02079.

“This century,” Hon summarized, “we learned what it means to be human.”

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Anne Neuberger Seminar Tickets

Posted on Thursday, July 10th, 02014 by Andrew Warner
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The Long Now Foundation’s monthly

Seminars About Long-term Thinking

Anne Neuberger presents Inside the NSA

Anne Neuberger presents “Inside the NSA”


Wednesday August 6, 02014 at 7:30pm SFJAZZ Center

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


About this Seminar:

The NSA’s failures are public headlines. Its successes are secret.

These days America’s National Security Agency lives at the intersection of two paranoias—governmental fears of attack and citizen fears about loss of privacy. Both paranoias were exacerbated by a pair of devastating attacks—9/11 and Edward Snowden. The agency now has to evolve rapidly while managing its normal heavy traffic of threats and staying ahead of the ever-accelerating frontier of cyber capabilities.

In the emerging era of transparency, and in the thick of transition, what does the NSA look like from inside?

Threats are daily, but governance is long term. At the heart of handling that balance is Anne Neuberger, Special Assistant to NSA Director Michael Rogers and Director of the Commercial Solutions Center. (Before this assignment she was Special Advisor to the Secretary of Navy; before that, in 02007, a White House Fellow.) She is exceptionally smart, articulate, and outspoken.

Stefan Kroepelin Seminar Media

Posted on Wednesday, June 25th, 02014 by Andrew Warner
link   Categories: Announcements, Long Term Science, Seminars   chat 0 Comments

This lecture was presented as part of The Long Now Foundation’s monthly Seminars About Long-term Thinking.

Civilization’s Mysterious Desert Cradle: Rediscovering the Deep Sahara

Tuesday June 10, 02014 – San Francisco

Video is up on the Kroepelin Seminar page.


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


The Sahara and civilization – a summary by Stewart Brand

“Almost everything breaks in the desert,” Kröpelin began. He showed trucks mired in sand, one vehicle blown up by a land mine, and a Unimog with an impossibly, hopelessly broken axle. (Using the attached backhoe, it hunched its way 50 miles back to civilization.)

The eastern Sahara remains one of the least explored places on Earth, and it is full of wonders. Every year for 40 years Kröpelin has made multi-month expeditions to figure out the paleoclimatological changes and human saga in the region over the last 17,000 years. There are no guides, no roads. When you find something—astonishing rock art (there are thousands of sites), an amazing geological feature—you know you’re the first human to see it in thousands of years.

A great river, 7 miles wide, 650 miles long, once flowed into the Nile from the desert. Now called Wadi Howar, its rich, still unstudied archeological sites show it used to be a thoroughfare from the deep desert. A vast spectacular plateau called the Ennedi Highlands, as big as Switzerland, has exquisite rock art detailing pastoral herds of cattle and even dress and hair styles. Mouflon (wild sheep) and crocodiles still survive there.

Most remarkable of all are the remote Ounianga Lakes, some of them kept charged with ancient deep-aquifer fresh water because of the draw of intense evaporation from the hypersaline central Lake Yoa. In 1999 Kröpelin began a stratigraphic study of the lake’s sediment, eventually collecting a treasure for climate study—a 52-foot core sample which shows every season for the last 11,000 years.

For Kröpelin, many strands of evidence spell out the sequence of events in the eastern Sahara. From 17,000 to 10,500 BP (before the present), there were no human settlements along the Nile. But the Sahara was gradually getting wetter in the period 10,500 to 9,000 BP, and people moved in from the south. The peak of the African Humid Period, when the Sahara was green and widely occupied, was 9,000 to 7,300 years ago. Then a gradual desiccation from 7,300 to 5,500 BP drove people to the Nile, and the first farms appeared there. From 5,500 BP on, the Nile’s pharaonic civilization got going and lasted 3,000 years.

Unique artifacts such black-rimmed pots and asymmetric stone knives, once used in the far desert, turn up in the settlements that created Egypt. Kröpelin concluded: “Egypt was a gift of the Nile, but it was also a gift of the desert.”

And of climate change.

