Blog Archive for the ‘Seminars’ Category

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Adrian Hon Seminar Media

Posted on Tuesday, July 22nd, 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

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

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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”

TICKETS

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.

Adrian Hon Seminar Primer

Posted on Monday, July 7th, 02014 by Charlotte Hajer
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Next Wednesday, July 16, Adrian Hon presents “A History of the Future in 100 Objects” in our monthly Seminars About Long-term Thinking series. Each month our Seminar Primer gives you background about the upcoming speaker and links to find out even more. This month we’ll tell you how Adrian Hon uses the power of narrative to create a science fiction of history and bring possible futures into focus.

Nothing gets us going like a good story. Colorful details entice us to escape from reality for a while, juicy plot twists hook us into an alternate world, and mysterious cliff hangers leave us always wanting more. Adrian Hon is no stranger to this power of storytelling: in fact, he’s harnessed it as an effective tool for motivation and inspiration.

Hon is a successful entrepreneur and an expert on alternate reality games (ARG). ARGs are narrative-driven games that blur the line between reality and fantasy; they use real-world tools and interactions to advance their fictional plot lines. Hon co-founded and is CEO of Six to Start, the game design company that is now probably best known for creating the running app Zombies, Run!

In the early 02000s Hon was working on a PhD in neuroscience at the University of Oxford when his burgeoning interest in ARG gaming took him down a different path. It all started with his passion for The Beast, one of the most successful early ARGs created to promote Steven Spielberg’s film A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Hon became the moderator for The Cloudmakers, an online discussion group dedicated to solving The Beast, and he wrote a detailed walkthrough of the game called “The Guide“.

Hon’s work on The Beast attracted the attention of ARG developers, and in 02003 he was invited to join game design start-up Mind Candy in London. There, he co-created Perplex City. Ostensibly a collectible card game that featured interconnected puzzles of varying complexity, it actually transported players into an intricate alternate reality.

Perplex City was a fictional place that existed in a parallel universe, one where society revered mental acuity like ours venerates athletic skill. Citizens of Perplex City would solve puzzles in order to rise into the elite class, and only the very smartest were invited to join the academy in the city center. Mimicking that meritocracy, each game card had a unique code which, along with the puzzle’s solution, earned players points on the Perplex City global leader board. (Polygon).

After Mind Candy, Hon and his brother co-founded their own game design company, Six To Start. They’ve worked with organizations like the BBC and Disney Imagineering to create ARGs that bring television shows, literature, and even important lessons to life. Take, for example, Smokescreen, an alternate reality game that teaches teens how to interact responsibly with social media and other digital communication tools. Or We Tell Stories, a game-like experiment in digital storytelling – including a story told through Google Maps – created in collaboration with Penguin Books.

These games are clever forms of marketing, and exceptionally effective educational tools. Their rich alternate realities bring scenarios to life in full technicolor, and the game structure means that players learn by actively searching for information, rather than by passively receiving it. The motivating power of ARGs is illustrated clearly by Zombies, Run!, Six to Start’s popular running app. It’s not your average fitness tracker:

When you put on your headphones and hit the play button on Zombies, Run!, you are simultaneously in the real world and in the game world. Imagine virtual-reality goggles for your ears. Using the iPhone’s built-in accelerometer and GPS system, the program knows where you’re going and how fast you’re running. It creates goals to reach, places to explore, allies to meet and enemies to defeat. (Polygon)

Perhaps it’s this same interest in alternate realities that draws Hon to explore possible futures for human civilization. As a teenager, for example, Hon was actively involved in the Mars Society, an organization that promotes and pursues exploration of the Red Planet (incidentally, Hon once talked about Mars exploration at a TED conference, thereby becoming one of the youngest people ever to take the TED stage).

hon-future100

In his new book, A History of the Future in 100 Objects, Hon muses about Mars exploration and other scenarios that may mark the coming century. The book is a late 21st century analogue of Richard Kurin’s November 02013 SALT talk (“American History in 101 Objects“): Hon has written it from the perspective of a historian in the year 02084, who describes the hundred objects that illustrate the defining moments in 21st century human history. Imagine the first de-extincted animal to be returned successfully to the wild, or the first fan-fiction book to be written using RFL – a text written by an algorithm based on an existing author’s characteristic tone and style.

In the collection’s introduction, the fictitious historian writes:

Every century is extraordinary, of course. Some may be the bloodiest or the darkest; others encompass momentous social revolutions, or scientific advances, or religious and philosophical movements. The 21st century is different: it represents the first time in our history that we have truly had to question what it means to be human. It is the stories of our collective humanity that I hope to tell through the hundred objects in this book. … This book is not the history of the 21st century; it is only a history, and a hundred objects can only tell a fraction of our stories. Some we can be proud of; others we might prefer to forget. My goal is that this book will give our successors some useful knowledge, some insights, at least some amusement. Perhaps, I hope, even some guidance.

