Blog Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

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

Posted on Thursday, February 26th, 02015 by Mikl Em
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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 Archive.org

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 textfiles.com 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 Twitpic.com:

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 archive.org 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
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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, 02015
Barry 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 in conjunction with his Neanderthal Design Studio opening at ZERO1 on April 3. Stay tuned for more details on that event. Tickets will go on sale in March.

Software as Language, as Object, as Art

Posted on Tuesday, November 25th, 02014 by Chia Evers
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Rosetta Disk
 

When The Long Now Foundation first began thinking about long-term archives, we drew inspiration from the Rosetta Stone, a 2000-year-old stele containing a Ptolemaic decree in Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, Demotic script, and Ancient Greek. Our version of the Rosetta Stone, the Rosetta Disk, includes parallel texts in more than 1,500 languages. Since creating the Disk (a copy of which is now orbiting Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on board the European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe), we have also partnered with the Internet Archive to create an online supplement that currently contains information on some 2,500 languages.

One of our purposes in creating The Rosetta Project was to encourage the preservation of endangered human languages. In a recent event at The Interval, The Future of Language, we explored the role these languages play in carrying important cultural information, and their correlation with biodiversity worldwide.

While we have focused our efforts on spoken languages and their written analogues, other organizations have begun preserving software—not just the end results, but the software itself. This is not only a way of archiving useful information and mitigating the risks of a digital dark age, but also a path to better understand the world we live in. As Paul Ford (a writer and programmer who digitized the full archive of Harper’s Magazine) wrote in The Great Works of Software, “The greatest works of software are not just code or programs, but social, expressive, human languages. They give us a shared set of norms and tools for expressing our ideas about words, or images, or software development.”

Matthew Kirschenbaum, the Associate Director of the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities, made a similar point in the opening address of the Digital Preservation 2014 Meeting at the Library of Congress. In discussing George R. R. Martin’s idiosyncratic choice to write his blockbuster, doorstopper Song of Ice and Fire on an air-gapped machine running DOS and WordStar, Kirschenbaum notes that “WordStar is no toy or half-baked bit of code: on the contrary, it was a triumph of both software engineering and what we would nowadays call user-centered design.”

In its heyday, WordStar appealed to many writers because its central metaphor was that of the handwritten, not the typewritten, page. Robert J. Sawyer, whose novel Calculating God is a candidate for the Manual of Civilization, described the difference like this:

Consider: On a long-hand page, you can jump back and forth in your document with ease. You can put in bookmarks, either actual paper ones, or just fingers slipped into the middle of the manuscript stack. You can annotate the manuscript for yourself with comments like ‘Fix this!’ or ‘Don’t forget to check these facts’ without there being any possibility of you missing them when you next work on the document. And you can mark a block, either by circling it with your pen, or by physically cutting it out, without necessarily having to do anything with it right away. The entire document is your workspace.”

Wordstar
Screenshot of Wordstar Interface

If WordStar does offer a fundamentally different way of approaching digital text, then it’s reasonable to believe that authors using it may produce different work than they would with the mass-market behemoth, Microsoft Word, or one of the more modern, artisanal writing programs like Scrivener or Ulysses III, just as multi-lingual authors find that changing languages changes the way they think.

Speak, Memory

Samuel Beckett famously wrote certain plays in French, because he found that it made him choose his words more carefully and think more clearly; in the preface to Speak, Memory, Vladimir Nabokov said that the “re-Englishing of a Russian re-version of what had been an English re-telling of Russian memories in the first place, proved a diabolical task.” Knowing that A Game of Thrones was written in WordStar or that Waiting for Godot was originally titled “En Attendent Godot” may nuance our appreciation of the texts, but we can go even deeper into the relationship between software and the results it produces by examining its source code.

This was the motivation for the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s recent acquisition of the code for Planetary, a music player for iOS that envisions each artist in the music library as a sun orbited by album-planets, each of which is orbited in turn by a collection of song-moons. In explaining its decision to acquire not only a physical representation of the code, such as an iPad running the app, but the code itself, Cooper-Hewitt said,

With Planetary, we are hoping to preserve more than simply the vessel, more than an instantiation of software and hardware frozen at a moment in time: Commit message fd247e35de9138f0ac411ea0b261fab21936c6e6 authored in 2011 and an iPad2 to be specific.

