Jem Finer Performs at the Exploratorium

Posted on April 1st, 02014 by Charlotte Hajer
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Jem Finer, composer of the 1,000 year long composition Longplayer and a founding member of the band The Pogues, will be performing at the Exploratorium on Thursday, April 10, 02014. The event will be the fourth installment of Resonance, a new music series that explores “distant realms of musical possibility.” The Exploratorium describes the upcoming performance as follows:

The evening will feature a conversation with Finer and host Sarah Cahill and performances of “Original Soundtrack #5″ and “Starfield.”  Finer’s “Original Soundtrack #5″ is an inversion of the usual supporting role of the soundtrack. Finer gathered sound using a video camera, then draws upon this raw material to compose improvisational films whose visual component is a byproduct of these sound juxtapositions. The Exploratorium performance of “Original Soundtrack #5″ will also include new material recorded in San Francisco. In addition, Finer will perform “Starfield.” Each star shines with a unique spectrum of light frequencies. By translating these into sound, Finer generated the raw material for this celestial composition.

The event will be held at the Exploratorium’s Kanbar Forum, which features a Meyer sound system – similar to the one Long Now will have at The Interval. This performance is part of the After Dark series; tickets to Resonance can be purchased here and include admission to the main After Dark event after the performance is over. Seating in the Kanbar Forum is limited and on a first come first serve basis, so it is recommended to arrive before the show time of 7:00pm.

Previous performances can be viewed on the Resonance website; you can expect to see Jem Finer’s added here in a few weeks.

Long Now hosted a performance of Longplayer and a Long Conversation event in 02010 in San Francisco. Audio of Jem Finer’s conversation with Stewart Brand from that event is in our Seminar section (video available for members).

Tony Hsieh Seminar Tickets

Posted on March 27th, 02014 by Andrew Warner
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The Long Now Foundation’s monthly

Seminars About Long-term Thinking

Tony Hsieh presents Helping Revitalize a City

Tony Hsieh presents “Helping Revitalize a City”


Tuesday April 22, 02014 at 7:30pm SFJAZZ Center

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


About this Seminar:

Can a successful company and a run-down downtown vitalize each other?

Tony Hsieh, CEO of the phenomenally successful Zappos, is betting exactly that in Las Vegas.  He moved his company headquarters into the former city hall and is integrating the Zappos campus into the surrounding neighborhood, meanwhile investing millions to provide a dense urban experience for the locals as well as his employees.  His “Downtown Project” declares: “We’ve allocated $350 million to aid in the revitalization of Downtown Las Vegas. We’re investing $200 million in real estate, $50 million in small businesses, $50 million in education, and $50 million in tech startups.”

The fantasy is well along into impressive reality, according to a January 2014 article in Wired.  What is being learned may change how cities and companies think of themselves—and of each other.

Hsieh’s theory of urban vitality comes from Edward Glaeser’s book The Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier.  His theory of company vitality he has spelled out in his own book, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose.

Megan and Rick Prelinger’s Selected Books for the Manual for Civilization

Posted on March 25th, 02014 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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Today we continue the series of posts featuring the books suggested for the Manual for Civilization with a list from a couple of guerrilla archivists here in San Francisco, Megan and Rick Prelinger. In all, we hope to develop an ever-changing collection of 3,500 volumes to form a corpus which could sustain or rebuild civilization. To broaden our selection process we’ve asked Long Now members and Interval at Long Now donors to suggest books for the list.  Please join us and make your suggestions; we are just weeks away from opening.


Rick Prelinger has the distinction of giving more presentations in our Seminars About Long-term Thinking series than anyone. The last six Decembers he’s presented a vintage film collection in his “Lost Landscapes” series, usually centered on family home movies and other non-professional sources. Megan is a cultural historian and archivist in her own right and is the author of Another Science Fiction: Advertising the Space Race 1957–1962. Megan’s knowledge of the US space program is encyclopedic and nuanced. Together they began the Prelinger Library in 02004 which is open to the public and focuses on their mutual interest in “ephemeral literature.” Megan came up with a unique organizational structure for their collection which is sorted by geography. As you will see, the collection has particularly great resources on the built landscape and the space program.