Blending fact with fiction (a balance that shifts gradually toward the latter as time progresses), Hon’s descriptions present a nuanced image of 21st century civilization. Neither utopian nor dystopian, the collection suggests a sense of hope in humanity’s ability to handle whatever possible crises are thrown in its way. Hon is imaginative in the technological advancements he describes, but also never without some skepticism about its impact on human relationships and societal well-being.

These are stories of a possible future, stories of life and death and love and war and science and faith and exploration and despair and hope. It’s about what it means to be human in a century where humanity has never mattered more. And, like all science fiction, it’s about the hopes and fears we have today.

In a way the book is a sort of time-shifted alternative reality, using the story-telling skills he has honed working on ARGs to lead his readers to think about possible futures that just might be the real thing.

Long Now presents Adrian Hon talking about A History of the Future in 100 Objects at the SFJAZZ Center on Wednesday, July 16 in our continuing Seminars About Long-term Thinking series.

Craig Childs: Apocalyptic Planet, Field Guide to the Everending Earth — A Seminar Flashback

Posted on Wednesday, July 2nd, 02014 by Mikl Em
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In July 02013 author Craig Childs spoke to Long Now about his travels around the world. One of the world’s great intrepid travelers and story-tellers, Childs finds the places on Earth that are most geologically or climatically dangerous and hangs out, observing closely, then documents them from a personal as well as scientific perspective. Twice a month we highlight a Seminar About Long-term Thinking (SALT) from our archives.

Video of the 12 most recent Seminars is free for all to view. Apocalyptic Planet: Field Guide to the Everending Earth is a recent SALT talk, free for public viewing until August 02014. SALT audio is free for everyone on our Seminar pages and via podcastLong Now members can see all Seminar videos in HD.

From Stewart Brand’s summary of this Seminar (in full here):

This Earth is a story teller, Childs began. And it is not a stable place to live. It is always ending. We think of endings as sudden, but it is always a process. [...]

I would like to backpack on Mars, said Childs. For the local equivalent he hiked across the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, where it never rains. It’s been a desert for 150 million years. You walk across nothing but salt so hard it pings like steel. The sun blasts you all day and at night the water in your pack freezes solid. You walk for days and you don’t see a single living thing, you’re on a dead planet, and then it gets really strange because pink flamingoes come flying in over your head. They’re there to strain brine shrimp out of water sources. You’re at the end of the world and there are flamingoes! You think, ‘Yeah, that’s what this planet is about.’

Craig Childs’ books include House of Rain, Finders Keepers, and Apocalyptic Planet. He is a commentator for NPR’s Morning Edition and contributing editor at High Country News.

Craig Childs and Cactus

The Seminars About Long-term Thinking series began in 02003 and is presented each month live in San Francisco. It is curated and hosted by Long Now’s President Stewart Brand. Seminar audio is available to all via podcast.

Everyone can watch full video of the last 12 Long Now Seminars (including this Seminar video until late June 02014). Long Now members can watch the full ten years of Seminars in HD. Membership levels start at $8/month and include lots of benefits.

You can join Long Now here.

Stefan Kroepelin Seminar Media

Posted on Wednesday, June 25th, 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.

Civilization’s Mysterious Desert Cradle: Rediscovering the Deep Sahara

Tuesday June 10, 02014 – San Francisco

Video is up on the Kroepelin Seminar page.

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

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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”

TICKETS

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.

Ed Lu: Thwarting Dangerous Asteroids — A Seminar Flashback

Posted on Thursday, June 19th, 02014 by Mikl Em
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“How do you deflect an asteroid? Simple…”

In June 02013 former astronaut Ed Lu discussed the very real future threat of asteroids striking the Earth and efforts by himself and the B612 Foundation to keep the planet safe. It turns out that detecting them is the hard part. Twice a month we highlight a Seminar About Long-term Thinking (SALT) from our archives.

Video of the 12 most recent Seminars is free for all to view. Anthropocene Astronomy: Thwarting Dangerous Asteroids Begins with Finding Them is a recent SALT talk, free for public viewing until late July 02014. SALT audio is free for everyone on our Seminar pages and via podcastLong Now members can see all Seminar videos in HD.

From Kevin Kelly’s summary of this Seminar (in full here):

What are we looking for? Asteroids that Lu calls “city killers” are about the size of a theater—an airburst of one could destroy the whole San Francisco Bay Area. In our children’s lifetime the chance of impact from one of these is about 30 percent. In the same period there is a 1 percent chance of an asteroid impact equivalent to all the bombs in World War II times 5; it could kill 100 million people.

We buy fire insurance against risk with lower probability than that. Then there’s a kilometer-size asteroid, which would destroy all of humanity permanently. The chance of collision with one in our children’s lifetime—.001 percent.

Ed Lu is CEO and co-founder of the B612 Foundation. As an astronaut he earned NASA’s highest honor: The Distinguished Service Medal and in his 3 missions logged 206 days in space while constructing and living aboard the International Space Station. From 02007 to 02010, he led the Advanced Projects group at Google developing imaging technology for Google Earth/Maps and Google Street View amongst other projects.

