Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Yesterday I posted about Leap Seconds, probably the shortest discernable interval of time we can experience. Today, New Years Eve, we’re going to go big. A while back a friend sent my some info on a very special clock, and I’ve been saving it to post on New Years, because it seems to fit this time of year better that almost any other. The clock has been named The Clock of the Long Now because it is a clock that ticks and chimes to its own drummer, so to speak. It’s a clock that measures time more like the earth does. Well, perhaps not quite like the earth, in eras and epochs, but at least in centuries and millennia. The idea is that we live is a much-compressed notion of “now” to our own detriment, as perhaps even our peril. A 10,000-year clock would help us to reshape our notion of the future, and what we might do now to prepare for it. Here are a couple of excerpts:

I think of the oak beams in the ceiling of College Hall at New College, Oxford. Last century, when the beams needed replacing, carpenters used oak trees that had been planted in 1386 when the dining hall was first built. The 14th-century builder had planted the trees in anticipation of the time, hundreds of years in the future, when the beams would need replacing. Did the carpenters plant new trees to replace the beams again a few hundred years from now?

Ten thousand years - the life span I hope for the clock - is about as long as the history of human technology. We have fragments of pots that old. Geologically, it's a blink of an eye. When you start thinking about building something that lasts that long, the real problem is not decay and corrosion, or even the power source. The real problem is people. If something becomes unimportant to people, it gets scrapped for parts; if it becomes important, it turns into a symbol and must eventually be destroyed. The only way to survive over the long run is to be made of materials large and worthless, like Stonehenge and the Pyramids, or to become lost. The Dead Sea Scrolls managed to survive by remaining lost for a couple millennia. Now that they've been located and preserved in a museum, they're probably doomed. I give them two centuries - tops.

If you yourself are intrigued by this idea, you can click on the links and read more. There is a Long Now Foundation, with a blog, a place to become a member, even to donate towards the project – to become a part of a future that none of us will ever live to see, but are still, like those replacement oak trees, very much connected to.

Complete Long Now essay by Daniel Hillis
The 10,000-Year Clock
Wikipedia article

Photo from Wikimedia Commons


Lin said...

intriguing, then their is the concept of God's day of His time equals 1000 years of ours. Which makes this life a mere blink in His day.

Kat said...

Defenitily intriguing and an important ideal in this day and age. We need to live each day to it's most but always be thinking of the future and how we effect that around us. Beautifully written too :)

Sylvia K said...

Intriguing is definitly the right word! And I agree with with what Kat says -- live today but with thoughts for the future and how we do have a place there whether we are still in this world or not. Wonderful thoughts to ponder on this New Years Eve. Thank you for sharing and have a beautiful New Year for youself.

Dianne said...

I love the concept of 'The Long Now' - thanks for sharing that

Gives me some serene thoughts for the new year.

Peace Deborah

Geraldine said...

What an interesting post Deborah.

Wishing you a very happy 2009!

Hugs, G

bobbie said...

This really is intriguing! Thank you for the links.

Maria said...

Thank you, happy New Year to you!

Shellmo said...

This post really got me thinking (as most of your posts do!)I do think of the future and what our future generations will inherit...people are definitely the detriment. My husband & I are exploring purchasing land and donating it to the nature conservancy so that it will never be developed but remain a habitat for birds and wildlife.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Very interesting, Deborah. I guess our lives are just a 'blink' in the big scheme of things... The most important thing is to live each moment to its fullest. I try to do that.

Happy New Year.

SandyCarlson said...

That was an excellent read. I could definitely benefit from a broader notion of the future.

hitch writer said...

Happy New year to you and your family. May 2009 be a safe and a prosperous year !!!

Squirrel said...

time is fascinating, when you think about it (other than the way people just think of the march of time) the rings inside trees... time and weather working together to shape a sharp piece of glass into a something smooth with no edges... time for a willow to grow from a tiny skinny thing to something big and comforting that 20 people can lounge under. amazing.

Quiet Paths said...

Fascinating! Just think.... the foresight and vision which some people seem to have. Thank you for such an interesting and "timely" post.