The Prelingers personally walked us through their library to select some singular additions to our Manual for Civilization collection. Like the others we have posted, their list is intended as a component of a larger corpus. Each subset of books represents a perspective, sometimes a highly specialized one, that will help to document and sustain this complex system we call Civilization. Enjoy.


Many thanks to the Prelingers for taking the time and care to recommend these books for our collection.

Their list adds to suggestions from Kevin Kelly, Maria Popova, Violet Blue, Stewart Brand, Brian Eno and dozens of Long Now members and supporters.

You can visit the Manual in person and drink coffee, tea, or a cocktail while reading up on rabbit raising and bamboo cultivation at The Interval at Long Now. Or follow Neal Stephenson’s suggestion…


You’ll see Neal’s list of books here soon, as well as lists from Danny Hillis, Neil Gaiman, Mark Pauline, and others. And not long after that you’ll have the chance to visit The Interval in person. Construction is nearly complete, and the Interval will open later this Spring in San Francisco.

Thanks to many of you we have raised over 3/4 of our “brickstarter” goal. So we are asking for your generous support to help us finish construction and complete this project, including acquiring books for the Manual for Civilization.

Manual for Civilization Shelf level

Construction of The Interval at Long Now: Shelves and Booths

Posted on March 20th, 02014 by Mikl Em
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photos by Catherine Borgeson (except where noted)

We’ve talked a lot in recent weeks about the Manual for Civilization and all the books we are adding based on suggestions from Brian Eno, Kevin Kelly, Maria Popova, Violet Blue, Stewart Brand and others (see the lists). Now we can start to show you where those books will go at The Interval, as the first of our floor-to-ceiling library shelves are put in place.

We love the images that our designers put together of The Interval. See them here, where you can also donate to help us complete funding of the project. And get amazing Long Now stuff as a thank you.

The Interval at Long Now

But it gets really exciting when we can compare the design to what the space looks like today. There’s been huge progress recently, you can see the new venue starting to emerge from the concrete dust and tool-strewn worksite. Here’s what it looked like in January when Brian Eno visited the site:

Brian Eno visits the future site of The Interval Brian Eno visited The Interval construction in January
photo by Alexander Rose

We have come a long way since the photo above with all the electrical, plumbing and walls done now.

We have featured the original concrete and steel as a tribute to when this space was the blacksmith shop in the days when the US Army ran Fort Mason.

Just this week the built-in seating was installed:

The Interval at Long Now Under Construction

And here are the same booths in cardboard and in concept….

The Interval at Long Now Under Construction

Soon. Not yet days. But weeks not months or years. It won’t be too long… Help us build it.

Edward Burtynsky: The 10,000-year Gallery – A Seminar Flashback

Posted on March 19th, 02014 by Mikl Em
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In October 02008 Edward Burtynsky spoke for Long Now on The 10,000-year Gallery. Burtynsky, an internationally-recognized photographer, presented his ideas for a gallery of images to accompany the Clock of the Long Now.

Twice a month we highlight a Seminar About Long-term Thinking (SALT) from our archives. Long Now members can watch this Seminar video here, and this talk is even better with the visuals.

SALT audio is free for everyone on our Seminar pages 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.

Burtynsky’s The 10,000-year Gallery talk includes a formal proposal for a permanent art gallery in the chamber that encloses the 10,000-year Clock as well as the results of his research into methods of capturing images that might have the best chance to survive in the long-term.

Photographer Edward Burtynsky

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

On the stage Burtynsky showed a large carbon transfer print of one of his ultra-high resolution photographs. The color and detail were perfect. Accelerated studies show that the print could hang in someone’s living room for 500 years and show no loss of quality. Kept in the Clock’s mountain in archival conditions it would remain unchanged for 10,000 years. He said that making one print takes five days of work, costs $2,000, and only ten artisans in the world have the skill, at locations in Toronto, Seattle, and Cornwall.

