As part of the BBC’s ongoing series on deep time, Alexander Rose describes the research he’s been doing for the clock of the long now—materials, locations, ideas …all the pieces that have historically combined to allow artifacts to survive.
If we had ten hours in a day, instead of 24, and if each of these hours had 100 minutes instead of 60, and if every minute had 100 seconds, our clocks would look like this…
Taking the idea of the Clock of the Long Now and applying it to a twitterbot:
Software may not be as well suited as a finely engineered clock to operate on these sorts of geological scales, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to put some of the 10,000 year clock’s design principles to work.
The bot will almost certainly fall foul of Twitter’s API changes long before the next tweet-chime is due, but it’s still fascinating to see the clock’s principles applied to software: longevity, maintainability, transparency, evolvability, and scalability.
Software tends to stay in operation longer than we think it will when we first wrote it, and the wearing effects of entropy within it and its ecosystem often take their toll more quickly and more destructively than we could imagine. You don’t need to be thinking on a scale of 10,000 years to make applying these principles a good idea.
As installation begins, it feels like a good time to revisit this twelve year old essay by Michael Chabon on The Clock Of The Long Now. It’s a remarkable piece of writing about our relationship to the very idea of The Future, and how that relationship has changed in just one lifetime.
Ten thousand years from now: can you imagine that day? Okay, but do you? Do you believe “the Future” is going to happen? If the Clock works the way that it’s supposed to do—if it lasts—do you believe there will be a human being around to witness, let alone mourn its passing, to appreciate its accomplishment, its faithfulness, its immense antiquity? What about five thousand years from now, or even five hundred? Can you extend the horizon of your expectations for our world, for our complex of civilizations and cultures, beyond the lifetime of your own children, of the next two or three generations? Can you even imagine the survival of the world beyond the present presidential administration?
The Long Now Foundation has been posting some great stuff on their blog lately. The latest is a look at orreries, clocks, and computers throughout history …and into the future.
An unfolding series of vignettes written by Danny Hillis back in 2010. It’s all very Borgesian.
A short feature on the 10,000 year clock.
This infographic offers a visual way to explore the various stages of the Earth’s history using a 12 hour clock analogy.
This is quite beautiful in its simplicity: the hexadecimal colour value of the current time.
Michael Chabon muses on The Future, prompted by the Clock of the Long Now.
This serendipitous chronometer shows tweets that are mentioning the current time.
Jeff Bezos has put together a little site to give some background on The Clock Of The Long Now: soon to be open to visitors.
A cute hardware hack: send a tweet with the word TwitweeClock, the hashtag #TwitweeClock, or the username @TwitweeClock, and this cuckoo clock will, well, cuckoo.
Pictures of some prototypes of the clock of the Long Now.
In a bold move of reverse vandalism, a group of French cultural guerrillas secretly repaired the broken clock in the Pantheon.
I can only see the dancer going clockwise. Jessica saw anti-clockwise at first but was then able to change direction. I can't do that.
An ingenious alarm clock that runs away if you don't turn it off quickly enough.