The Clock of the Long Now
Remember the Y2K panic? A nation groaned when it realized that the brainiacs who devised the world's computer operating systems had neglected to look far enough into the future to realize dates would eventually begin with "20-" instead of "19-", and we waited and wondered what chaos this global typo would wreak. Not much, as you may recall. But Y2K was useful in exposing the shallowness of human imagination. How are we ever going to address a long-term issue like global warming if we can't even look beyond the next election cycle? Glad you asked. Have you heard of The Clock of the Long Now?
Currently under construction in the side of a mountain in northern Nevada, The Clock of the Long Now is designed to tell accurate time for the next 10,000 years. More than that, it is a device intended to provoke questions and, with any luck, some answers about how to plan in the long term. Consider this: what materials must be used in the Clock in order to function for such a long time? What kind of display should it have, assuming there are any humans (or other sentient beings) alive in the year 12,006? And what kind of power source can be relied on over the long haul? The Clock of the Long Now is being built by the Presidio-based Long Now Foundation. They couldn't get any cooler if they tried, but just in case they got Brian Eno to be on their Board of Directors. He also created music for the Clock, called January 07003: Bell Studies for the Clock of the Long Now (note the five-digit time notation: no Y10K problem here).
You'll get your chance to ask him all about it on Monday, June 26, 02006, when Brian Eno appears with video game creator Will Wright at the Herbst Theater in an event sponsored by the Long Now Foundation. The theme of their talk will be "playing with time." Heck, I'd pay to hear these two talk about playing with twine.
What you've got here is essentially Geekapalooza, and I mean that in the best possible way. Let's start with Will Wright, the Godhead of the Sims universe, that parallel reality in which a nice suburban kid living inside a computer is (mostly) controlled by his "real" counterpart: a nice suburban kid living outside a computer. Confused? Millions of obsessed Sims fans would be happy to set you straight. It is now the best-selling PC game in history.
Then there's Brian Eno. The man, the myth, the guy who has influenced more contemporary musicians, from Radiohead to Kanye West, than any self-described "non-musician" ever. He was to Roxy Music what Peter Gabriel was to Genesis and Syd Barrett was to Pink Floyd: the band's departed genius. Between his invention of ambient music in the late 1970s, his transformation of the recording studio into an instrumernt in its own right, to his work as producer of such colossal mainstream hits as U2's The Joshua Tree (that's one way to pay the bills), Eno has carved out a career in contemporary music that is unmatched in its eclecticism and brilliance. While neither you nor I will be alive 10,000 years from now, the Sims will be, and I wouldn't bet against Mr. Eno, either. The guy who invented "Enotronics" probably has another few tricks up his sleeve.