Long Now Salon

A place for great conversations from The Long Now Foundation. Opening within the millennium.

Support the Salon

The Long Now Foundation fosters long-term thinking and responsibility through a variety of projects.

The Long Now Salon, currently under construction, is our latest endeavor.

The Salon will be a public venue located on the San Francisco Bay, within sight of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. Our salon will celebrate long-term thinking and serve inspiring beverages day and night.

In the spirit of the intellectual salons of another age, we want to create an atmosphere that encourages conversation and contemplation. Our space will feature a crowd-sourced library with thousands of books, a gallery of artifacts from our projects, and serve exceptional spirits and cocktails as well as top quality tea and coffee.

Projects of the Long Now Foundation:

Background photo by Robert Mann

Fostering Long-term Responsibility • est. 01996

 

As construction of The Interval at Long Now, our new venue in San Francisco, nears completion, we are also building a special collection of books to house there. It will be a Manual for Civilization that includes 3500 books that can sustain or even help rebuild civilization.

We’ve asked for recommendations for this list from some friends and associates of Long Now. So far we’ve received lists from Kevin Kelly, Brian Eno, Violet Blue, Maria Popova, Rick and Megan Prelinger, and Stewart Brand. Other lists still to come include Neal Stephenson, Danny Hillis, Neil Gaiman, and Mark Pauline. See all the posts about the Manual project here.

The Manual for Civilization will serve as the library component of The Interval. Seen immediately upon entering, its shelves stretching floor to ceiling amongst the large scale mechanical prototypes of our 10,000-Year Clock. The Manual will present a compelling image for visitors to our space.

To add your suggestions for the Manual for Civilization and vote on which nominated titles should find a place on The Interval’s shelves, make a donation to support the project. All donors, at any level, can suggest and vote on books. Be a part of giving long-term thinkers a beautiful place to gather, full of amazing books.

Photos by Alexander Rose or Catherine Borgeson or as noted

Author, law professor and former Director of the White House Open Government Initiative Beth Noveck spoke for Long Now in March 02010. We post audio of a Seminar About Long-term Thinking from our archives each Friday.

Ahead of Mariana Mazzucato’s 02014 Long Now Seminar next week (The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Private vs. Public Sector Myths on Monday, March 24), we look back at this talk which also touched on themes of technology, innovation and government.

Beth Noveck discussed her work at the U.S. Open Government Initiative bringing new transparency and availability of government data, as well as helping institutions better engage in social, networked world of today. She characterized this as creating “institutions of collaborative democracy.” In an exhilarating and fast-paced presentation she references Alexis de Tocqueville, Danny Hillis, Hannah Arendt, and E.O. Wilson amongst others.

From Stewart Brand’s summary of this Seminar (in full here):

Noveck said the government is replacing its reflex “there’s a form for that” habits with “there’s an app for that,” and a panoply of cloud-based apps, including 165 social media platforms, are on offer at Apps.gov. Just within the Department of Defense, the entire department has adopted (Long Now co-founder) Danny Hillis’s Aristotle software to link all military expertise; the Army field manuals are being wikified—collaboratively updated by soldiers in the field; and troops are encouraged to learn and use social media.

There are shoutouts to the Sunlight Foundation, Stamen Design, govpulse, and other current innovators (some of whom were in the audience) who are utilizing and mashing-up newly available government data for the common good. Her talk is full of concrete examples of practice, contemporary and historical, that exemplifies the ideas she puts forward. Having written her book Wiki Government as an outsider prior to joining the Government, she acknowledges the daunting task of then working from inside it to respond to her own critiques.

Beth Noveck is director of the thegovlab.org. A lawyer and law professor, she currently teaches at NYU and the MIT Media Lab, and is author of Wiki Government: How Technology Can Make Government Better, Democracy Stronger, and Citizens More Powerful . Her next book The Networked State will appear from Harvard.

Beth Noveck

The Seminars About Long-term Thinking began in 02003 and are presented each month live in San Francisco (also available as a podcast). The series is curated and hosted by Long Now’s President Stewart Brand.