Edward Burtynsky‘s photographs are collected in museums all over the world. He is known for his large-format photographs of industrial landscapes which include mining locations around the globe and the building of Three Gorges Dam in China. His work has been noted for beautiful images which are often at odds with their subject’s negative environmental impacts. In recent years his work has focused on water including oil spills around the world.

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.

Kevin Kelly’s Selected Books for the Manual for Civilization

Posted on March 18th, 02014 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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Kevin Kelly selecting books for the Manual For Civilization (photo by Catherine Borgeson)

Kevin Kelly selecting books for the Manual For Civilization (photo by Catherine Borgeson)

Today we continue the series of posts featuring the books suggested for the Manual for Civilization with a large list from Long Now Founding Board Member Kevin Kelly. In all we hope to have as many as 3,500 volumes to form a corpus which could sustain or rebuild civilization. To broaden our selection process we’ve asked Long Now members and Interval at Long Now donors to suggest books for the list.

Last week one of our members, Maria Popova, who writes the great blog Brain Pickings, gave us her list of 33 books. We are big fans of her work, and we are honored to include her excellent selections. They join about 1,800 other books suggested so far by Long Now’s members, donors and friends. There is still room for a few thousand more suggestions…

To add your own recommendations of books to include in the Manual for Civilization and vote on which suggested titles should find a place on The Interval’s shelves, just make a donation to support the project. All donors, at any level, can suggest and vote on books. We have raised over $35,000 in the last month, but still need your help to complete this “brickstarter” funding campaign.


For this week’s update Kevin Kelly gave us a tour of his personal library as he made his choices for the Manual for Civilization.  Among his many accomplishments, Kevin has ridden a bike or walked across several continents, has written for the Whole Earth Catalog, was founding editor of Wired, and has himself written several books–most recently the New York Times acclaimed Cool Tools.

Kevin has a knack for finding the most useful books in the world. In fact, he gave us the largest list of suggestions yet: nearly 200 in all. Pulled directly from the shelves of his own library, he gave us books that document practical skills, how to make useful things, and that teach and improve those who read them. Many of these books also appear as tools on his Cool Tools blog (now co-edited by Mark Frauenfelder).

A few choice selections at the top include his own comments on some of the books (you may need to hit the more below to see the full 200).

Practical Bamboos:The 50 Best Plants for Screens, Containers and More:
“I own a lot of bamboo books, but Practical Bamboos is by far the most useful of all. Other bamboo books are more encyclopedic; this one focuses on “only” the 50 most useful bamboo species, spelling out what types are good for fence rows, which are drought resistant, which work well in containers, and how to identify those variants from lookalikes. There’s very specific growing tips for each variety and solid advice about the principles of growing bamboo plants in general.”

Caveman Chemistry: 28 Projects, from the Creation of Fire to the Production of Plastics by Kevin M. Dunn

The Soundscape:
“The sound of modern life has a 60 hertz hum in the background because that’s the frequency of electricity (in North America). Add to that all the other vibrations of technological artifacts and all the sounds made by nature and you get the soundscape of the world. I learned to hear this sonic environment from this master observer. He gave me ears.”

The Backyard Blacksmith by Lorelei Sims

A Museum of Early American Tools:
“A story is told by each tool archived in this paper museum. The tool reveals the amazing things that can be done with your own body’s power, regulated by your eye and mind. Listening to the tool, you can understand how things are made. Not only do these tools run without electricity, they can be made with other hand tools. There’s enough information in these packed drawings by Eric Sloane to enable you to make them yourself, to use to make other things. It’s kind of magical.”

