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Clock of the Long Now: Time and Responsibility: The Ideas Behind the World's Slowest Computer

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  586 Ratings  ·  70 Reviews
Using the designing and building of the Clock of the Long Now as a framework, this is a book about the practical use of long time perspective: how to get it, how to use it, how to keep it in and out of sight. Here are the central questions it inspires: How do we make long-term thinking automatic and common instead of difficult and rare? Discipline in thought allows freedom ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published April 6th 2000 by Basic Books (first published 1999)
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Otis Chandler
Giving a high rating because I heard the organizer of the Long Now Foundation speak and it was very inspiring. The Interval Cafe in San Francisco is also awesome and has The Long Library in it.

The part of the story that I liked most was the power of long thinking. How Oxford College has some gorgeous oak tree beams in their dining room, and they were crumbling, and so they wondered how to replace them. They created a search, and happened to ask the Oxford groundskeeper if any of the oak trees on
Dec 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy-essay
The Clock of the Long Now is an attempt by a group of forward thinkers --engineers, futurists, visionaries--to create a device to stimulate people to take a longer view of time. An actual physical clock that will "time" the next 10,000 years. Why ten thousand? Because 10,000 years ago, mankind invented agriculture, and with it, civilization began. The enormous leap wherein human beings planted seed for the coming year, rather than eating it. A sense that the future will come and can be cultivate ...more
Darin Stewart
May 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
this is a wonderfully optimistic book. I have been sinking into severe pessimism about our society and this book helps to take a long view. With that shift in perspective, things do seem to be getting better, just very very slowly.
Feb 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I just got this back from a friend and seeing it again reminded me how much I loved it. The author and Brian Eno (yes, THAT Brian Eno) had the idea of building an informational repository with a ten-thousand year time line in mind. This simple idea creates some large and fascinating questions. How do you store information for ten-thousand years? What media do you use? What _language_ do you use? How do you make sure that people don't forget about it? You want people to remember it is there, but ...more
Chinarut Ruangchotvit
Oct 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Jim Maricondo
Recommended to Chinarut by: Phil Libin
I got this book back in October at the Evernote Conference in 2014. Phil Libin raved about the book and now that I've read it - I can see why. As a futurist and a strategist, the book did a fascinating job widening my perspective not only 10,000 years into the future, but also made me very conscious about what got us here. What is it going to take to preserve aspects of our civilizations for thousands of centuries to come? Many great inquiries are posed to make you realize it takes a completely ...more
Jul 21, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting book from an interesting foundation. Lots of good ideas and things to ponder here. I probably should have taken notes throughout, but perhaps I'll just put it on my list of books to reread.

One interesting story, toward the end of the book:
"Another island, Visingso, in the Swedish lake Vattern, has a gorgeous mature oak forest whose origin came to light in 01980 when the Swedish Navy received a letter from the Forestry Department reporting that the requested ship lumber was now rea
Jun 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Some of this book is already getting a bit dated, and much if it was not new thoughts, since I follow the Long Now lectures and have even been to their space in SF. But it was still a worthwhile read.

Particularly useful was the diagram layering Art & Fashion / Commerce / Infrastructure / Government / Culture from fast to slow. It made me think about how I have mostly skipped the commercial in my work and went straight to infrastructure, and what may lie beyond that.

Also enjoyed the detail in
"We don’t know what’s coming. We do know we’re in it together."

This book muses on the thinking behind the mission and strategy of the Long Now Foundation, established in 1996 by a group including Stewart Brand, Kevin Kelly, Brian Eno and Esther Dyson. These San Francisco Bay area pundits, creatives, and entrepreneurs had already a long shared history behind them, going back to the publication of the Whole Earth Catalog in 1968 and the founding of the Global Business Network (with which I was bri
Jul 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I read this the year it was first published. It remains one of the most important books that I have been lucky enough to read. The authors argue that it is increasingly difficult to imagine the future, in part because the technology that surrounds us is changing the world so rapidly. The work we do, the countries on the globe, and the lives we lead are all changing. How we communicate, how we travel, how we think of ourselves is unlike when our grandparents lived and it will be only vaguely like ...more
Jul 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
I first heard about the Clock of the Long Now when listening to a radio interview with Brian Eno a few years ago. The name is resonant and stuck in my head. Someone lent me the book when it came up in conversation, and I've finally got round to reading it. Written in 1998, with an afterword from just after the millennium, it's suffused with a certain Silicon Valley optimism that these days can be rather grating, as Zuckerberg patiently tells us of Facebook's mission to make the world a better pl ...more
Teo 2050
The Long Now Clock/Library is a project to do to our sense of time what a full photograph of the Earth ("Big Here") did to our sense of space: remind us of the bigger picture. Together they are the Long Here, which is an awesomely poetic place & way to live.

(view spoiler)
Paola Quiros
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Love the design principles on the chapter "The world's slowest computer": Longevity, maintainability, transparency, evolvability and scalability.... They all should be our filter for our projects in life/work/love.
Jun 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I think that everyone who has a reason to think about information and everyone who has any concern at all about the environment needs to read this book. I offers an invitation at least to open up our thinking out of the economically bound timescapes that we use now.
Austin Storm
Mar 22, 2009 rated it liked it
Good book... very skimmable collection of essays from a thoughtful, starry-eyed hippie type.
Ideas in here are 5 stars (even if they seem overly pie in the sky)
Michael Dubakov
Mar 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is about slow down.