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Adrian Hon Seminar Tickets

Posted on Thursday, June 19th, 02014 by Andrew Warner
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The Long Now Foundation’s monthly

Seminars About Long-term Thinking

Adrian Hon presents A History of the Future in 100 Objects

Adrian Hon presents

“A History of the Future in 100 Objects”


Wednesday July 16, 02014 at 7:30pm SFJAZZ Center

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


About this Seminar:

Thinking about the future is so hard and so important that any trick to get some traction is a boon. Adrian Hon’s trick is to particularize. What thing would manifest a whole future trend the way museum objects manifest important past trends?

Building on the pattern set by the British Museum’s great book, A History of the World in 100 Objects, Hon imagines 100 future objects that would illuminate transformative events in technology, politics, sports, justice, war, science, entertainment, religion, and exploration over the course of this century. The javelin that won victory for the last baseline human to compete successfully in the Paralympic Games for prosthetically enhanced athletes. The “Contrapuntal Hack” of 02031 that massively and consequentially altered computerized records so subtly that the changes were undetected. The empathy drug and targeted virus treatment that set off the Christian Consummation Movement.

Adrian Hon is author of the new book, A History of the Future in 100 Objects, and CEO and founder of Six to Start, creators of the hugely successful smartphone fitness game “Zombies, Run!” His background is in neuroscience at Oxford and Cambridge.

The Interval at Long Now Opens June 15th and is live

Posted on Monday, June 9th, 02014 by Mikl Em
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photo by Catherine Borgeson
photo by Catherine Borgeson

After years of planning and a full year under construction, we are proud to announce our new venue The Interval at Long Now opens its doors to the public this Sunday, June 15th 02014. Come visit us soon. We’ll be open daily from 10AM to midnight at our location in historic Fort Mason Center on San Francisco’s north shore.

photo by Because We Can
Photo by Because We Can

The Interval is full of artifacts of Long Now’s projects including the 10,000-year Clock and Rosetta Project. We serve fine tea from Samovar Tea Lounge and Sightglass coffee during the day. At night our drink menu designed by Jennifer Colliau is inspired by time and the history of the cocktail.

We’re also proud to feature an ambient painting and sound designed by Brian Eno who is one of the co-founders of Long Now. Our ever-growing Manual for Civilization now includes more than a thousand books on floor-to-ceiling shelves throughout the space. And more are being added as we acquire them with the help of our partners at Borderlands Books and Friends of the San Francisco Public Library.

We’ve launched with more details about our new venue including the lineup of upcoming salon talks and other ticketed events. Next up is a special pre-opening talk by Rachel Sussman about her book The Oldest Living Things in the World this Friday. Talks will typically be on Tuesday nights and we recommend purchasing tickets in advance.

We’ve given you a virtual tour of our new bar, cafe, and event venue earlier, but here are more recent photos from pre-opening events at The Interval. It looks even better with people in it.

Photo by William McLeod

photo by William McLeod

Photo by William McLeod

Photo by William McLeod

Photo by William McLeod

Photo by William McLeod

Photo by William McLeod

Photo by William McLeod

photos by William McLeod (unless otherwise noted)

As we open we are also completing the crowdfunded ‘brickstarter’ to support the costs of this renovation. Donations are tax-deductible and help us complete the final details of The Interval including acquiring all the books for the Manual for Civilization library.

Please consider a donation–we have many gifts to thank you for your generosity including Challenge Coins, Long Now flasks, and specially hand-crafted gin and whiskey from St George Spirits.

Sylvia Earle & Tierney Thys Seminar Media

Posted on Thursday, June 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.


Tuesday May 20, 02014 – San Francisco


Video is up on the Sylvia Earle & Tierney Thys Seminar page.


Audio is up on the Sylvia Earle & Tierney Thys Seminar page, or you can subscribe to our podcast.


Oceans alive – a summary by Stewart Brand

Neither of them eats fish.

Both marine biologists applaud the improved regulation of American fishing and the resulting recovery of important fisheries, but they note that 90% of our seafood is imported, and one-third of that is caught illegally. Two-thirds of global fisheries are overfished. Eating a tuna, Earle points out, is like eating a wolf or a tiger. It is a magnificent predator often decades in age. We no longer commercially harvest wildlife on land. Why do we do it in the sea?