Civilizations: Ten Thousand Years of Ancient History by Jane McIntosh and Clint Twist

Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits:
“For nearly 40 years this guide has introduced boy scouts, 4H-ers, homesteaders, survivalists, and pet keepers to the practicalities of raising rabbits. Now in a new 4th edition, it’s still the best manual for getting started with rabbits for food or show.”

Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources by M. Kat Anderson

Read the rest of this entry »

Alexander Rose Speaking at Chabot Space & Science Center

Posted on March 15th, 02014 by Andrew Warner
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future-fridays2013On Friday March 21st, the Executive Director of The Long Now Foundation, Alexander Rose, will be speaking about The 10,000-Year Clock at the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland. The talk is part of their Future Fridays speaking series, which brings science and technology leaders to the Bay Area for conversation with the community. Past speakers include Bill Nye, Michio Kaku, and Robert Weiss; upcoming 02014 speakers include former SALT speakers Ed Moses and Will Wright.

alexander-roseThe Chabot Space & Science Center is offering Long Now Members discounted advanced tickets for this talk. Tickets can be found here, and the member discount code is “RSVP1014”.

For more information on the talk and the series, please visit the Future Fridays website.

We hope to see you there!

The Chalkboard Robot for The Interval

Posted on March 13th, 02014 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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Viktor – 5000 Years of Chairs, by Jürg Lehni

One of the features we’ve included in our design for The Interval at Long Now from the very beginning has been a chalkboard robot. To be located next to the presenter screen, we imagined it could be used live in presentations, write Long Bets challenged at the bar, or write live messages and menu items. We had thought that we would be developing this robot ourselves, until we were introduced to the work of Swiss artist Jürg Lehni. With support by Swissnex, Jürg recently visited San Francisco to participate in shows with SOMArts and the SFMOMA with his very own chalk drawing machine called Viktor (shown in the video above). We contacted Jürg while he was in town, and as chance would have it, he was just then including references to Stewart Brand, the Well, and the Whole Earth Catalog into the live drawing event he would be participating in that evening (click on the image below to see what it drew that night).


We invited Jürg to Long Now the next week, and discussed how we might work together. We are now pleased to announce that we have commissioned Jürg and his team in Switzerland to build a custom version of his chalkboard robot for our space, as well as the software to interface with it. We will also be working with Jürg to develop content for the robot and figure out how to make it a platform for use by visiting speakers and artists.


The design is extremely elegant and robust, 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. We will be bringing Jürg back to San Francisco for installation and commissioning of the robot this spring. All we need now is your help to finish fundraising for the space, so we can make this happen.

We are in the home stretch. Every donation counts! Please donate to help us raise the last $100,000 and create an amazing place for us all.


You can see more about artist Jürg Lehni and his amazing robots at his site here.

Violet Blue’s Selected Books for the Manual for Civilization

Posted on March 11th, 02014 by Catherine Borgeson
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Violet Blue in front of her library. Photo courtesy of Violet Blue

Violet Blue in front of her library. Photo courtesy of Violet Blue

Continuing our series of posts highlighting books suggested for our Manual for Civilization library at The Interval, today we have a specialized list selected by Violet Blue.  As a library designed to help sustain or rebuild civilization, one of the first categories that came to mind were sexuality and reproduction.  A civilization cannot have a future without either.

We asked Violet Blue to curate a set of books on sexuality as she is an award-winning sex author & blogger.  It also turns out that in her past she was a book reviewer for Good Vibrations selecting books related to sexuality for their library, much of which is now contained at San Francisco’s Center for Sex and Culture.

The 16 books on sexuality that Violet Blue recommended are below with her comments on each selection. They will become part of the 3,500-volume collection.  We will also soon be publishing a list of books on birth and reproduction suggested by midwife and nurse practitioner Ami Burnham.

The Manual will serve as the library for The Interval at Long Now, our new public space opening this Spring. Recently we’ve shared Brian Eno and Stewart Brand’s Manual suggestions, and we have more lists to come including those from Neil Gaiman, Kevin Kelly, Neal Stephenson, and Megan and Rick Prelinger. Our Interval donors and Long Now members can also recommend books and vote on those already suggested.  Please help us raise the remaining funds required to fill our shelves with these thoughtfully chosen books.

