The Inventor of the Long Now 10,000 Year Clock Tells the Story of How the Idea Originated

In “The Clock of the Long Now” by Public Record, inventor Danny Hillis of The Long Now Foundation explains how the idea originated for a 10,000 Year Clock and what the clock is meant to symbolize.

I wanted a symbol of the future, in the same way that the pyramids are the symbol of the past. I wanted to to build something that gave us a sense of that connection and that’s how I started thinking about the clock. …I’m building a clock that will last for 10,000 years.

The clock is currently being built into a Texas mountain. Long Now board member Kevin Kelly wrote about “The Clock in the Mountain” in 2011.

The Clock is now being machined and assembled in California and Seattle. Meantime the mountain in Texas is being readied. Why would anyone build a Clock inside a mountain with the hope that it will ring for 10,000 years? Part of the answer: just so people will ask this question, and having asked it, prompt themselves to conjure with notions of generations and millennia. If you have a Clock ticking for 10,000 years what kinds of generational-scale questions and projects will it suggest? If a Clock can keep going for ten millennia, shouldn’t we make sure our civilization does as well? If the Clock keeps going after we are personally long dead, why not attempt other projects that require future generations to finish? The larger question is, as virologist Jonas Salk once asked, “Are we being good ancestors?”

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