Noting that 15% of land has become protected in the last 100 years, the speakers said we have just started on protecting the ocean. About 3% is now protected, in 8,000 Marine Protected Areas. The goal is 20% by 2020. One hero of the movement is Palau’s president Tommy Remengesau, who this year declared that commercial fishing would be banned in its entire ocean economic zone—230,000 square miles. Likewise New Caledonia just created a 500,000 square mile “Natural Park of the Coral Sea.”

Ocean science keeps yielding profound discoveries. A sea-going photosynthetic bacteria named Prochlorococcus was identified as recently as 1986, yet it may be the most abundant photosynthetic species on Earth, responsible for 5-10% of all the oxygen in the atmosphere. Without their ancestors we wouldn’t exist. Deep-diving Earle noted that daylight only reaches about 1,000 feet down in the ocean. Most of the world’s life therefore lives in total darkness, and “bioluminescence is the most common form of communication on Earth.”

Thys observed that the greatest need is for coordinated, consistent remote-sensing in the ocean, and that is increasingly being provided by small robots that travel on their own on and under the surface, sending their data to satellites as well as cabled observatories. Small satellites also are multiplying, providing daily, detailed information from above. Citizen science is growing along with the Maker movement.

“Life came from the ocean,” Thys concluded. “And the life in it continues to nurture life everywhere. We owe the ocean some nurture back.”

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Rachel Sussman in San Francisco: The Oldest Living Things in the World

Posted on Friday, May 30th, 02014 by Mikl Em
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from Rachel Sussman's The Oldest Living Things in the World - Baobab

Rachel Sussman spoke in our Seminars About Long-term Thinking (SALT) series in 02010 when she was about halfway into her project to document the world’s oldest living things. She traveled the world to learn about and photograph organisms that have lived 2000 years or more. This year she published her book The Oldest Living Things in the World and it is now on the New York Times Best Seller list.

June 02014 Long Now welcomes Rachel back to San Francisco for two very special events.

June 12th, 02014 come see Rachel and fellow photographer Mario Del Curto with Corey Keller (SFMOMA) discussing photography and the natural world: Nature as Image. Long Now is proud to partner to bring this event to swissnex in downtown San Francisco. More information and tickets.

On June 13th Rachel appears at The Interval, Long Now’s new venue at Fort Mason, to talk about her book and the decade-long experience of creating it. This will be the second in a new series of small salon-style talks at Long Now’s new home. Tickets are now on sale.
Rachel Sussman, photo by Laura Holder
The Oldest Living Things in the World adds in dramatic manner a fascinating new perspective—literally, dinosaurs—of the living world around us
Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University

Sussman’s ten-year investigation of the symbols of the earth’s ecology is rigorous and exploratory, realized with such generosity to the reader and her ambitions make an impossibly vast subject both felt and understood
— Charlotte Cotton, curator & author

With vision and dedicated persistence — think of a hip, female Shackelton — she has tracked down and brought these organisms to our awareness in lush photographs (taken with 6×7 film camera) and vivid text
Adam Harrison Levy, Design Observer

Longevity means continuity. Long-lived people connect generations for us. Really long-lived organisms, like the ones Sussman has magnificently collected photographically, connect millennia. They put all of human history in living context. And as Sussman shows, they are everywhere on Earth.
This book embodies the Long Now and the Big Here.
Stewart Brand, co-founder of Long Now

from Rachel Sussman's The Oldest Living Things in the World - Bristlecone

Rachel Sussman’s photographs and writing have been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Guardian, and NPR’s Picture Show. She has spoken on the TED main stage and is a MacDowell Colony and NYFA Fellow, as well as a trained member of Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Corps. Her work has been exhibited in museums and galleries in the US and Europe, and acquired for museum, university, corporate, and private collections.

Photos by Rachel Sussman from her book The Oldest Living Things in the World

Photo of Rachel Sussman by Laura Holder


Stefan Kroepelin Seminar Tickets

Posted on Thursday, May 15th, 02014 by Andrew Warner
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The Long Now Foundation’s monthly

Seminars About Long-term Thinking

Stefan Kroepelin presents Civilization’s Mysterious Desert Cradle: Rediscovering the Deep Sahara

Stefan Kroepelin presents “Civilization’s Mysterious Desert Cradle: Rediscovering the Deep Sahara”


Tuesday June 10, 02014 at 7:30pm SFJAZZ Center

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


About this Seminar:

Egypt’s pharaonic civilization rose on the Nile, but it was rooted in the deep Saharan desert and pushed by climate change, says Stefan Kröpelin.

