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The Long Now Foundation
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The website of "a very long-term cultural institution"

The Long Now Foundation, established in 1996, is a private organization that seeks to become the seed of a very long-term cultural institution. It aims to provide a counterpoint to what it views as today's "faster/cheaper" mindset and to promote "slower/better" thinking. The Long Now Foundation hopes to creatively foster responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years. To emphasize this horizon, the group writes years using five digits instead of four: 02008 instead of 2008.

The Foundation has several ongoing projects, including a 10,000-year clock known as the Clock of the Long Now, the Rosetta Project, the Long Bet Project, the open source Timeline Tool (also known as Longviewer), the Long Server and a monthly seminar series.

The purpose of the Clock of the Long Now is to construct a timepiece that will operate with minimum human intervention for ten millennia. It is to be constructed of durable materials, to be easy to repair, and to be made of largely valueless materials in case knowledge of the Clock is lost or it is deemed to be of no value to an individual or possible future civilization; in this way it is hoped that the Clock will not be looted or destroyed. Its power source (or sources) should be renewable but similarly unlootable. A prototype of a potential final clock candidate was activated on December 31, 1999, and is currently on display at the Science Museum at London. The Foundation hopes to construct the finished Clock at a location near Ely, Nevada.

The Rosetta Project is an effort to preserve all languages that have a high likelihood of extinction over the period from 2000 to 2100. These include many languages whose native speakers number in the thousands or less. Other languages with many more speakers are considered endangered by the project due to the increasing importance of English as an international language of commerce and culture. Samples of such languages are to be inscribed onto a disc of nickel alloy two inches (5.08 cm) across. A "Version 1.0" of the disc was completed in the Autumn of 2002.

The Seminars About Long-term Thinking are a series of monthly lectures in San Francisco, CA, presented by the Foundation. They are intended to "nudge civilization toward making long-term thinking automatic and common." Topics have included preserving environmental resources, the extension of the human lifespan, the likelihood of an asteroid strike in the future, SETI, and the nature of time.

"Civilization is reviving itself into a pathologically short attention span. The trend might be coming from the acceleration of technology, the short-horizon perspective of market-driven economics, the next-election perspective of democracies, or the distractions of personal multi-tasking. All are on the increase. Some sort of balancing corrective to the short-sightedness is needed—some mechanism or myth which encourages the long view and the taking of long-term responsibility—where 'long-term' is measured at least in centuries. Long Now proposes both a mechanism and a myth." ―Stewart Brand

"When I was a child, people used to talk about what would happen by the year 2000. For the next thirty years they kept talking about what would happen by the year 2000, and now no one mentions a future date at all. The future has been shrinking by one year per year for my entire life. I think it is time for us to start a long-term project that gets people thinking past the mental barrier of an ever-shortening future. I would like to propose a large (think Stonehenge) mechanical clock, powered by seasonal temperature changes. It ticks once a year, bongs once a century, and the cuckoo comes out every millennium." ―Danny Hillis



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