Cooper-Hewitt’s Planetary announcement also touches on another challenge in archiving software.

[P]reserving large, complex and interdependent systems whose component pieces are often simply flirting with each other rather than holding hands is uncharted territory. Trying to preserve large, complex and interdependent systems whose only manifestation is conceptual—interaction design say or service design—is harder still.

One of the ways the Museum has chosen to meet this challenge is to open-source the software, inviting the public to examine the code, modify it, or build new applications on top of it.

The open-source approach has the advantage of introducing more people to a particular piece of software—people who may be able to port it to new systems, or simply maintain their own copies of it. As we have said in reference to the Rosetta Project, “One of the tenets of the project is that for information to last, people have to care about and engage it.” However, generations of software have already been lost, abandoned, or forgotten, like the software that controls the International Cometary Explorer. Other software has been preserved, but locked into black boxes like the National Software Reference Library at NIST, which includes some 20 million digital signatures, but is available only to law enforcement.

ICEEThe International Cometary Explorer, a spacecraft we are no longer able to talk to

While there is no easy path to archiving software over the long term, the efforts of researchers like Kirschenbaum, projects like the Internet Archive’s Software Collection, and enthusiastic hackers like the Carnegie Mellon Computer Club, who recently recovered Andy Warhol’s digital artwork, are helping create awareness of the issues and develop potential solutions.

Andy WarholOriginal Warhol, created on a Amiga 1000 in 01985

 

The Interval’s Chalk-Drawing Robot Makes Its Debut: December 8, 02014

Posted on Monday, November 24th, 02014 by Mikl Em
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Chalk Drawing Machine by Jürg Lehni at The Interval at Long Now

On the evening of Monday December 8, 02014 from 8pm to midnight, come see the first demonstrations of Jürg Lehni’s Chalk-Drawing Machine at The Interval.

Jürg will be in attendance and will give live demonstrations throughout the evening.

The Long Now Foundation commissioned Jürg and his team in Switzerland to build a custom version of his Viktor chalk-drawing machine and create software to interface with it for our San Francisco bar/cafe/museum venue The Interval. We are working with Jürg to develop content for the machine and eventually make it a platform for use by visiting speakers and artists.

The design of the chalk-drawing machine is extremely elegant, using an unconventional system of pulleys that is driven by high-quality Maxon Swiss servo motors to triangulate the drawing tool. The motors are coordinated by an open-source controller developed by Jürg himself.

Thanks to swissnex San Francisco who brought Jürg Lehni and his work to San Francisco in 02013; we met Jürg through his participation in several shows that year.

Where Time Begins

Posted on Thursday, November 20th, 02014 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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Last year I had the opportunity to give a talk and tour of the US Naval Observatory in Washington DC at the invitation of Demetrios Matsakis, the director of the U.S. Naval Observatory’s Time Service department.  The Naval Observatory hosts the largest collection of precise frequency standards in the world, and uses them to, among other things, keep services like internet time and the global positioning system in your phone running correctly.

The USNO Master Clock is actually an average of many timing signals

The US Naval Observatory keeps track of time and distance in what seems like obscure ways, but these signals are used for some of the most widely trusted and life-critical systems on the planet.  The observatory uses a series of atomic clocks, ranging from hydrogen mazers to cesium fountain clocks, which are averaged into the time signals we all use in synchronizing internet servers and finding our way with the guidance of our phones.  In fact GPS would not be possible without the highly accurate time signals generated by the observatory, as time very literally equals distance when you are a satellite flying overhead at speeds that actually have to account for Einsteinian relativity.


The humble rack servers pumping out one of the most accurate and life-critical time signals in the world

The Naval Observatory is also part of the larger network in the US that includes NIST and several labs around the world that contribute to the international standards of time like Universal Coordinated Time or UTC.  These time standards are defined in collaboration: many of the world’s national labs send in how long a second lasts based on their clocks, and these seconds are then averaged to define the second for the month.  But ironically, they do this in retrospect and sometimes add leap seconds, so they only know what the ‘second’ was last month, not this month.

