Blog Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

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Live audio stream for John Markoff at The Interval on September 29, 02015

Posted on Monday, September 28th, 02015 by Mikl Em
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Long Now members can tune in for a live audio simulcast of this sold out event starting at 7:15 PT, September 29

Veteran technology writer John Markoff speaks in Long Now’s “Conversations at The Interval” series this Tuesday. He will discuss his new book Machines of Loving Grace: The Quest for Common Ground Between Humans and Robots which covers the birth of artificial intelligence in the 1950s all the way up to the consumer and industrial robotics innovations of today. Long Now’s Paul Saffo will interviewed Markoff onstage.

John Markoff at The Interval, September 29, 02015

Tickets to this talk sold out very quickly, as our Interval events often do. Due to the huge interest in this event, Long Now will be live audio-streaming Tuesday’s talk for members.

You can join Long Now for just $8/month which includes tickets to Seminars, HD video of 12 years of Long Now talks, and many other benefits.

Current Long Now members, just login on the member site. The stream will begin at 7:15pm Pacific.

Machines of Loving Grace is the first comprehensive study to place [robots] in the context of the cloud-based intelligence

—George Dyson, author of Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe

In recent years, the pace of technological change has accelerated dramatically, posing an ethical quandary. If humans delegate decisions to machines, who will be responsible for the consequences? Drawing on his forty years covering the tech industry, Markoff conducted numerous interviews and extensive research to assemble this history and poise key questions about how we will cohabitate with our robotic creations.

Long Now members can tune in for a live audio simulcast at 7:15 PT on September 29

This will be the third time we have live streamed an Interval event. Due to our limited resources, it is not possible to do so for most talks. We do plan to release Interval talks as podcasts and video on the Long Now site (similarly to our Seminar series).

We also plan to stream the talk by Andy Weir author of The Martian which takes place at The Interval on October 27, 02015. Tickets will go on sale for that talk two weeks beforehand and we expect it will sell out quickly.

Andy Weir at The Interval, October 27, 02015

Long Now is looking for a major sponsor to fund the cost of producing the series to the standard of our Seminar media. We are also seeking a sponsor to support more regular streaming of Interval events. Sponsorship inquiries are welcome.

2,000-Year Old Termite Mounds Found in Central Africa

Posted on Friday, August 28th, 02015 by Charlotte Hajer
link   Categories: Long Term Science, Millennial Precedent, Technology, The Big Here   chat 0 Comments

Much like ants, termites are a testament to the adage that a whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A single termite is an almost translucent creature, no more than a few millimeters long. But put several thousand of them together, and they become capable of building expansive structures, some reaching up as high as 17 feet.

Moreover, a recent discovery suggests that some termite mounds are not only very tall, but also very old. A joint Belgian-Congolese team of geologists carbon-dated a set of four mounds in the Congo’s Miombo Woods, and found them to be between 680 and 2200 years old. Though the oldest of these had been abandoned centuries ago, the researchers infer from their findings that some species of termites can inhabit one and the same structure for several hundreds of years. This far exceeds the lifespan of any one colony (which matches that of its queen), suggesting that a kind of intergenerational inheritance passes the mound from one queen to the next.

Swarm intelligence, it seems, leads not only to highly organized labor and solid engineering, but also to long-term thinking.

Paul Saffo Featured on Singularity Hub’s Ask An Expert Series

Posted on Monday, August 17th, 02015 by Charlotte Hajer
link   Categories: Futures, Long Term Thinking, Technology   chat 0 Comments

This week’s episode of Singularity Hub’s Ask an Expert features Long Now Board member Paul Saffo.

Ask an Expert is a new web series in which, well, experts answer tweeted questions about the future of technology. In this episode, Paul discusses virtual reality, weighs in on the word ‘disrupt’, and considers the possibility of having a wooly mammoth for a pet – with a quick shout-out to Long Now’s Revive & Restore project.

To see more videos in the Ask an Expert series, you can visit this page. And if you have a question of your own, you can tweet it to @singularityu with the hashtag #AskSU.