Ed Lu, image by Space.com

The Seminars About Long-term Thinking series began in 02003 and is presented each month live in San Francisco. It is curated and hosted by Long Now’s President Stewart Brand. Seminar audio is available to all via podcast.

Everyone can watch full video of the last 12 Long Now Seminars (including this Seminar video until late June 02014). Long Now members can watch the full ten years of Seminars in HD. Membership levels start at $8/month and include lots of benefits.

You can join Long Now here.

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.

Oceanic

Tuesday May 20, 02014 – San Francisco

 

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

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

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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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Stefan Kroepelin Seminar Primer

Posted on Monday, June 2nd, 02014 by Austin Brown
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Anything as vast and mysterious as the Sahara Desert is bound to invite myth and legend – it’s how we make sense of things too large, elusive or forbidding to know firsthand. Stefan Kroepelin, however, has dedicated his life to firsthand knowledge of the Sahara, and has dispelled some myths along the way. He’s come to know, better than almost any outsider, the desert’s eastern portion, made up of Libya, Egypt, Chad and Sudan.

Kroepelin is a geologist and archaeologist who has studied the interplay of human settlement and the Sahara’s changing climatic characteristics over the last 10,000 years. He’s encountered a fair share of difficult conditions and frightening surprises in the desolate, harsh and sometimes lawless expanses of the Sahara. But as Nature put it,

those decades of difficult field work have paid off for Kroepelin, who has made seminal discoveries about the climatic history of the Sahara that are challenging assumptions about the tipping points the world may face in a warmer future. – Nature

The story that Kroepelin has helped piece together opens on a Saharan region vastly different from the one we know today.

10,000 years ago, the Sahara was significantly wetter than it is now, a lush savannah that supported life and hints of early civilization where sand and little else can now be found.

That little else has been the key to Kroepelin’s success, though. He and his team took core samples from the bottom of a lake in Chad and, by analysing the layers of sediment that had built up over the last few millennia – and the pollen contained therein – were able to draw the clearst picture yet of the region’s dessication and dessertification.

Previous attempts to describe this transition were similarly based on core samples, but these were taken from the Atlantic Ocean rather than the Eastern Sahara itself. Where the story told by these samples described a precipitous change, Kroepelin had already established that human settlements in the region didn’t appear to have been abandoned quite so quickly, or as he put it on Science Friday in 02008,

We were using man as a very sensitive climate indicator.

His new core sample squared with the picture of a more gradual shift and upended the previous research. The people displaced by the region’s drying out made their way east and found the water they needed at the banks of the Nile. There they developed one of the longest-lasting civilizations known to history.

Dr. Stefan Kroepelin shares tales of desert adventures – some likely his own – at the SFJAZZ Center on Tuesday June 10th, 02014.

Stewart Brand: Reviving Extinct Species — A Seminar Flashback

Posted on Tuesday, May 20th, 02014 by Mikl Em
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In May 02013 Stewart Brand discussed De-extinction and one of Long Now’s latest projects Revive and Restore. Bringing back extinct species is a scientific pursuit that is loaded with both cultural and environmental significance. Revive and Restore is galvanizing discussion amongst the general public as well as the academic community around these efforts and funding research on bringing back the passenger pigeon and other species. Twice a month we highlight a Seminar About Long-term Thinking (SALT) from our archives.

Video of the 12 most recent Seminars is free for all to view. Reviving Extinct Species is a recent SALT talk, free for public viewing until late May 02014. SALT audio is free for everyone on our Seminar pages and via podcastLong Now members can see all Seminar videos in HD.

From Stewart Brand’s summary of this Seminar (in full here):

I concluded, “The fact is, humans have made a huge hole in nature over the last 10,000 years. But now we have the ability to repair some of the damage. We’ll do most of the repair by expanding and protecting wild areas and by expanding and protecting the populations of endangered species.

Some species that we killed off totally, we might consider bringing back to a world that misses them.

In the clip below Stewart describes Pleistocene Park a project in present day Siberia to re-establish the mammoth steppe ecosystem which was prevalent there over 100,000 years ago. They’ve been re-introducing once-native non-extinct species since 01988, but the big one is still missing. Stewart tells us they are ready for the mammoth:

Stewart Brand is a co-founder and President of the Board of Directors of The Long Now Foundation. He created and edited the Whole Earth Catalog (National Book Award), and co-founded the Hackers Conference and The WELL. His books includeThe Clock of the Long NowHow Buildings Learn; and The Media Lab. His most recent book Whole Earth Discipline, is published by Viking in the US and Atlantic in the UK.

In July 02014 Stewart and Revive and Restore will be in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts to discuss the potential de-extinction of the Heath Hen. They are looking for volunteers to help with those events.

The Seminars About Long-term Thinking series began in 02003 and is presented each month live in San Francisco. The series is curated and hosted by Long Now’s President Stewart Brand. Seminar audio is available to all via podcast. Everyone can watch full video of the last 12 Long Now Seminars. That includes this Seminar video until late June 02014. Long Now members can watch the full ten years of Seminars in HD. Membership levels start at $8/month and include lots of benefits. You can join Long Now here.