I am often asked when explaining the 10,000 Year Clock why we do not use an atomic clock, as they are often reported to be accurate to “one second in 30 million years”.  But this does not mean they will last 30 million years; it is just a way to explain an accuracy of 10-9 seconds in everyday terms.  These atomic clocks are extremely fragile and fussy machines that require very exact temperatures and deep understanding of atomic science in order to even read them.  They sometimes only last a few years.

Two of the Rubidium Fountain Clocks at the USNO used to create the master time signal

Demetrios was also able to tell me more about some of the long-term timing issues that affect The 10,000 Year Clock.  Because the Clock synchronizes with the sun on any sunny day, one of the effects that we have to take into account is the rate at which the Earth’s rotational rate may change from millennium to millennium.  It turns out that the earth’s rotation can be greatly affected by climate change.  If the poles freeze in an ice age, and all the water freezes closer to the poles, the earth spins faster.  If the current warming trend continues and the poles melt extensively, the mass of the water around the equator will slow the earth’s rotational rate.  All these changes affect where the sun will appear in the sky, and since our clock uses the sun to synchronize, it is an effect we have to account for.  While this was all known to us, there is a counter effect that Demetrios told me about.  It turns out that when there is less water weighing down one of the tectonic plates of the earth, it rises up higher, counteracting some of the mass altered by the shift in water.  We will be investigating this further to see if it changes our calculations.

Many thanks to Demetrios Matsakis for inviting me to the Naval Observatory, it was an honor to present to some of the most technical horologists in the world, and witness the place where the ephemerality of time is pinned down to just “one second in 30 million years”.

Stewart Brand Keynote Video from 02014 Evernote Conference

Posted on Wednesday, November 19th, 02014 by Andrew Warner
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On October 3rd 02014, Stewart Brand delivered the keynote address for the Evernote EC4 conference. Evernote is a service that allows people to collect information, notes, bookmarks, and create a personal searchable database with this collection.

Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote, has been a fan of Long Now for years, which inspired him to introduce a “100-year data guarantee” for all Evernote customers, a rare promise in the rapidly changing tech industry. The company is also known for having a long-term view and intends to be a “100-year startup”.

In the video above, Libin introduces Stewart while explaining how influential he and Long Now have been on Evernote’s philosophy. Stewart proceeds to give an update on our Revive & Restore project and the de-extinction of the Wooly Mammoth.

Evernote also gave out free copies of Stewart’s book The Clock of the Long Now: Time and Responsibility to attendees of EC4.

Kevin Kelly Seminar Primer

Posted on Thursday, November 6th, 02014 by Mikl Em
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Kevin Kellly photo by Christopher Michel

On Wednesday, November 12th, Kevin Kelly, a founding Board member of Long Now, will speak on “Technium Unbound,” as part of our monthly Seminars About Long-term Thinking. Each month the Seminar Primer gives you some background about the speaker, including links to learn even more.

Kevin Kellly 20th Century passport photo“Instead of going to university, I went to Asia. That was one of the best decisions I ever made,” says Kevin Kelly about following his instincts into the Big Here in the early 01970s.

For someone who is probably best known as a technology pundit, it may be surprising to learn that his formative years were spent traveling in areas where his 35mm camera was often the most advanced technology for miles. But Kevin’s work has always been about cultures as well as technologies.

His career as a writer, editor and publisher has coincided with a time of unprecedented technological growth. And Kevin has been associated with many ground-breaking publications and organizations in that time. In 01984 he moved to California to edit CoEvolution Quarterly, which Stewart Brand had founded as a spin-off of  the Whole Earth Catalog. The Quarterly soon was renamed as Whole Earth Review and Kevin served as its editor for the next 6 years. He also edited and published the Whole Earth Catalog for several of its later editions.

