The Long Now Foundation's 10,000-year clock
The grandfather of all clocks -- a clock that will register each unique moment for the next 10,000 years -- is under construction.
This story was originally covered by PRI's Here and Now. For more, listen to the audio above.
When The Long Now Foundation says "consider the big picture," they're talking colossal. The foundation, whose mission is "to creatively foster long-term thinking and responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years," is working on a new clock and other similar projects, to bring people's attention to "deep time."
Executive Director of The Long Now Foundation, Alexander Rose, describes the purpose of the timepiece:
The idea is to build a kind of icon to long-term thinking, and it will hopefully do what the Grand Canyon does when you're standing on the edge of it, and you really get a sense of deep time. But unlike the Grand Canyon, which is in the scale of millions of years, and kind of dwarfs humanity, this is in an exact human scale, in a sense. 10,000 years is about how long we've had agriculture, and then cities not long after, and the idea is, if we can look back 10,000 years, we should be able to look forward 10,000 years.
The fastest tick of the clock registers every 10 seconds. It is set to chime at markers such as the year, decade, century and millennium, and the 10 bells inside the clock will ring in a different sequence each day for 10,000 years.
In addition to the 10,000 Year Clock project, the Foundation is creating a digital library to preserve language for 10,000 years. Rose says that scientists invested in communication with extraterrestrials are especially interested in the foundation's work. He says:
We've had people like Jill Tarter from Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence, talking about her issues around long-term communication -- if they were to send out a SETI signal for instance, for another civilization to hear, they likely won't hear back from it for several thousand years. And so how would humanity carry on a multi-thousand year conversation?
The foundation encourages people to consider the value of slower, better production, rather than the cheaper, faster ideology of today's society. Ironically, much of the funding for the Foundation comes from people who may be considered responsible for the fast pace of today's culture. Alexander Rose explains:
It was founded and continues to be funded, by a lot of the Silicon Valley, dot-com crowd, and this crowd is obviously partially responsible for the speeding up of our cultural awareness, but since they're at that forefront, they are also finding themselves reminiscing of a time when things did work a little bit slower, and are worried that there are problems in the environment -- climate change, hunger, all of these are types of problems -- that could only be solved at a much slower time scale. And if one election cycle, or a five year company plan -- if that's all your horizon is -- then you aren't going to even start to solve them.
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