Himawari-8 Satellite Offers A New Look at Our Planet – 144 Times Per Day

Posted on Wednesday, August 5th, 02015 by Charlotte Hajer
link   Categories: Long Term Science, Technology, The Big Here   chat 0 Comments


A sense of perspective is unavoidable from 22,000 miles out. Looking down at Earth from that distance — almost three times farther than the diameter of the planet itself — allows a view of the globe as a massive organic system, pulsing with continuous movement. (NY Times)

Last month, Japan’s new Himawari-8 weather satellite began sending data back to Earth. Launched in late 02014 to help track storm systems and other weather patterns in the Pacific Rim, it looks down on Earth from a geostationary orbit, at about 36,000 kilometers (or 22,000 miles) from the surface.

Its considerable distance from Earth isn’t necessarily surprising; most weather satellites do their work in high earth orbit. But what makes Himawari-8 unique among its colleagues is the fact that it is capable of taking full-color photos of the entire planet. Every day, it sends 144 of these “living portraits” back down to Earth – or one photograph every ten minutes.


With an unprecedentedly high resolution that can visualize features as small as 500 square meters, these images will help scientists better understand the genesis, evolution, and outcome of large-scale weather patterns. But on a broader level, the pictures Himawari-8 sends back can’t help but awaken in us what the Planetary Collective has called the Overview Effect: the combined sense of awe and oneness that seems to come over us all when we see images of the whole Earth, framed by the blackness of space.

The data Himawari-8 produces is meant to help us better grasp the ever-changing, fleeting, and highly localized behavior of the Pacific atmosphere. But it also offers us a reminder to step outside of ourselves and consider the fact that we ultimately inhabit a very small corner of a much larger unit of space and time.

Paul Saffo Seminar Media

Posted on Wednesday, April 15th, 02015 by Mikl Em
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This lecture was presented as part of The Long Now Foundation’s monthly Seminars About Long-term Thinking.

The Creator Economy

Tuesday March 31, 02015 – San Francisco

Video is up on the Saffo Seminar page.


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


The Creator Economy – a summary by Stewart Brand

Media innovations drive economic shifts, Saffo began. “We invent new technology and then use it to reinvent ourselves.”

  1. The Industrial/producer Economy: At the beginning of the 20th century the leading scarcity was stuff, and so manufacture was systematized. By 1914 one of Ford’s workers could buy a Model T car with four month’s salary. Production efficiency won the Second World War for the allies. In 1944 the US was producing 8 aircraft carriers a month, a plane every five minutes, and 50 merchant ships a day. The process became so efficient that its success ended the dominance of that economy. That always happens. “Every new abundance creates an adjacent scarcity.“
  2. The Consumer Economy The new scarcity was desire. 1958 brought the first credit card. The CEOs of leading companies shifted from heads of production to heads of marketing. Container ships doubled global trade.
  3. The Creator Economy: In 1971 Herbert Simon predicted, “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently.” The new scarcity turned out to be engagement. The mass media television channels that had dominated the Consumer Economy were overwhelmed by personal media–YouTube, eBay, Facebook, Wikipedia, Twitter, Google, Etsy. Hollywood was overwhelmed by video games. (The blockbuster movie “Avatar“ opened in 2009 with a $73 million weekend. The previous month, the game “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” sold $310 million in 24 hours.)

Mass participation became the new normal. Stuff is cheap; status comes from creation. Value is created by engagement—from Wikipedia entries to Google queries to Mechanical Turk services to Airbnb to Uber to Kaggle analyses. Burning Man sets the standard of “no spectators.” Makers insist that “If you can’t open it, you don’t own it.”

Saffo advised recalling four warnings for revolutionaries. 1) There are winners and losers 2) Don’t confuse early results with long-term outcomes. 3) Successful insurgents become over-powerful incumbents 4) Technologies of freedom become technologies of control.

If we want privacy now, we have to pay extra for it. As with our smart phones, we will subscribe to self-driving cars, not own them. With our every move tracked, we are like radio-collared bears. Our jobs are being atomized, with ever more parts taken over by robots. We trade freedom for convenience.