Described in Nature magazine as “one of the most devoted Sahara explorers of our time,” Kröpelin has survived every kind of desert hardship to discover the climate and cultural history of northern Africa. He found that the “Green Sahara” arrived with monsoon rains 10,500 years ago, and people quickly moved into the new fertile savannah. There they prospered as cattle pastoralists—their elaborate rock paintings show herds of rhinoceros and scenes of prehistoric life—until 7,300 years ago, when gradually increasing desiccation drove them to the Nile river, which they had previously considered too dangerous for occupation.

To manage the Nile, the former pastoralists helped to invent a pharaonic state 5,100 years ago. Its 3,000-year continuity has never been surpassed.

Kröpelin, a climate scientist at the University of Cologne, is a dazzling speaker with hair-raising stories, great images, and a compelling tale about climate change and civilization.

The Interval: Long Now’s New Home

Posted on Tuesday, May 13th, 02014 by Mikl Em
link   Categories: Announcements, Long Now salon (Interval), The Interval   chat 0 Comments


The Interval at Long Now is almost ready for you to visit. We’ve shown you design comps and construction images before, but at last we can share photos of the real thing. Almost the real thing. There’s still some more work to do, but the end is in sight.

We’d like to thank to everyone who made this project possible especially our donors. Your support at every level helped us build a place where Long Now’s fans, members, and the public can gather. But more than that The Interval is also Long Now’s headquarters, our offices are right upstairs. And we are so proud that this beautiful space is our new home!

Our funding goal is also in sight. There’s still time to become a charter donor. At any level you choose to give, charter donors names will be listed on our donor wall and you’ll get invites to some pre-opening parties, amongst other benefits.

Now we’d like to show you around with a brief photo tour of some of the features that we think make The Interval special. All photos are by Because We Can, the fantastic design-build team we’ve worked with on the Interval renovation. Their work and that of our builders, Oliver & Company, have been essential to making The Interval a reality.

The Interval view from the backroom

In 02006 we moved into Fort Mason Center, a campus of former military buildings on the north shore of San Francisco which now houses arts groups and non-profits. Our building dates to the 01930s, the youngest at the Fort by 20 years.

The room we are in was originally a forge and machine shop. When we began to convert our old museum and store space into The Interval, we discovered the shop’s original concrete floor and knew we could never cover it up again.


The floor’s industrial imperfections somehow match perfectly with the natural variances in the specially quarried stone that serves as our bar top.

The long stone bar of The Interval at Long Now

On the ceiling above the bar you’ll find The Interval’s “bottle keep” featuring custom-made bottles by Adams & Chittenden Scientific Glass.

The Interval bottle keep closeup

Each bottle represents a generous donor who helped fund The Interval. At our pre-opening party just for bottle club donors, they can choose whether to fill their bottle with limited edition gin or whiskey, or instead select a rare, aged pu-erh tea. Both exclusive spirits are made for us by St George Spirits, while the tea is sourced by Samovar Tea Lounge.

And if you’d like a bottle of your own, or give at any level there’s still time to give to The Interval. Everyone who gives in May will get charter donor benefits including invites to various pre-opening events in the next three weeks.


The bright, slowly changing object behind the bar is an original creation of Brian Eno. One of a very limited set of “ambient paintings”, this is the only one in America and the only one on permanent public display anywhere.


Similar to Eno’s 77 Million Paintings and his “Lighting the Sails” project at the Sydney Opera House, this generative artwork continuously evolves in different patterns, never repeating itself in millions of vivid chromatic combinations.


Below Brian explains the background of his interest in generative art. The footage also includes many examples of his work that are similar to what you will see at The Interval.

Brian created music especially for The Interval, which will be played on our Meyer Galileo 616 system. More details about The Interval’s incredible sound system will be featured on the blog soon.


As you may know, Brian Eno is a co-founder of Long Now and sits on our Board. Another distinctive feature of The Interval comes from his work enabling our 10,000 Year Clock to play a different bell sequence every day for ten millennia. Eno and Danny Hillis designed an algorithm that will ring over 3.5 million unique bell sequences from 10 bells.

