Blog Archive for the ‘Seminars’ Category

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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.

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”

TICKETS

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.

Tony Hsieh Seminar Media

Posted on Sunday, May 11th, 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.

Helping Revitalize a City

Tuesday April 22, 02014 – San Francisco

Video is up on the Hsieh Seminar page.

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

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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.

Subscribe to our Seminar email list for updates and summaries.

Nicholas Negroponte: Beyond Digital – A Seminar Flashback

Posted on Wednesday, May 7th, 02014 by Mikl Em
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In April 02013 Nicholas Negroponte went Beyond Digital for Long Now’s Seminar audience. 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. Beyond Digital 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):

As the world goes digital, Negroponte noted, you see pathologies of left over “atoms thinking.” Thus newspapers imagine that paper is part of their essence, telecoms imagine that distance should cost more, and nations imagine that their physical boundaries matter. “Nationalism is the biggest disease on the planet,” Negroponte said. “Nations have the wrong granularity. They’re too small to be global and too big to be local, and all they can think about is competing.” He predicted that the world is well on the way to having one language, English.

Nicholas Negroponte founded the MIT Media Lab and the One Laptop per Child Association. He is author of Being Digital and was the first investor in Wired magazine for whom he was also a regular columnist.

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 May 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 Primer

Posted on Tuesday, May 6th, 02014 by Charlotte Hajer
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undersea4National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence Sylvia Earle & Tierney Thys are among the world’s leading champions of ocean conservation. Through research, writing, and public outreach, they raise awareness of the ocean’s myriad beauties – and its vital importance to all life on the planet.

Sylvia-Earle_cKipEvans_0263_sml-300x200Sylvia Earle is a pioneer in the field of ocean conservation and marine engineering. She is the founder of Deep Ocean Engineering and Deep Ocean Exploration and Research, companies that develop the tools required for deep ocean exploration – from robotic submersibles to specialized lighting and cameras. She holds a PhD in marine biology from Princeton, has served on the National Advisory Committee on Oceans and Atmosphere, and was appointed chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 01990 – becoming the first woman to hold that post. Her publications number more than 190, and include both academic articles and children’s books about the deep ocean.

Called “her deepness” by the New York Times and the New Yorker, Earle has led more than 100 diving expeditions and logged more than 7,000 hours under water. She set a depth record of 1,250 feet in a 01979 solo dive off the coast of Oahu, and led an all-female team of aquanauts on an extended mission at an ocean-floor habitat and laboratory as part of the Tektite Program, a collaboration between NASA, GE, and the Navy to examine the biological and psychological effects of long-term isolation in small spaces.

Earle has led a number of Sustainable Seas Expeditions with the NOAA, and has pursued the establishment of protected areas in the ocean as a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence. She won a TED prize in 02009 for her wish that people

would use all means at [their] disposal – films, expeditions, the web, new submarines – and campaign to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas; Hope Spots large enough to save and restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet. How much? Some say 10 percent, some say 30 percent. You decide: how much of your heart do you want to protect? Whatever it is, a fraction of one percent is not enough. My wish is a big wish, but if we can make it happen, it can truly change the world, and help ensure the survival of what actually — as it turns out — is my favorite species; that would be us. For the children of today, for tomorrow’s child: as never again, now is the time.

She founded Mission Blue in order to pursue that wish of establishing “hope spots” – protected areas that can serve as the “seeds of tomorrow’s healthy ocean:”

Networks of marine protected areas maintain healthy biodiversity, provide a carbon sink, generate life-giving oxygen, preserve critical habitat and allow low-impact activities like ecotourism to thrive. They are good for the ocean, which means they are good for us.

t2cameraEarle has long been a mentor to Tierney Thys, whom National Geographic describes as “the next generation’s champion of ocean exploration.” A Marine biologist, Thys has devoted her career to the Mola mola, or giant ocean sunfish. Enchanted with the ocean from a young age, she began working with Earle at Deep Ocean Engineering before obtaining a doctorate in zoology at Duke, specializing in the biomechanics of swimming muscles in fish.

Today Thys is a leading expert on the ocean sunfish, a very large yet mostly unknown open ocean fish. Her research team tags the creatures and collects tissue samples in efforts to learn more about their reproductive habits, their use of ocean currents to travel across the world, their jellyfish diet, and the size of their population. In a 02003 TED talk, Thys explains what the Mola mola might teach us about life in the open ocean, and shows that marine research can awaken a love for the ocean in all of us.

I don’t think I could say it any better than the immortal Bard himself: “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” And sure, it may be just one big old silly fish, but it’s helping. If it’s helping to unite the world, I think it’s definitely the fish of the future.

Thys is also an educator and filmmaker: she works with nonprofits and research institutes to advance public understanding of science and the environment through films. She has written, narrated, and produced documentaries about the ocean and global environmental change with the Sea Studios Foundation, where she was the Director of Research until 02008, as well as TED Ed.

Earle and Thys both work to raise public awareness of the oceans and the vital role they play in sustaining life on the planet. As Earle writes in the Huffington Post,

Human beings are sea creatures, dependent on the ocean just as much as whales, herring or coral reefs. The big blue area that dominates the view of earth from space was once our home and today represents 97 percent of the biosphere where life exists, providing the water we drink and the air we breathe. And we are destroying it.