Over the 30 or so years remaining in the Creator Economy, Saffo figures that we will redefine freedom in terms of interdependence, and he closed with Richard Brautigan’s poem about a “cybernetic ecology” where we “are all watched over by machines of loving grace.”

Subscribe to our Seminar email list for updates and summaries.

Brewster Kahle: Universal Access to All Knowledge — 02011 Seminar Flashback

Posted on Thursday, February 26th, 02015 by Mikl Em
link   Categories: Rosetta, Seminars, Technology   chat 0 Comments

In November 02011 Brewster Kahle, the founder of the Internet Archive, spoke for Long Now. “We are really striving to build The Library of Alexandria version 2,” says Brewster, near the start of his talk, “So that everyone anywhere who is curious to want access can access the world’s knowledge.” He proceeds to assess, one media type at a time what it will take in effort and disk space to get all the books, recorded music, TV, software, web pages, etc. into an online database. The overall message: “Universal access to all knowledge is within our grasp.”

Long Now members can watch this video here. The audio is free for everyone on the Seminar page and via podcastLong Now members can see all Seminar videos in HD. Video of the 12 most recent Seminars is also free for all to view.

From Stewart Brand’s summary of the talk (in full here):

The Web itself. When the Internet Archive began in 1996, there were just 30 million web pages. Now the Wayback Machine copies every page of every website every two months and makes them time-searchable from its 6-petabyte database of 150 billion pages. It has 500,000 users a day making 6,000 queries a second.

In 02015, less than 4 years later, the Internet Archive’s web archive has grown to over 400 billion pages; and the ever-expanding collections of books, movies, and music have now pushed the total Archive database size over 20 petabytes.

You’ll hear in this talk that Brewster and the Archive’s association with The Long Now Foundation goes way back. In fact the first prototype of the 10,000 Year Clock “bonged” twice to mark the year 02000 in a building shared with the Archive. Long Now continues to partner with the Archive in many ways including on Rosetta Project activities and the Manual for Civilization. And we intend for our partnership to continue for at the very least a few more millennia.

Brewster Kahle is the founder and chairman of the Internet Archive. He earned a B.S. from MIT in 1982, where he studied artificial intelligence with Long Now co-founder Daniel Hillis. Brewster Kahle serves on the boards of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Knowledge, the European Archive, the Television Archive, and the Internet Archive.

Brewster Kahle and the Archive servers
Photo by Rudy Rucker

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 12 most recent Long Now Seminars. Long Now members can watch video of this Seminar video or more than ten years of previous Seminars in HD. Membership levels start at $8/month and include lots of benefits.

You can join Long Now here.

Keeping The Net’s Long Memory Stocked: Jason Scott @ The Interval— February 24, 02015

Posted on Wednesday, February 18th, 02015 by Mikl Em
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Jason Scott of Archive Team and

February 24, 02015
Jason Scott (archivist, historian, filmmaker)
The Web in an Eyeblink at The Interval

Tickets are now on sale: space is limited and we expect this talk to sell out

If you are reading this then Jason Scott has probably backed up bits that matter to you–whether you are an ex-SysOp or only use the Web to read this blog. Jason works on no less than three important online archives, each of which is invaluable in preserving our digital history. He’s also made two documentaries about pre-Web networked-computer culture The BBS Documentary and Get Lamp.

Jason Scott with Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle at ROFLCon Summit

Jason created in 01998 to make thousands of files once found on online bulletin board systems (BBSs) available again after they had become scarce in the era of the World Wide Web. He founded Archive Team in 02009 to rescue user data from popular sites that shut down with little notice; this loose collective has launched “Distributed Preservation of Service Attacks” to save content from Friendster, GeoCities and Google Reader amongst others. In 02011 Jason began curating the Internet Archive‘s software collection: the largest online library of vintage and historical software in the world.

Long Now welcomes Jason Scott to our Conversations at The Interval series:
“The Web in an Eye Blink” on Tuesday, February 24, 02015

The Internet is a network of networks that has the ability to bring the far reaches of the world closer, seemingly in real time. A Big Here in a short Now. But there’s a Long Now of the Internet also in that it connects us through time: a shared memory of readily accessible information. Accessible as long as the resource exists somewhere on the system. So the Internet should give worldwide access to our long memory, all the content we’ve ever put online, right? Unfortunately there are some challenges. But happily we have allies.