During that period Kevin also had a hand in founding The WELL, the influential early online community co-founded by Larry Brilliant and Stewart Brand, and the Hackers Conference. In the mid-90′s he again collaborated with Stewart and became a charter board member of The Long Now Foundation.

In 01992 Kevin joined Wired magazine prior to its launch and became its Executive Editor for the first 7 years of its existence. Wired won two National Magazine Awards during his tenure. He is still on staff at Wired as “Senior Maverick” and writes a few times a year for the magazine.

Kevin Kellly photo by Christopher MichelBut let’s get back to Asia in 1972. Kevin, then in his early twenties, dropped out after one year of college and set off camera-in-hand to wander throughout Afghanistan, Iran, Indonesia, China, Turkey, Japan, and everywhere in between. He had a drive to document aspects of these cultures that even then it was apparent were beginning to disappear. He lived on about $2,500 a year and shot 36,000 images during that time.

I traveled solo most of the time I was shooting. I had lots of time and no money. I generally spent at least 2 months in a country; some like India and Taiwan I visited many times. I would be gone for years at a stretch. I would leave the US with 500 rolls of film in my backpack.

Years later Kevin created the book Asia Grace (Taschen, 02002) featuring hundreds of these photos. For which he did the layout and design himself. Now you’ll find many of those images on Kevin’s website for Asia Grace, continuing his tendency to make the books he sells in stores available for free online. You’ll find the full text for his books Out of Control and New Rules for the New Economy on Kevin’s KK.org site.

Of the cost of buying one of his books, versus reading it page-by-page online, Kevin suggests: Think of this as a printing service, not a book.

The Asia Grace site also includes Kevin’s extensive notes about producing the book including the cameras and film he used, his travel practices, and details on the hardware and software for every step of the printing process

Temple offerings in Taiwan from Asia Grace by Kevin Kelly Balinese procession from Asia Grace by Kevin Kelly
photos by Kevin Kelly from Asia Grace

Listing the equipment and methods he used is far from an afterthought. Kevin is always looking for reliable and innovative tools, and he likes to share what he finds. In 02000 he started an email list to post tool recommendations for his friends. That grew into the Cool Tools website, a public resource that continues to thrive. Last year Kevin self-published Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities as a book; it includes info on more than a thousand recommended tools from the site, all submitted by users.

It is Kevin’s belief that all types of tools can be “cool”:

A cool tool can be any book, gadget, software, video, map, hardware, material, or website that is tried and true.

This broad notion of the tool-ness of everything that humans use is a precursor to Kevin’s thinking about the “technium”; he believes all these tools are related systemically. Here’s how he described the technium in his 02009 blog post “What Technology Wants” (which became the title of his 02010 book):

The technium is the sphere of visible technology and intangible organizations that form what we think of as modern culture. It is the current accumulation of all that humans have created. For the last 1,000 years, this techosphere has grown about 1.5% per year. It marks the difference between our lives now, verses 10,000 years ago. Our society is as dependent on this technological system as nature itself. Yet, like all systems it has its own agenda. Like all organisms the technium also wants.

In an interview earlier this year with Edge.org, Kevin said: I look at the network of all the technology in the world, past and present, as forming a system that seems to have its own urges and tendencies. Kevin has named his KK.org technology blog The Technium which points to both the importance and ubiquity he attributes to the idea.

Kevin has become one of our most insightful thinkers about technology. A recent New York Times profile called his technology-related predictions “often both grandiose and correct.” His writing helps us understand not only the bits and bolts of tech, but how technology and humanity interweave: like his famous idea of 1000 True Fans or his ground-breaking work in self-tracking and the Quantified Self. In 02011 Kevin identified six verbs that would characterize the online future; it’s three years in, see how you think he did.

On Wednesday, November 12th, 02014 we’ll all have the chance to hear from Kevin what the technium wants next: “Technium Unbound“ his Seminar About Long-term Thinking for Long Now at the SFJAZZ Center.

Recently Kevin recounted the story of creating Asia Grace in his talk at The XOXO Festival in Portland, talking to a new generation of creative makers…

Kevin Kellly photo by Christopher Michel
photos of Kevin Kelly by Christopher Michel