The two will meet on stage at the SFJAZZ Center on May 20th to lead their audience on a journey into the world’s oceans. They will explore the mysteries of the life it holds, discuss the ways we are threatening its health, and review what humanity can do to protect its well-being. You can reserve tickets, get directions, and sign up for the podcast on our Seminar page.

Sylvia Earle & Tierney Thys Seminar Tickets

Posted on Monday, April 28th, 02014 by Andrew Warner
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The Long Now Foundation’s monthly

Seminars About Long-term Thinking

Sylvia Earle & Tierney Thys present Oceanic

Sylvia Earle & Tierney Thys present “Oceanic”

TICKETS

Tuesday May 20, 02014 at 7:30pm SFJAZZ Center

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

 

About this Seminar:

Land animals on an ocean planet, we have a lot to learn about how the world works. The microbes of the sea are Earth’s dominant life form. Ocean currents and temperatures drive climate and weather. Come ride a current to view bad news (dead zones, rising sea levels, melting sea ice, acidification, coral bleaching, fish piracy and overfishing) and good news (marine protected areas, functional ecosystems, megafaunal migrations, mid-Atlantic ridge, community involvement, citizen scientists) and continuing mysteries. Land is mercurial. Ocean abides.

Two of the most eloquent voices of ocean science are Sylvia Earle and Tierney Thys. Both are National Geographic Explorers, both are stars of the TED stage. They have collaborated on original and adventurous research. For this talk they are collaborating to tell (and show) sea stories of deep waters, the deep past, and the deep future.

Long Short: Burning Man Timelapse

Posted on Thursday, April 24th, 02014 by Andrew Warner
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Before each of our SALT talks, we show what we call a “Long Short”, a short film that exemplifies long-term thinking. We pick films that are thematically related to the Seminar of the evening, yet don’t have too much overlap with the main content. For Tuesday’s Seminar, we hosted Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos and instigator of the Downtown Project, a $350 million dollar project to revitalize downtown Las Vegas.

For our Long Short, we showed a video by Jason Phipps, a videographer based out of Auburn, California. Here are his own words on how the film was created:

This video captures Burning Man 2013 from an elevation of 5495 feet above sea level and over 4 linear miles from the center of Black Rock City. Old Razorback, aka Trego Peak, provides a unique vista of this incredible annual event. Climbing to the peak of Old Razorback has become a challenging and rewarding tradition for our team. This is a view that most will never experience in person. It is our passion to share it with the world through the lens of a camera. Climbing 1,888 feet in less than a mile over steep, unstable mountainside is a dangerous and exhilarating mission. This year we deployed cameras during the build week, capturing the growth of the city and ending it the night of the burn. We express gratitude to the family and friends that joined us for this epic climb. We could not do it alone. Many thanks to our team this year: Mark Phipps, John Phipps, Dallon Phipps, Kevin Johnson & Meghan Johnson. We also offer heartfelt thanks to OpenOptics (Inspired Flight) and Dusty Nix for designing such an incredible sound score for this year’s rendition.

 

To learn more about Jason and his work, you can email him at jason_m_phipps@hotmail.com.

Steven Johnson: The Long Zoom – A Seminar Flashback

Posted on Tuesday, April 22nd, 02014 by Mikl Em
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In May 02007 author Steven Johnson spoke for Long Now about The Long Zoom, which is his take on how humans integrate perspectives at different scales for both pleasure and practical reasons. He explains this “zoom” in everything from computer games to ending the cholera epidemic in 19th century London. That last topic, the subject of his book The Ghost Map, serves as a leaping off point for this Seminar.

Twice a month we highlight a Seminar About Long-term Thinking (SALT) from our archives. Long Now members can watch this video here. The audio is free for everyone on the Seminar page and via podcast. Long Now members can see all Seminar videos in HD. Video of the 12 most recent Seminars is also free for all to view.

In his introduction Stewart Brand calls Johnson a polymath, and this talk is a truly polymathic display across disciplines, history, and literature. But it’s also easy to follow because much of it takes place in the realm of current pop culture: from the TV show Lost to the games SimCity and Spore. Even Johnson’s revisiting of London’s 01800′s brings with it insights into the history of infographics.

Steven Johnson

The talk itself is a zoom and Johnson shows implicitly that integrating perspectives is useful, and pleasurable, to the way human minds work today. New research on gaming and the brain, the history of detective fiction, and the UI of World of Warcraft are all side trips on Johnson’s guided tour to how the Long Zoom, both as a practical tool and an entertainment principle, can lead to consilience.

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

Johnson proposed that another word for the long zoom perspective is “consilience”— a fine old word, revived by Edward O. Wilson, that links multiple disciplines and multiple levels into a whole body of knowledge with extra benefits the separate disciplines lack. Science and culture can blend rigorously. What is discovered in consilience is not just scales of distance or time but nested systems.

Steven Johnson is the author of eight books which cover topics in science, technology, history and popular culture including EmergenceEverything Bad Is Good for You and most recently Future Perfect.

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.

Long Now members can watch the full video of this Seminar here—you must be logged in to the site. Membership levels start at $8/month and include lots of benefits. Join Long Now today.

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.

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