Jan 01

A 10,000 Year Clock?

In my ramblings around the interwebs I occasionally stumble into some fascinating websites with captivating reading material. One such site called, longnow.com offered an article about the development of a 10,000 year clock! Yes, that’s right, a very curious concept for development of a clock, that is currently under construction, by a host of interesting characters, for the purpose of looking forward to the long-term future.

From their ABOUT page; “The Long Now Foundation hopes to provide a counterpoint to today’s accelerating culture and help make long-term thinking more common. We hope to foster responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years.”
Wow! That is quite an idea! I certainly can concur with the need for our culture to begin thinking about the long-term….but 10,000 years does seem a bit far off for most folks to wrap their heads around the concept.

Among the list of creative thinkers involved with the project are people like; Danny Hillis – the clock’s inventor, more about Hillis here, and with respect to the project here is a quote; “I cannot imagine the future, but I care about it. I know I am a part of a story that starts long before I can remember and continues long beyond when anyone will remember me. I sense that I am alive at a time of important change, and I feel a responsibility to make sure that the change comes out well. I plant my acorns knowing that I will never live to harvest the oaks.” He is, of course, speaking figuratively, while I, on the other hand, literally plant trees that I shall not live long enough to enjoy their shade.

He continues; “I want to build a clock that ticks once a year. The century hand advances once every 100 years, and the cuckoo comes out on the millennium. I want the cuckoo to come out every millennium for the next 10,000 years.” Perhaps the whole idea is crazy as a cuckoo-bird, but as a gardener and individual who loves humanity’s collective home – planet earth, I share solidarity with the expression of such a level of thinking. It is a sentiment that echoes a question posed long ago by Jonas Salk; “Are we being good ancestors?”

Other notables in this cast of characters include; Stewart Brand – cultural pioneer (more about Brand here from his TED Talks presentation). Brand was also the author of the Whole Earth Catalogue,- a publication that Steve Jobs spoke so highly of in his commencement address to the Stanford University graduating class of 2005. Many of my regular students remember Jobs’ fervent encouragement that the group of graduates should “Stay Hungry and Stay Foolish“.

Also, Kevin Kelly – the author of the linked article and member of the board at Long Now Foundation, Kelly is also the founder of Wired Magazine. And Stuart Kendall – one of the clock makers in this project and founding partner of Seattle Solstice.

Another big name associated with the project is, Brian Eno – who composed the clocks never repeating melody generator which rings the clocks chimes. And another, Jeff Bezos – a man for whom I harbor a certain degree of contempt due to his political leanings, though I am reluctant to dismiss this amazing project based on my own political differences with one of the principals, (Bezos is a Clintonista and Obama sycophant).

The entire concept is delightfully engaging! On the other hand, is it possible these folks have much too much time on their hands? And clearly this kind of thinking is a luxury that is only afforded to wealthy people living in advanced cultures, but I really do find a certain element of allure involved in such a far-out idea. Perhaps I have too much time on my hands! I am also not ashamed to admit that these guys are way beyond my league in terms of intellectual prowess, level of education and their respective business achievements.

I encourage you to take a look at the article linked above in the opening paragraph. For ESL learners the material will likely be quite challenging with plenty of new vocabulary. In fact, here is a short list of some of the less common vocabulary (for non-native speakers), with linked definitions; 1) Cuckoo clock, 2) chimes, 3) diurnal, 4) Grandfather clock, 5) longevity, 6) millennium, 7) pendulum. All of these words are related to the concept of time or the devices used to measure time- timepieces / clocks.


Time Is…

Time is too slow for those who wait
And time is too swift for those who fear
Time is too long for those who grieve
And time is too short for those that laugh

And love is too slow for those who wait
And love is too swift for those who fear
Love is too long for those who grieve
And love is too short for those that laugh

But for those who love
But for those who really love
But for those who love
Sweet time
Precious time
Lovely time
All the time
Time, time, time, time
is eternity

Hours fly
Hours fly
Hours fly
But even flowers must die
And then a new day comes
And there’s a new day’s dawn
And there’s a new day’s sun
And love stays on
Sweet love stays on
Love stays on
Love stays on
Love, love, love, love
And time, time, time, time


Permanent link to this article: http://english-speak-english.com/10000-year-clock/


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    • Messi on January 3, 2017 at 2:50 am
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    “I plant my acorns knowing that I will never live to harvest the oaks”.