The Interval: view through the chime generator

The Chime Generator is the mechanism that controls the bell sequence. An analog computer featuring a series of beautifully machined geneva wheels, it manages the Clock’s daily algorithmic song production. A decade ago we built a one tenth scale prototype of the Chime Generator. For The Interval we’ve converted that prototype into a table–a museum piece that you can also rest your drink on.

The Chime Generator Table seen from above


We’ve posted a lot recently about the Manual for Civilization, our project to select 3,500 books that could help sustain or rebuild civilization. The Interval will be the home of this collection with bookshelves stretching from floor to ceiling. In addition to selecting the books, we need to acquire them. That’s one of the continuing costs that tax-deductible donations to The Interval brickstarter will help us fund.


The Manual won’t just live at The Interval. Thanks to our partners at the Internet Archive the books will also be available in their online collection. The list of books is growing with the help of our donors, members and some special guests. You can follow our blog for the latest details.


As exciting as these pictures are, what’s missing are the people. Our first donor events start within the week. Please consider a donation if you’d like to join in the opening celebrations. Regular day and evening hours begin in June, and public events will start imminently.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this sneak peek at what The Interval has in store–you’ll find even more images on our Flickr. We look forward to sharing more details in the weeks ahead and we can’t wait to welcome you to our new home: The Interval at Long Now.

Tony Hsieh Seminar Media

Posted on Sunday, May 11th, 02014 by Andrew Warner
link   Categories: Announcements, Seminars   chat 0 Comments

This lecture was presented as part of The Long Now Foundation’s monthly Seminars About Long-term Thinking.

Helping Revitalize a City

Tuesday April 22, 02014 – San Francisco

Video is up on the Hsieh Seminar page.


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


The downtown company – a summary by Stewart Brand

The business advice that Tony Hsieh most took to heart came from an ad executive: “A great brand is a story that never stops unfolding.” With his own company, Zappos, he determined that “brand equals culture,” and made quality of culture the top corporate priority, followed by customer service, and then selling shoes and clothing. The formula worked so well that Zappos outgrew its collection of buildings in suburban Las Vegas. Time to build a campus.

Other suburban corporate campuses—Google, Nike, Apple—struck him as isolated and insular. He wondered if a company could be like New York University, embedded in downtown Manhattan, with all of its buildings and no end of urban amenities within a five-minute walk. Edward Glaeser’s book The Triumph of the City described how cities unfold forever, driven by density and intense variety, while companies all eventually go stagnant and die. Maybe immersion in a downtown could help keep his company unfolding, and maybe bringing company start-up culture to a decaying urban core could restart its vitality.

Zappos bet the company on the idea. They took over the abandoned city hall in the dead-end part of Las Vegas known as Fremont East and spent $200 million buying up nearby properties, $50 million on local small businesses, $50 million on tech start-ups, and $50 million on education, arts, and culture. Hsieh’s strategy is to increase: “Collisions” (serendipitous encounters); “Co-learning” (a community teaching itself); and “Connectedness” (density, diversity, and reasons to engage).

They built a Shipping Container Park with three stories of shops, amusements, and tech start-ups wrapped around a courtyard for food, play, and hanging out. They planted Burning Man mega-art on corners throughout the neighborhood “to keep you walking one more block.” Inspired by TED, the Summit Series, and especially SXSW (the South by Southwest festival in Austin), they built a theater for frequent talks and organized an annual “Life is Beautiful” music festival attracting 60,000.

Hsieh figures that “collisionability” can be quantified and designed for. He thinks that street-level interaction can be made so rich that it compensates for the lower density of low-rise buildings, with 100 residents/acre. Thus he blocked off the skyway from Zappos’s parking lot to its headquarters in the city hall. Use the street. Make street activities really attractive. Active residents, he calculates, will experience 1,000 collisionable hours a year (3.6 hours/day, 7 days/week, 40 weeks/year). Ditto for “purposeful visitors” (12 hours/day, 7 days/week, 12 weeks/year)—you are invited to be one.

If Zappos helps foster an urban “culture of openness, collaboration, creativity, and optimism,” Hsieh says, then the city can prosper, and the company with it, and both can keep unfolding their stories indefinitely.

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