Stuff I Like: The 10,000 Year Clock

The future is important to me.  For one thing, it's where I'm going to spend the rest of my life.  But more than that, the future is the place where everything is better.  Can be better.  Might be better. Or maybe not.  We might be on the edge of a civilization-wide apocalypse.

But I find that imagining what that future could be like is the best way to develop a sense of motivated hope, the kind of optimism that makes me want to try to help civilization make it far enough for my daydreams, or something like them, to come true.

I sometimes imagine hiking out, through a desert, to a mountain miles away from anything resembling civilization.  No roads leading to it, no gift shop at the foot of it.

I imagine getting to that mountain, and climbing up a narrow path along the cliff face, until I reach a cave.  I imagine going into that cave, getting deep into the mountain, and finding a chamber, with a spiral staircase that goes up another five hundred feet, wrapping around a massive system of gears and weights and mechanisms.

I could climb up to the top of that mechanism and wind it up, with the help of three or four other people, because it's quite heavy.  Then I could continue upwards, to a chamber with a clock face that I would, again, have to wind.  This clock would have been keeping perfect time, but it would only display the correct time when wound.

Then, if I'm there at noon, and I wound the mechanism in the staircase, I could hear a series of ten chimes, playing notes in a sequence it has never played before, and never will again.

I imagine that I, or people like me, or people otherwise completely unlike me, could take this hike and have that experience any time in the next ten thousand years.

There's an organization, called the Long Now Foundation, working hard to make that happen.  They're building that clock in a mountain in Texas.  When they finish, if I'm still alive, and I'm physically capable of doing it, I want to hear that clock chime.

One of the founders of the Long Now foundation, Stewart Brand, gave a TED talk about it in 2004.  By the end of last year, they've already drilled out the necessary hole.  Those videos are embedded below the fold.

Clock One - Raise Bore from The Long Now Foundation on Vimeo.