The urgent always had a louder, clearer voice than the background rumble of the important.
— But the pessimists are always right! (Applause)
— Yeah, and they love it. My worry is they love it so much they avoid any efforts that might make them wrong.
macro-myopia: “we overexpect dramatic developments early, and underexpect them in the longer term.”
Fast learners tend to track noisy signals too closely and to confuse themselves by making changes before the effect
May 15, 2017 rated it liked it
The clock of the long now is an interesting collection of essays about an interesting art piece (that is the purpose of the clock is to send a message more than tell the time, although it does look nice and is about as cool as a mechanical computer could be). The book is sort of similar to what you might expect the commentary around such an art piece would be, philosophizing about the purpose and motivation and implications. There were some interesting bits in here, lots of interesting ideas and ...more
"Using the Millennial Clock -- a supremely slow computer that will keep perfect time for the next 10,000 years -- as a paradigm for the Long Now. Stewart Brand, called 'the least recognized most influential thinker in America,' offers a practical manual that introduces us to the concept of long-term responsibility."
~~back cover

I adored this book! I hadn't heard of the Long Now before, although I already knew that humanity is too short-sighted and that defect will likely be our demise. So imagine
Peter Heft
Feb 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
While it took me forever to finish (which isn't necessarily a bad thing given the theme of the book), I loved The Clock of the Long Now. While Brand was, at times, repetitive and while the book was certainly less philosophically rigorous than I would have liked (although it's not meant to be philosophical), it was a wonderful read and a nice juxtaposition to accelerationist literature I've been reading. Ultimately, I think that Brand's book has something for everyone and there are plenty of aven ...more
Samuel   Harris
Feb 23, 2018 rated it liked it
some hugely important concepts worth reading. but funnily enough book does feel dated a little in some aspects and already feels like he didn't pay enough attention to some things. and the whole clock part itself is maybe not that interesting. would have like to hear a bit more about AI and the changes in next 10,000 years and less repeated rambling on how great brian eno is...
Yates Buckley
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: essential
The idea itself of a clock designed to run 10,000 years is incredible: on the one hand preposterous, ridiculous, pharaonic even. My first reaction was to think that the idea was a bit crazy, and I could not see the point to such a construct. The process that took me from absurd to enthusiastic follows the words of this book.
Only if we seriously work on projects for our deep future, can we come to respect and care for it, like we would our personal descendants. And I do believe many of the most c
Rick Pastoor
Oct 07, 2017 rated it liked it
I liked chapter 24 the most: sustained endavor. “There are problems that are impossible if you think about them in two-year terms—which everyone does—but they’re easy if you think in fifty-year terms”
Gwynne Eldridge
Mar 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating concept for a ten-thousand-year clock and accompanying library.
Jason Comely
Aug 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Book reading as a form of meditation.
Feb 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library
Thought-provoking - and with bits and pieces of story inspiration scattered through the pages.
Carlton Moore
Nov 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Quite thought-provoking, especially for something published before the millennium.
Aug 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Steward Brand uses his book to explain the idea of the "long now". It examines the topic of thinking and planning for the long term - litterally millenia.

The book introduces the clock of the long now project - a 10,000 year clock - intended to help shift the concept of "now" for humanity and inspire true long term thinking.

The idea of the long now clock came from Daniel Hillis who observed:

"When I was a child, people used to talk about what would happen by the year 02000. For the next thirty ye
Apr 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Delicious food for thought about thinking the value of thinking in the long term vs the short term, and how we can make that shift. Written in 1999, Brand looks at the effects of the shortening of the human attention span in our capacity (and desire) to plan for future generations. Through a series of essays, he takes different approaches on how societies work, the roles of libraries and museums, the difference between the two Greek concepts of time (chronos = linear time; kairos = opportune mom ...more
Apr 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
I've had this book for about 10 years but never gotten around to reading it. I noticed it on the shelf recently and paging through it was inspired to read it. It didn't hurt that my wife's book club was reading Anathem by Neal Stephenson, a book which draws much of it's inspiration from the projects described in this book.

What is the clock of the long now? It's a project to create a clock and library to last for 10,000 years or more. Sound ambitious? It is, and this book tries to describe the re
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Stewart Brand was a pioneer in the environmental movement in the 60s – his Whole Earth Catalog became the Bible for sustainable living, selling more than 10 million copies worldwide. Brand is President of The Long Now Foundation and chairs the foundation's Seminars About Long-term Thinking.
More about Stewart Brand

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“The mathematician and physicist Freeman Dyson makes a related observation about human society: The destiny of our species is shaped by the imperatives of survival on six distinct time scales. To survive means to compete successfully on all six time scales. But the unit of survival is different at each of the six time scales. On a time scale of years, the unit is the individual. On a time scale of decades, the unit is the family. On a time scale of centuries, the unit is the tribe or nation. On a time scale of millennia, the unit is the culture. On a time scale of tens of millennia, the unit is the species. On a time scale of eons, the unit is the whole web of life on our planet. Every human being is the product of adaptation to the demands of all six time scales. That is why conflicting loyalties are deep in our nature. In order to survive, we have needed to be loyal to ourselves, to our families, to our tribes, to our cultures, to our species, to our planet. If our psychological impulses are complicated, it is because they were shaped by complicated and conflicting demands.” 5 likes
“Civilization is revving 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 multitasking. All are on the increase. Some sort of balancing corrective to the short-sightedness is needed—some mechanism or myth that encourages the long view and the taking of long-term responsibility, where “the long term” is measured at least in centuries.” 3 likes
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