Very Long-Term Backup

Then it will remain at rest as the comet orbits the sun for hundreds of millions of years. So somewhere in the solar system, where it is safe but hard to reach, a backup sample of human languages is stored, in case we need one.

~ Kevin Kelly from,

There are several things about this post from the Long Now Foundation which are exceptionally cool. One aspect of doing backups well is to store at least one copy somewhere “offsite.” That is to say, far enough away from what you are backing up, so that it is unlikely that the original and all of the backup copies can be lost due to the same event. Now, this project is partly, (maybe even “mostly,”) a technology demonstration intended to get us to think longer term. But since they’re backing up all of the human languages where’s a cool spot to put an offsite backup?

On a freakin’ comet! The cherry on this hot fudge sundae of awesome is that they put a copy on a freakin’ comet. Humans are awesome.


As SLow aS Possible

St Burchardi church, in the eastern German city of Halberstadt, has played host to the performance since 5 September 02001 (the late composer’s 89th birthday), when it kicked off with 17 months of silence. Cage originally wrote ASLSP (As SLow aS Possible) in 01985. Its maiden performance by organist Gerd Zacher lasted 29 minutes, but Cage didn’t specify a maximum, so in accordance with the piece’s title, musical scholars and scholarly musicians since decided to stage a multi-century version, approximating the lifespan of an organ.

~ Stuart Candy from,

Ok, but exactly how slow are they playing it? …the halfway mark is in 02319.


Partly I’m sharing this because it’s just really cool. But also because I like the mission of the Long Now Foundation; I agree [with them] that one of the key ingredients to solving mankind’s challenges is for individuals to be good at thinking long-term. Evolution has given us brains that are crazy-good at short-term—particularly acute, fight/flight type threats real or perceived—problem solving. But to figure out a good course of action day to day that leads to own’s own flourishing over your life is really hard. To begin to mix in what’s good for humanity is whatever-is-larger-than-really level of hard.


Most people are not yet born

[…] recognize that at least in terms of sheer numbers, the current population is easily outweighed by all those who will come after us. In a calculation made by writer Richard Fisher, around 100 billion people have lived and died in the past 50,000 years. But they, together with the 7.7 billion people currently alive, are far outweighed by the estimated 6.75 trillion people who will be born over the next 50,000 years, if this century’s birth rate is maintained (see graphic below). Even in just the next millennium, more than 135 billion people are likely to be born. 

~ Roman Krznaric from,

50,000 years is somewhat of course. But it’s a good estimate of the span so far of recognizably-like-current-us human history. It’s obvious that today, most people are already dead. It’s those trillion yet to come that warp the brain and create perspective.

This article from The Long Now Foundation has 6 good examples of explicit ways to think long-term, rather than short-term.


The clock of the Long Now

There is a Clock ringing deep inside a mountain. It is a huge Clock, hundreds of feet tall, designed to tick for 10,000 years. Every once in a while the bells of this buried Clock play a melody. Each time the chimes ring, it’s a melody the Clock has never played before. The Clock’s chimes have been programmed to not repeat themselves for 10,000 years.

~ Kevin Kelly from,

The Long Now Foundation was started in 01996. They always include the leading zero in years as just another subtle way to get one to think long-term. I can’t say for sure that I’ve been following them since they started, but it’s got to be darn close. I will be going to Texas, (and to Nevada if I live long enough to see the second clock built,) to visit.

The 10,000-year clock is just one project. Grab your favorite beverage, put your phone on do-not-disturb and go spend an hour or so reading what the Long Now Foundation is up to.