Violet suggested reference books, science books and erotica; volumes on gender, how to talk to kids about sex, and even robots. Titles below marked with ** were suggested for inclusion by fellow sexuality expert Susie Bright.  Here’s the list:

  • The Guide to Getting it On (7th edition) by Paul Joannides
    This book is so accurate and complete about everything surrounding sexual contact, there’s no need for individual books on specific acts, health concerns or even sexual mishaps. Warm, welcoming, fun, smart, explicit and illustrated, it leaves no question about adult sexuality unanswered and expertly weaves together sex information from our greatest sex researchers and contemporary sex educators alike.
  • What Makes A Baby by Cory Silverberg, Fiona Smyth
    If there’s one book for helping kids understand sexuality and gender, this book (appropriate for all ages) is wonderfully accessible, complete and makes the “big talk” into a lovely narrative about family.
  • My (New) Gender Workbook by Kate Bornstein
    This smart, humorous workbook is essential for understanding gender as it relates to our sexual identities, our sexual roles, and the way we identify and our understand sexual orientation – as well as the experiences of others (including our loved ones).
  • Erotic Fantasies, A Study of the Sexual Imagination by Phyllis and Eberhard Kronhausen**
    At the heart of human sexuality, we find the richness, complexity and necessity of human sexual fantasies. Standing on the shoulders of the Kinsey Report, this book is both at once an explicit compendium of fantasies, an informative exploration of what fantasies are, and a guide to why they’re inextricably woven into the fabric of our sexual selves.
  • Erotica Universalis by Gilles Neret
    Beautiful, striking, lurid, romantic, informative, and above all – unbridled insight into the erotic imagination, obsessions, traditions and sexual desires of a human civilization are between the covers of this erotic art bestiary. A tasteful collection of erotic art and imagery through the ages.
  • The Collected Erotica: An Illustrated Celebration of Human Sexuality Through the Ages by Charlotte Hill and William Wallace
    This astonishingly comprehensive book presents over 2000 years of Eastern and Western sexual art and literature. Images from private collections, libraries and galleries are combined with a huge array of erotic short stores by writers that include Boccaccio, Oscar Wilde, Jean Cocteau, Erica Jong, Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Pauline Reage and more.
  • X: The Erotic Treasury by Susie Bright
    Erotica of the 21st century is unlike anything that precedes; not only in narrative and style, but in a whole new range of sexual expression, sex acts, female sexual agency, male sexual expression, and intellectually complex, emotionally sophisticated scenarios. And inspiration is important when you’re re-keying civilization.
  • Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong by Russ Kick
    This nonfiction anthology brings together some of the greatest minds that have lived sexual lives loudly (and sometimes proudly) outside contemporary mainstream culture in essays that explore society’s sexual misconceptions.
  • Art of Sexual Ecstasy by Margot Anand
    The most full, deep, and practical book on spirituality and sexuality of our era details the passion and implementation of Tantric sexuality.
  • Love and Sex With Robots by David Levy
    Human sexuality and technology have been intertwined much longer than the Internet era has been around, and so a book so thoroughly encompassing people’s sexual and emotional attraction and attachment to robots, artificial intelligence and tech-related objects is mind-opening.
  • Fetish Sex: A Complete Guide by Violet Blue
    The edges of human sexuality are the least understood. I hesitated about suggesting my own book, but so far no other book explores the actual practices of those who sexualize and have sexual relationships with the bizarre, in a nonjudgmental, all-gender and all-orientation approach. A definitive guide to the sexual practices, styles, and fantasies that live far outside the norm.
  • Healing Sex by Staci Hanes
    A complete, essential and sex-positive guide for people of all genders and orientations that have experienced and survived sexual trauma, violence or assault – and their partners.
  • Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach
    A nonfiction exploration of sexuality and science – not only human sexuality and all its strange foibles and unbelievable variables, but also sex in science and commerce.
  • The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals by Stephanie A. Brill and Rachel Pepper
    While aimed at parents with gender-variant kids, and providing a much-needed guide for coping with positive, negative and awkward scenarios, this book is essential reading for everyone in our gender-variant, compassion-challenged world.
  • The Erotic Mind by Jack Morin**
    A psychological exploration of peak sexual experience, and why they happen to us in complicated ways such as during grief or when faced with conflict.
  • Sensuous Magic (2nd edition) by Patrick Califia
    No other book comes close to this incredible guide to BDSM practices and relationships. This tome is a complete reference and advice guide, demystifying – and providing erotic illumination to – power exchange, pleasure and sensation, erotic punishment, bondage, sex in S/M scenes, communication, negotiation, and consent.