The network path to a specific document is a technological chain. And it can be a brittle one. The chain’s components include servers, cables, protocols, programming code, and even human decisions. If one connection in the chain fails–whether it’s the hardware, software, or just a hyperlink–the information becomes inaccessible. And perhaps it’s lost forever. This problem is an aspect of what we call the Digital Dark Age.

The Dilemma of Modern Media

The “High technology” industry is innovation/obsolescence driven by its nature; so new models and software updates often undermine that network-chain in the name of progress. But the tech industry’s competitive business environment causes another threat to our online memory. Mergers and acquisitions shift product offerings irregardless of customer sentiment, let alone the historical importance of a site or service. Users who have invested time and effort in creating content and customizing their accounts will often get little notice about a site’s impending demise. And it’s rare that companies provide tools or guidance to enable customers to preserve their own data. That’s why Jason started Archive Team: to save digital assets for users not empowered to do so themselves. Initially reactive they now keep a “Death Watch” to warn users and keep their own team alert ahead of time about sites that don’t look long for this world.

There is no FDIC for user data. Jason Scott and the Archive Team are all we’ve got.

Jason Scott at ROFLCon II -- Photo by Scott Beale photo by Scott Beale

Jason’s advice is to help ourselves. As he said about the strange case of

Assuming that your photographs, writing, email, or other data is important to you … you should always be looking for an export function or a way to save a local backup. If a company claims it’s too hard, they are lying. If they claim that they have everything under control, ignore that and demand your export and local backup again.

The broken link may be the most pernicious of the many breaks that can occur in the network chain. When a linked file is removed or renamed, even if it’s been available for years, all access is instantly cut off. The Wayback Machine, a database of 452 Billion previously downloaded web pages, is a solution to that problem and it’s the main feature of that most people use today.

But the Internet Archive is much more than a database of web pages. It is a non-profit library with an ever-growing collection of books, movies, software, music, and more is available online for free. The archive preserves and expands our collective memory. And Jason’s work with archiving vintage software is especially groundbreaking.

Thousands of computer and arcade games have been added to the Archive in the last year. Many games have been saved from complete extinction in the process. But Jason and team have done more than that. They have built a website on which this code can run, so that the games are playable again. They did it with JSMESS, Javascript code that can emulate nearly 1000 vintage computing and gaming platforms. So the fact that physical components once requisite for these programs to be accessed will never be manufactured again has ceased to be a limitation. Hardware (computers, gaming consoles, disk drives) is no longer, or much less of, a weak link in the technological chain.

And these games which ran on Apple II’s, TRS-80s, Atari 2600′s, etc, from the historically important and nostalgia-rich era of the 01980s and 01990s will now run in many 21st Century web browsers.

Which browsers? Maybe your browser. Can you see a black box below? If so click the button and you’ll have a chance to play Apple’s 01979 “Apple ][” game Lemonade Stand. Have fun. And be patient. Things were slower then.

You can thank Jason Scott for uploading this and thousands of other fun, useful, or just old pieces of software.

In fact, you can thank him in person when he speaks at The Interval at Long Now this Tuesday, February 24, 02015: “The Web in an Eye Blink”. Jason will talk about his work in the frame of the Long Now.

Get your tickets soon, we expect this talk to sell out.

See Andy Baio’s piece on Medium for more thoughts on Jason’s work and the implications of the Archive’s software collection.

Photos by Jason Scott unless otherwise noted

Jeffrey McGrew: Talking with Robots about Architecture at The Interval — February 10, 02015

Posted on Tuesday, February 3rd, 02015 by Mikl Em
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Jeffrey McGrew at The Interval: Talking with Robots about Architecture

February 10, 02015
Jeffrey McGrew (architect of The Interval)
Talking with Robots about Architecture at The Interval

Tickets are still available: space is limited and these talks tend to sell out.

