chapter  3
Anthropogenic Computing
Pages 27

Inside a mountain in Texas, the Long Now Foundation is constructing a clock designed to run for 10,000 years. Steward Brand, in his introductory essay on the Clock of the Long Now, argues that “[c]ivilization is revving itself up into a pathologically short attention span.” The clock inspires questions about the meaning of a device “designed to tick for 10,000 years,” the approximate age of human civilization. Musician Brian Eno coined the term “long now” associated with the group to describe a different scale of temporality — “not the short now of next quarter, next week, or the next ve minutes, but the ‘long now’ of centuries” (10,000 Year Clock). Eno also composed the chime algorithm that produces sound at different intervals. It is difcult to separate the optimism associated with the Long Now Foundation’s project from the progressive history and futurist fantasies of capitalism, but the clock also forces us to imagine the consequences of various futures: some where human beings are extinct, others where civilizations use the device for reasons that may be unrecognizable to us. As the clock’s designers and manufacturers confess, the clock will occasionally, “ring itself when no one is around to hear it. It’s anyone’s guess how many beautiful songs will never be heard.”