The building I work in, was built in the early 1990’s and when the contractor built it the expected life span of the building was only twenty years…
The life span of the building right next to our office was planned to last about fifty years.
Naturally, any plans to build something that will last 10,000 years must be a pretty big deal given the immediacy of our existence…
The Clock of the Long Now is a clock that is being built by The Long Now Foundation. Its goal is to give humans a long term perspective on things. The clock is planned to last 10,000 years and therefore brings about some unique challenges to the people who are designing it.
Danny Hillis proposed five principles upon which the clock should be guided. I will only briefly mention them here, they are available in more detail at this website: http://www.longnow.org/
- Longevity - it must last and display the correct time for at least 10,000 years.
- Maintainability – bronze age materials should be sufficient for maintenance.
- Transparency – any human with an inclination towards intelligent thought should be able to understand its processes upon looking.
- Evolvability – it must be able to evolve.
- Scalability – you must be able to make working representations of it on all size scales.
A working clock was built to usher in the new millennia in 01999 (yes the Long Now Foundation uses dates with five digits in order to prepare for the 10,000 “deka-millennia” bug) ; however, a better and more accurate one is currently in the works. The first clock is currently on display at the London Science Museum. This second clock truly be a clock for the long now. It will be built with astonishing accuracy: “With 32 bits of accuracy, it has precision equal to one day in 20,000 years, and it self-corrects by 'phase-locking' to the noon Sun*”
The clock will also celebrate each passing “moment”. It will tick once every year, make a clanging noise every 100 years and after every 1,000 years a cuckoo will come out of the clock. (Actual sounds may differ, but this is the gist of their plan) In addition, Brian Eno has released a CD of bell noises that he came up with while trying to create chimes for the clock. The album is called January 07003; all proceeds from sales go to the Long Now Foundation.
The Long Now Foundation has chosen a location for their Clock: It will be built in the side of a mountain in the Snake Mountain Range in Great Basin National Park. One of the reasons for the idealness of this spot is that it is home to Bristlecone Pines, which are known to be the longest living species of tree on Earth. They have been known to live for millennia; one such tree in the Snake Mountain Range near the proposed site is believed to be just under 5,000 years old. The existence of this Pine is testament that this site is one that has been undisturbed for millennia, and just may remain as such for further millennia to come; therefore, this location is a great location for this clock.
Since the mid-1990’s when the project was first suggested, the Clock of the Long Now Project has expanded into many different small projects including the Rosetta Stone Project, the All Species project, the “Long Server,” “Long Bets,” and a Library for the long now.
*Quote directly from the Long Now website at http://www.longnow.org. All information is based on information that can be seen on that website