Our next event in the Conversations at The Interval series features architect Jeffrey McGrew, a co-designer of The Interval, talking about technological innovations that are changing the future of architecture. Jeffey’s career has tracked the rapid evolution of software and automation in the building industry and in many ways his own robot-enabled firm exemplifies the tech-driven changes going on in the field today.

Jeffrey and his wife Jillian Northrup founded Because We Can eight years ago as a design-build studio with the help of their very own robot: a CNC router, named Frank. “Design-build” means they are not only design but also fabricate many elements of the work they do for commercial and residential clients.

Jeffrey McGrew of Because We Can

This ability to see the project from initial vision to production allows them to produce highly detailed work like this steampunk-themed zoo they built in Mississippi:

Jeffrey McGrew at The Interval, February 02015

When Long Now decided to convert our museum/store space at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco into a one-of-a-kind bar, cafe, museum, library, we realized that Because We Can were the perfect partner to help us build The Interval. Their nimble, technology-enabled approach allowed us to have a voice in the design. They designed and then built out many elements of our space in their Oakland workshop including parts of the ceiling bottle keep and finishing our custom stone bar top:

Jeffrey McGrew speaks at The Interval
Jeffrey McGrew at The Interval: Talking with Robots about Architecture Jeffrey McGrew at The Interval: Talking with Robots about Architecture

Jeffrey’s experience includes hands-on construction work as well as working at architecture firms large and small. He earned his Architect’s license via the old apprenticeship model. Today he speaks regularly about architecture and technology to both industry and general audiences from Autodesk University to Maker Faire.

In his talk at The Interval Jeffrey will discuss how robots, software, and other technologies are changing the way architects and builders work in powerful and surprising ways. The robots are already here and they are helping the humans to work better.

The video below gives a behind-the-scenes look at how Because We Can designs and builds a project. Tickets for Tuesday’s talk are selling fast. Make sure to get yours soon.

Video and photos by Because We Can

Edge Question 02015

Posted on Wednesday, January 28th, 02015 by Charlotte Hajer
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dahlia640_0It’s been an annual tradition since 01998: with a new year comes a new Edge question.

Every January, John Brockman presents the members of his online salon with a question that elicits discussion about some of the biggest intellectual and scientific issues of our time. Previous iterations have included prompts such as “What should we be worried about?” or “What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit?“ The essay responses – in excess of a hundred each year – offer a wealth of insight into the direction of today’s cultural forces, scientific innovations, and global trends.

This year, Brockman asks:

What do you think about machines that think?

In recent years, the 1980s-era philosophical discussions about artificial intelligence (AI) – whether computers can “really” think, refer, be conscious, and so on – have led to new conversations about how we should deal with the forms that many argue actually are implemented. These “AIs,” if they achieve “Superintelligence” (Nick Bostrom), could pose “existential risks” that lead to “Our Final Hour” (Martin Rees). And Stephen Hawking recently made international headlines when he noted “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”

Is AI becoming increasingly real? Are we now in a new era of the “AIs”? To consider this issue, it’s time to grow up. Enough already with the science fiction and the movies, Star Maker, Blade Runner, 2001, Her, The Matrix, “The Borg.” Also, 80 years after Turing’s invention of his Universal Machine, it’s time to honor Turing, and other AI pioneers, by giving them a well-deserved rest. We know the history.

The extensive collection of answers (more than 186 this year!) is sure to prompt debate – and, as usual, includes contributions by several Long Now Board members, fellows, and past (and future!) SALT speakers:

Paul Saffo argues that the real question is not whether AIs will appear, but rather what place humans will occupy in a world increasingly run by machines – and how we will relate to that artificial intelligence around us.

George Church blurs the distinction between machine and biological life form, imagining a future of hybrids that are partly grown and partly engineered.

Michael Shermer writes that we should be protopian in our thinking about the future of AI. It’s a fallacy to attribute either utopian goodness or dystopian evil to AIs, because these are emotional states that cannot be programmed.

Bruce Sterling claims that it’s not useful to wonder only about the intelligence of AIs; we should be discussing the ways AI is employed to further the interests of money, power, and influence.

