Christian Long

Stewart Brand: The Long Now

In TED Talks on April 11, 2010 at 8:21 am

Reflection by HAGEN F.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Stewart Brand: The Long Now

An ambitious and daring undertaking is happening in the minds of the thinkers of Long Now. They are trying to combat short-sided views of time in society, and this is not an easy task to accomplish. Long Now wants make the far-away future a common idea to ‘swirl’ around in our brains. By buildings manifestations of this idea, people may want to discover what the future will hold for humanity and more specifically, their future generations.

The first large-scale demonstration of the far-away future is a large clock that will run for one hundred centuries or, 10,000 years. While the idea of a clock that runs smoothly for one hundred centuries is a novel and thought-provoking concept, the actual achievement of this monument is far-fetched. Although the clock was already completed, learning how and where to house the clock was a different story. The first objective was the location.

The clock needed to be protected from the elements to achieve longevity and continue for 10, 000 years. Multiple designs were conceived, but the best idea seemed to be to house the clock in a mountain to conceal it. The clock would be protected both from the elements and from people, an interesting combination. The whole project would show people that the distant future needs to be safe for our species to continue. Hiding the clock from humanity would better ensure the longevity of the clock because humans are known for their destructive motivations and their apathy. Accessibility to the clock will still be possible, but it is more the idea of the clock than the actual clock that is the necessity. The mountain creates a double positive for the designers and attraction of the clock, despite the positive of isolation. Both the clock and the mountain possess a grand beauty, but in different ways. The idea of the clock’s continuous, accurate time coupled with the majesty and awe of the mountains makes the whole attraction even more appealing.

Since for at least seventy-five percent of the video is about the mountain itself, it is clear that the housing of the clock is more trivial and complicated. While the clock has already been completed it is the necessity to keep it intact that designers are looking all over for the right location.. Since the Great Basin Park is untouched by industrialization and overcrowding, the positioning is almost perfect. The creation of the tunnels and room that would house the clock is a revolutionary, or rather, opposite project. Instead of using architecture to create a building, the building comes into reality by the act of removing. In interesting concept because one must use what he or she has in order to create this ‘indoor’ building, instead of using outside materials. Like in part of another video (Liz Diller Plays with Architecture –, this architecture focuses on creating nothing such as space in a mountain, to create majesty and new opportunities.

While most of this post is about the housing of the clock, the clock itself needs ‘attention.’

The Long Now clock holds promise both for its creation and creators. Little embellishments like the accuracy of the clock by using sunlight and the different bell toil for each day bring creativity to the project, in addition to the majesty of the mountain. The clock works by being hit by sunlight at exactly noon, and the clock resets to that time so as not to lose the necessary interval between seconds, minutes, and hours. The clock goes in accordance with the days, and I keep fighting with myself on whether this would make the clock inaccurate compared to a visitor’s watch. Noon changes little by little each day, so I wondering that if the sun reaches it’s highest point at 11:59 on someone’s watch, then the clock will be one minute off because it will read 12:00. The clock must go in accordance to the days though, not minutes necessarily. Although then you say that days are measured in hours, and hours in minutes, so shouldn’t the clock run in accordance with minutes too? That is something I am struggling to understand. If you have any ideas or theories, I will be noting comments on this post.

The Long Now project holds promise and with its design and location already figured out, it will not take too much longer before the clock becomes a reality. All that is left I the excavation of the inside of the mountain to house the clock. I thought one century was long, but this clock will hopefully work for 100 centuries. It is hard to say what will happen with the clock in say, a century. Will it still be running, or will some war, political leader, or natural disaster destroy it. The future of the Long Now clock is unknown, but the hopefully many will learn to understand the promise of the clock, the promise of time.


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