    It is so beautiful and sad.
    It is beautiful because the thoughtfulness of doing something for our descendants … it is sad when we ask ourselves what we should do for our descendants…

    We have lack of long-term thinkers here. I am so depressed to think after 5000 years history, we couldn’t make it better? We only live once and we may die before we figure things out.

    1. My dear,
      I agree that the sentiment is beautiful.
      Planting trees is one way of giving something to the future, be it our own children or generations of children to come in the distant future. Long-term thinking is not common anywhere. The vast history of humanity has been mostly about day-to-day survival of clan and kin and often that survival mode has been marred by war and destruction.
      Perhaps we should consider ourselves as the lucky ones, for we have the luxury of opportunity to consider doing something for our descendants. All we can do is to live as sentient beings with the intended goal of doing no harm. Taking time to be conscious of what we do and whether our actions are worthy of being “good ancestors”. I believe it all starts with one. One individual living in the now, but consciousness of a future we will never know.

    • May on January 3, 2017 at 9:02 pm
    • Reply

    The idea of long-term thinking is really cool. Especially when we, here in China, are facing a serious situation of poor air quality. This idea seems valuable.
    Are we being good ancestors? What will the earth be like in the distant future? Imaging that our descendants live in gray-hazy sky, playing in bald land and drinking polluted water, what a pity!
    We only have one earth and it’s our duty to protect our living environment. I appreciate your post to bring our attention to the importance of long-term thinking. I also hold you in high regard, as I know your are a tree-hugger.
    Now in the year of 2017, my new year’s wish is that we can breathe freely, without any concern.

    1. Nice comment, May.
      …and “tree hugger” is a funny moniker. That term is usually applied with some degree of scorn toward radical environmentalists. It derives from the battles that have been waged between men employed in the field of forestry and those environmentalists in the Pacific Northwest who used tactics of civil disobedience and protest to stop the logging of trees. This is a part of the U.S. where logging was a primary source of making a living. The manner in which trees were harvested was usually by a process called clear-cutting. The method used was to essentially cut everything down in a given section of land leaving the forest devastated and bare. Many species of animals and birds were left without a habitat to survive. Environmentalists, some of them extremists, were known for protests in which they would literally chain themselves to trees so that the loggers could not proceed with the tree cutting. These environmentalists also employed other more dangerous tactics like spiking trees – driving several spikes into the base of large trees that were set to be harvested. This was dangerous because a timber-man could be seriously injured if he were to cut into a tree with a spike in it. The chainsaw would make contact with the spike and kick-back at the man operating it. It could actually be deadly for the operator of the saw!
      While I think that clear-cutting vasts tracts of natural forest is not a good practice with respect to environmental stewardship, neither do I believe that destroying an entire way of life and a system of agriculture that employed many people (the harvesting of trees for use in making wood products) was a good idea. As with many things the truth is usually found somewhere in the middle.
      However, having seen the horrible pollution in many of China’s cities, I suspect that somewhere along the way extreme measure will be necessary to counter the horrible effects of environmental degradation.

    • Summer on January 9, 2017 at 7:13 am
    • Reply

    I admire the long-term thinkers and the people who really care for the future. Some people think it is silly because they can’t live long enough to enjoy the harvests. They do things only for a return benefit. What will happen if everyone thinks in this way? We only have one earth. We have seen the beauty of it, we have to protect it. Because it is also the earth of our descendants. We should keep thinking what we can do to help in our lifetime; Water conservation, using plastic bags as little as possible, waste sorting, etc. Do it now. It all starts with one.

    1. You are correct that thinking about the future requires more than just expecting an immediate benefit for ourselves. And this is something everyone should be doing…It only take one! If Every One did this the world would be a better place.

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