Everyone can watch full video of the last 12 Long Now Seminars on our website. Only Long Now members can see the full ten years of Seminars in HD. Membership levels start at $8/month and include lots of benefits. You can join Long Now here.

NASA engineer Adam Steltzner spoke in October 02013 in Long Now’s Seminars About Long-term Thinking (SALT) series. We post audio of a Seminar from our archives each Friday, #FridaySALT.

Adam Steltzner is an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) who has worked on the the Galileo, Cassini, and Mars Pathfinder missions as well as the Shuttle-Mir Program. He was the lead engineer of Curiosity rover’s “Entry, Descent, and Landing“ phase.

In his talk Beyond Mars, Earth, Steltzner gives an insiders view of our history of missions to Mars leading up to his team’s incredible feat of landing the Curiosity rover safely on the planet’s surface. More broadly he considers why we humans have the need to explore. And where we will likely explore next.

From Stewart Brand’s summary of this Seminar (in full here):

Furthermore, the landing had to occur within a tiny target ellipse only 4 by 12 miles in the Gale Crater at the base of Mount Sharp, which stands 15,000 feet about the crater floor. To “kiss the Martian surface” at that spot, the landing system had to go through multiple stages (the “seven minutes of terror”) totally on its own, decelerating violently from 10,000 miles per hour to a gentle 0 mph without a single flaw at any stage. On August 6, 2012, with the whole world watching, the system performed perfectly, and Steltzner’s team at JPL exploded with high-fives and tears on the world’s screens.

After the epic subjects of his talk, Steltzner sites down for a quite personal Q&A with Stewart Brand, about being an unusually late-comer to science and engineering. And about literally looking up at the stars, asking a question, and having that lead him to a whole new life.

You can watch the entire video of this talk (until fall 02014) on our site.

The Seminars About Long-term Thinking began in 02003 and are presented each month live in San Francisco (also available as a podcast). The series is curated and hosted by Long Now’s President Stewart Brand.

Everyone can watch full video of the last 12 Long Now Seminars on our website. Only Long Now members can see the full ten years of Seminars in HD. Membership levels start at $8/month and include lots of benefits. You can join Long Now here.

Author Dmitry Orlov spoke for Long Now in February 02009. We post audio of a Seminar About Long-term Thinking from our archives each Friday.

This talk took place in the midst of the United States’ extended financial crisis, which perhaps peaked in the US at the end of 02008. Orlov’s topic of Social Collapse Best Practices seemed highly relevant as the fate of the automotive industry was still unclear, California had just announced mandatory furloughs, and what would become known as the “Great Recession” might have still been a precursor to an even Greater Depression.

Orlov is well-suited to this subject having observed the collapse of the Soviet Union first hand and also lived and worked in the US during both prosperous and lean times. His tips include gardens, sailboats (he lives on one today, in Boston), bicycles, weaponry, pickup trucks (assuming you break a few laws), and having low expectations.

From Stewart Brand’s summary of this Seminar (in full here):

The rule with transportation, he said, is not to strand people in nonsurvivable places. Fuel will be expensive and hoarded. He noted that the most efficient of all vehicles is an old pickup fully loaded with people, driving slowly. He suggested that freight trains be required to provide a few empty boxcars for hobos. Donkeys, he advised, provide reliable transport, and they dine as comfortably on the Wall Street Journal as they did on Pravda.

Orlov gives an opinionated and it’s fair to say un-optimistic analysis of the prospects for the United States going forward (he calls it the “former United States of America” a few times). He offers advice to Americans for when the going gets tougher than many will have perhaps ever imagined it could get. His talk is peppered with black humor and with insights into how some of the bleaker aspects of life in Soviet Russia can be seen to have a certain pragmatism if social structures prove non-durable. “Being poor takes a lot of practice.”

Dmitry Orlov is a Russian-American engineer and author whose books include Reinventing Collapse and The Five Stages of Collapse: Survivors’ Toolkit.

The Seminars About Long-term Thinking began in 02003 and are presented each month live in San Francisco (also available as a podcast). The series is curated and hosted by Long Now’s President Stewart Brand.

