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http://longnow.org

From the site...

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 multi-tasking. All are on the increase.

Some sort of balancing corrective to the short-sightedness is needed---some mechanism or myth which encourages the long view and the taking of long-term responsibility, where 'long-term' is measured at least in centuries. Clock/Library proposes both a mechanism and a myth. It began with an observation and idea by computer scientist DanielHillis?. He wrote in 01993:

"When I was a child, people used to talk about what would happen by the year 2000. Now, thirty years later, they still talk about what will happen by the year 2000. The future has been shrinking by one year per year for my entire life. I think it is time for us to start a long-term project that gets people thinking past the mental barrier of the Millennium. I would like to propose a large (think Stonehenge) mechanical clock, powered by seasonal temperature changes. It ticks once a year, bongs once a century, and the cuckoo comes out every millennium."

Another snip from the site:

The Long Now Foundation uses five digit dates, the extra zero is to solve the deca-millennium bug which will come into effect in about 8,000 years

I might not quite get the joke here, but what happens in 98,000 years? They talk a lot about looking into the future but who says that our future will end in 97,999 years? I propose that a googol date format be created just in case the universe lasts that long (better safe then sorry). -Robert Lee


The Long View

(insert PermanentAnchor to LongView? here)

"It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you don't stop." -- Confucius, In Humanity.

"The future is more than the following day." -- "Fashioned in the Clay," by Gordon Bok, Ann Mayo Muir, Ed Trickett

From the day of harvest of the fruit, a minimum of about a year must elapse before a bottle of fine wine is ready for enjoyment. For some varieties and styles of wine, five or more years are customary. For the finest port, decades must elapse. From the day of planting, fruit-bearing trees and vines take anywhere from three to ten years to begin producing a crop. The best and most prolific crops come, in most cases, at the twenty year mark.

To plant a vineyard or orchard is an act of faith that everything will still be OK decades hence.


I am interested in societies that think in LongNow. Apparently the Peruvian indigenous peoples live on a time scale of centuries. The wonders of ancient astronomy could only be had after centuries of careful recording. Some of the great monastic traditions maintain projects that span centuries, like the Bollandist Acta Sanctorum that has been in operation since 1643. Although such societies are considered romanticly by normal circadean society, they consist of relatively human humans, with the same eccentricities, foibles, virtues, and abilities. They can only do what they do by organizing themselves properly. What would happen if we studied and learnt from these traditions and applied those lessons to MeatBall? Would our understanding of the WikiNow deepen? Could we become like The Foundation in Asimov's FoundationSeries??

Those who have been paying attention have noticed that I occasionally offer things like, "Don't worry; just come back to it in a few years when you figure it out." I even sometimes advise, as a particularly wiki way of ConflictResolution, that we will be here long after the offending party leaves. I say this jokingly in a way, but I'm somewhat serious. You could really wait a few years. Why not? I would love to see MeatBall turn into a society whose members' interest lasts so long.

Now it's time to return to pragmatic reality. I goddamn hate futurism, mostly because it doesn't have much sense of history and consequently a very vacuous grasp of today. So, although I do find it comforting to think that Meatball could be around for a significant period of time, and a desperate part of me would like to see us succeed in achieving such longevity (e.g. see PostWELL), that isn't saying much concrete. What I would say is that understanding how others see and work in the LongNow will give us a perspective that others don't have. It might give us a stronger sense of history and more patience. It may even help us outlast death in InternetTime?; after all, quickly come, quickly gone. At the very least, I think it will help inform us on how to extend the WikiLifeCycle through a very long WikiNow. So, I think I'll add this to the list of things I'm going to study. -- SunirShah


OrderChaos talks about the benefit of various routines over months and years... and (in a throw away line) of Long Now routines. Long Now routines seem like a curious concept, perhaps one that could only be stated in the "glacial" pace of meatball. There is some important work to be done, but it is deferred - not for a few months or a few years, but indefinitely.

HTwoGTwo's idea of recreating the actual Guide envisaged by Douglas Adams was such an example. No time frame is possible for such a plan, yet it acts as a grand MissionStatement (of the sort warned against in MindTheGap). And once it is achieved, there is still much work to be done updating it and keeping it relevant and useful. The dead tree version of WikiPedia is a similar Long Now routine. And again, because it is a routine there are plans that go beyond that first print version, to the second print version, and so on.

This is all fine for the big community sites, with their corporate backing and plans to take over the world, but what of the smaller sites? Well, we all have one LongNow routine to look forward to (as described at WikiLifeCycle): "fall and decay, rebirth in splinters". A wise community will embrace that part of the cycle - so the SafetyNet is there to increase the value of rebirth, not to delay the inevitability of death. --MartinHarper


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