Long Now would like to thank Violet Blue for these considered selections.

To add your own recommendations of books to include in the Manual for Civilization and vote on which suggested titles should find a place on The Interval’s shelves, just make a donation to support the project. All donors, at any level, can suggest and vote on books. You can be a part of giving long-term thinkers a beautiful place to gather, full of amazing books.

Manual for Civilization Shelf level


Mariana Mazzucato Seminar Primer

Posted on March 10th, 02014 by Andrew Warner
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Since the Enlightenment and its corresponding assumptions of social-technological progress, scholars have debated what political and economic systems best facilitate technological growth.
These days, one of the common assumptions of the technology sector is that the government is fundamentally a limiting force when it comes to innovation. This view is a well-established conservative position since the advent of the Chicago School of Keynesian Economics, but even among progressives, there’s a strong sentiment that the government doesn’t have what it takes to innovate and bring new technologies to the helm. Headlines seem to support this theory: it takes the private sector a fraction of the cost to send rockets to space, new laws banning disruptive technology companies like AirBnb and Uber seem to crop up every week. A cursory glance at this issue would seem to suggest that when it comes to developing new technologies, Thomas Jefferson’s maxim still rings loud and true: That government which governs best, governs least.

5579b77b74fa8628aaa2b0fb97317742e3d7b6c1_254x191Enter Mariana Mazzucato. Currently the RM Phillips chair in the Economics of Innovation at the University of Sussex, she also has a long resume of academic positions at other prestigious universities, including University of Denver, London Business School, Open University, and Bocconi University. Her research focuses on the role of the State in modern capitalism, and her analysis runs counter to the tech communities’ common understanding of how technologies come to market. Mariana Mazzucato’s research shows that many of the technologies that form the backbone of our technological revolutions were the direct result of multi-decade research by the state. Consider the examples of computers, the internet, and GPS–all of these technologies were developed and funded by the government for decades before entering the consumer market, and it’s impossible to imagine an iphone without these technologies.

In his 02011 SALT talk, Geoffrey West noted that the average lifespan of a company is merely 10 years. On such short time scales, it’s hard for companies to invest in technologies that don’t have immediate market potential. It’s not a coincidence that Apple or Google came to fruition under the auspices of a government that heavily invested in these technologies: the computer manufacturer was able to build its first machine by virtue of a $500,000 investment from an obscure government entity, and the search engine’s revolutionary algorithm was developed through research that was funded by the National Science Foundation. When one then considers the network of publicly-funded universities and labs (which developed technologies such as HTML and touchscreens), the mythos of the lone entrepreneur/inventor starts to look incomplete at best.

Mazzucato’s analysis forces us to ponder a rather uncomfortable question: Why do we systematically downplay these long-term investments by the government, and champion the companies that bring these mature technologies to market?

To learn more about the economics of innovation, come see Mariana Mazzucato on March 24th at the SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco. You can reserve tickets, get directions and sign up for the podcast on the Seminar page.

Subscribe to the Seminars About Long-term Thinking podcast for more thought-provoking programs.

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