Everyone can watch full video of the last 12 Long Now Seminars on our website. Only Long Now members can see the full ten years of Seminars in HD. Membership levels start at $8/month and include lots of benefits. You can join Long Now here.

Scientist Tim Flannery spoke for Long Now in May 02011. We post audio of a Seminar About Long-term Thinking from our archives each Friday.

In a New York Times Magazine cover story that went live this week, this Seminar is cited because it contains the spark that led to the entire Revive and Restore project. In the Q&A (at about an hour in) you will hear the exact moment that Stewart Brand first considered bringing the Passenger Pigeon back from extinction; that’s the task to which Revive is now dedicated.

Tim Flannery is a mammalogist, paleontologist, conservationist, and explorer whose books include The Future Eaters (01994), The Weather Makers (02005), and Here on Earth: A New Beginning (02011).

From Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace to James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis and our contemporary climate crisis, Flannery looks at life on the planet Earth and the life of the planet itself. Humans seen as a superorganism, one of several that have surfaced on Earth.

From Stewart Brand’s summary of this Seminar (in full here):

The first tightly connected superorganism came 100 million years ago when cockroaches invented agriculture and the division of labor and became termites, building complex skyscrapers with air-conditioning, highways, and garbage dumps. Only 10,000 years ago, humans did the same, inventing agriculture and the division of labor in cities, becoming the most potent superorganism yet.

Tim Flannery: Here on Earth

In the end Flannery finds hope for humans acting globally to manage the global commons. And he and Stewart discuss the possibilities for De-Extinction, whether pigeon or wooly mammoth, not only to bolster biodiversity and counterbalance ecosystem decay but also as an inspiration to humankind.

The Seminars About Long-term Thinking began in 02003 and are presented each month live in San Francisco (also available as a podcast). The series is curated and hosted by Long Now’s President Stewart Brand.

Everyone can watch full video of the last 12 Long Now Seminars on our website. Only Long Now members can see the full ten years of Seminars in HD. Membership levels start at $8/month and include lots of benefits. You can join Long Now here.

Author Daniel Suarez spoke in August 02008 for Long Now. We post audio of a Seminar About Long-term Thinking from our archives each Friday.

This week, in 02014, Suarez released INFLUX, his fourth novel. But at the time of this Seminar his first novel Daemon, which he self-published, had been picked up and was soon to come out from a major publisher.

Daniel Suarez's other novels include Kill Decision, and Freedom(TM) (the sequel to Daemon). Prior to writing Daemon he worked as a systems consultant and software developer for Fortune 1000 companies.

From ’s summary of this Seminar (in full here):

Forget about HAL-like robots enslaving humankind a few decades from now, the takeover is already underway. The agents of this unwelcome revolution aren’t strong AIs, but “bots”– autonomous programs that have insinuated themselves into the Internet and thus into every corner of our lives. Apply for a mortgage lately? A bot determined your FICA score and thus whether you got the loan. Call 411? A bot gave you the number and connected the call.

Suarez’s novel tells a story from the near future these developments suggest. Smart dots connected to form plot lines that lead from RSS feeds to self-driving cars and blur the borders between life, death and computer games. Anything that sounds fanciful in the narrative is factually grounded by the list of websites at the book’s end that point to where the cited technologies can be found today. Yesterday. Remember that was 02008. His Seminar talk describes not only the technology but the business practices that, in service to efficiency, have systematically outsourced so much work to code. We’ve incrementally built a smart world of short scripts that each individually aren’t that bright. But once networked the chain reaction can be something else.

The Seminars About Long-term Thinking began in 02003 and are presented each month live in San Francisco (also available as a podcast). The series is curated and hosted by Long Now’s President Stewart Brand.

Everyone can watch full video of the last 12 Long Now Seminars on our website. Only Long Now members can see the full ten years of Seminars in HD. Membership levels start at $8/month and include lots of benefits. You can join Long Now here.

Today’s #FridaySALT post features Esther, George and Freeman Dyson speaking in October 02005. We post a Seminar About Long-term Thinking from our archives each Friday.