Kevin Kelly predicts that AI will transform our understanding of what ‘intelligence’ and ‘thinking’ actually mean – and how ‘human’ these capacities really are.

Samuel Arbesman calls on us to be proud of the machines we build, even if their actions and accomplishments exceed our direct control.

Mary Catherine Bateson wonders what will happen to the domains of thought that cannot be programmed – those distinctly human capacities for emotion, compassion, intuition, imagination, and fantasy.

George Dyson thinks we should be worried not about digital machines, but about analog ones.

Tim O’Reilly wonders if AI should be thought of not as a population of individual consciousnesses, but more as a multicellular organism.

Martin Rees suggests that in the ongoing process of coming to understand our world, human intelligence may be merely transient: the real comprehension will be achieved by AI brains.

Sam Harris writes that we need machines with superhuman intelligence. The question is, what kind of values will we instill in them? Will we be able to impart any values to machines?

Esther Dyson wonders what intelligence and life will be like for a machine who is not hindered by the natural constraint of death.

Steven Pinker thinks it’s a waste of time to worry about civilizational doom brought on by AI: we have time to get it right.

Brian Eno reminds us that behind every machine we rely on but don’t understand, still stands a human who built it.

Danny Hillis argues that AI most likely will outsmart us, and may not always have our best interest in mind. But if we approach their design in the right way, they may still mostly serve us in the way we had intended.

These are just a few of this year’s thought-provoking answers; you can read the full collection here.

Mathieu Victor at The Interval: January 20: Artists with Lasers

Posted on Tuesday, January 13th, 02015 by Mikl Em
link   Categories: Events, Long Now salon (Interval), Long Term Art, Technology, The Interval   chat 0 Comments

Artists with Lasers: Mathieu Victor CNC

January 20, 02015: Mathieu Victor (artist, technologist)
Artists with Lasers: Art, Tech, & Craft in the 21st Century

Co-produced with Zero1

Tickets are still available: space is limited and these talks tend to sell out.

Technology enables art, and artists push technologies to their limits. That’s just part of the long-running story that Mathieu Victor will tell in his salon talk on January 20 at The Interval at Long Now in San Francisco. It’s a story that features Bell Labs and Marcel Duchamp, Computer Numerical Control (better known as “CNC“) and, yes, lasers, too.

Artist Mathieu Victor speaks on January 20 at The Interval

Artist Mathieu Victor at The Interval

Mathieu’s talk will survey centuries of fine arts practice as well as some of today’s most cutting edge work. Trained as an art and technology historian, he has hands-on experience in bringing ambitious projects into reality including his work as production manager for artist Jeff Koons.

Koons’ studio is one of the world’s largest purely fine arts enterprises, integrating a “factory” and “design studio” model and employing hundreds of artists and an international network of fabricators. In his more than a decade of work with Koons, Mathieu oversaw the technical aspects of this multidisciplinary practice, working with professionals ranging from fashion designers to aerospace manufacturers.

Artists with Lasers: Jeff Koons gorilla photo

Jeff Koons, “Gorilla”, CNC Milled Absolute black granite, 2009-11. Photograph: Timothy A Clary/AFP/Getty Images

In the course of his fabrication work Mathieu has run R&D projects with GE, Delcam, AutoDesk, M.I.T, and other industry leaders in creative and manufacturing technologies. He has collaborated with many of the world’s top creative entities including BMW, Stella McCartney, Taschen Publishing, Lady Gaga, and the Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade, and lead some of the most ambitious efforts to date in applying manufacturing technology to the fine arts.

We hope you can join us for this exciting look at the interplay of technology and fine arts, craft and design. Tickets and more information about the talk are here.

Mathieu Victor speaks at The Interval - January 20, 02015Barry X Ball “Paired, mirrored, flayed, javelin-impaled…” Mexican Onyx 2000 – 2007

This is the first in a series of talks produced in collaboration between The Long Now Foundation and ZERO1: The Art & Technology Network on art, time, and technology

Next in the series: artist Jonathon Keats speaks at The Interval on April 7th, 02015.