After last week’s focus on George Dyson’s recent Seminar, we go all the way back to this early SALT that was unlike any before or since. In The Difficulty of Looking Far Ahead for the first time these three diversely accomplished members of the Dyson family shared the same stage. Unlike most Long Now talks, this Seminar is almost entirely a four person conversation with Stewart Brand leading the discussion that draws out the expertise and experience of the Dyson clan.

The talk also includes a proto-“Long Short”, a very special clip from Star Trek. Like other early Long Now Seminars the entire video is available on YouTube, but please note the quality of recording at the time does not measure up to more recent SALT videos. Enjoy this view from our early days, a stationary camera with a smaller audience compared to today…

From the summary of this Seminar (in full here):

In three seats, three Dysons: Esther, George and Freeman. They were appearing together on stage for the first time. The fourth held Stewart Brand who led the three through an evening of queries. The questions came from Stewart himself, from the audience, and from one Dyson to another Dyson — a first for this format in a Long Now seminar.

Freeman Dyson is an eminent physicist (now retired) he is known for ground-breaking work in quantum electrodynamics, solid-state physics, astronomy and nuclear engineering. Esther Dyson is well-known as an investor in startups including the technology, green and healthcare spaces, and a Long Now board member. Author and science historian George Dyson's books include Darwin Among the Machinesand Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe.

The Seminars About Long-term Thinking began in 02003 and are presented each month live in San Francisco (also available as a podcast). The series is curated and hosted by Long Now’s President Stewart Brand.

Everyone can watch full video of the last 12 Long Now Seminars on our website. Only Long Now members can see the full ten years of Seminars in HD. Membership levels start at $8/month and include lots of benefits. You can join Long Now here.

The Manual for Civilization project is really taking off. The “Manual” will be a 3000+ volume library that is a central feature of the Long Now Salon

We are deciding on what books to include to document human civilization to this point and collect forward-looking visions of possible futures. The goal is to gather knowledge that is essential to help us maintain, extend and, if needed, recreate what humans have achieved thus far, as well as compile speculative ideas of how we may proceed from here.

Long Now members and donors to the Long Now Salon project can suggest and vote on titles we should have on our shelves when we open this Spring.

Today’s #FridaySALT post is author George Dyson from March 02013. We post audio of a Seminar About Long-term Thinking from our archives each Friday.

George Dyson is an author and science historian whose books include Baidarka the Kayak, Darwin Among the Machinesand Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe. This is the third time he has been on our Long Now Seminar stage, including the 02005 SALT Talk presented with his sister Esther and their father Freeman Dyson.

In his talk No Time Is There: The Digital Universe and Why Things Appear To Be Speeding Up, on a rare 02013 rainy San Francisco night, Dyson gives a detailed history of events and personalities at the dawn of the modern computer and the atomic bomb—both closely intertwined at Princeton’s “Institute for Advanced Study”.

From Stewart Brand’s summary of this Seminar (in full here):

In the few years they ran that machine, from 1951 to 1957, they worked on the most difficult problems of their time, five main problems that are on very different time scales—26 orders of magnitude in time—from the lifetime of a neutron in a bomb’s chain reaction measured in billionths of a second, to the behavior of shock waves on the scale of seconds, to weather prediction on a scale of days, to biological evolution on the scale of centuries, to the evolution of stars and galaxies over billions of years. And our lives, measured in days and years, is right in the middle of the scale of time. I still haven’t figured that out.

Legends of science and mathematics like Alan Turing, Kurt Gödel, and John von Neumann feature prominently. With unique access due to his family’s long-time association with the Institute, Dyson shares details of von Neumann’s workspace and revealing insights gleaned from first-hand interviews with participants at these events.

You can watch the entire video of this talk (until March 02014) on our site.

The Seminars About Long-term Thinking began in 02003 and are presented each month live in San Francisco (also available as a podcast). The series is curated and hosted by Long Now’s President Stewart Brand.

Everyone can watch full video of the last 12 Long Now Seminars on our website. Only Long Now members can see the full ten years of Seminars in HD. Membership levels start at $8/month and include lots of benefits. You can join Long Now here.