Some Rich People, Including Jeff Bezos and Brian Eno, Are Building a Giant 10,000-Year Clock Inside a Mountain in Texas
Deep within a mountain somewhere in west Texas, The Long Now Foundation are hard at work building a 500-foot clock that’s been designed to run for 10,000 years. I know that sounds a bit like the folly of a Lone Star oil billionaire, but apparently this massive clock is going to adjust the manner in which we understand time itself, so I suppose that counts as having a purpose.
The team behind the construction—boasting names like Kevin Kelly, founding editor of Wired magazine and, somewhat bizarrely, Brian Eno—want the clock to help destroy the short-term thinking they believe is plaguing society. Their aim is to engage the population so we all properly consider the ways we should be preparing for the future.
The giant clock might seem a slightly excessive way to do that, but when you’ve got Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos investing £27.5 million in your project, you don’t really need to worry about excess.
Executive director Alexander Rose talked me through the concept.
VICE: Hey. So what’s up with this gigantic clock?
Alexander Rose: The clock is an iconic project to inspire other people to get the conversation going about long-term thinking. I was once giving a tour to some IBM engineers and one gentleman said, “You know, this is never going to work. In 3,000 years, they’re going to be sacrificing virgins on this thing and all the blood is going to drip into it and it’s not going to work.” And I said, “That may be, but before you walked in the door here, you weren’t thinking 3,000 years in advance, so it’s already working.”
Well, what we hope to do is make something so mythic and crazy that people want to tell stories about it and it becomes a meme that can be called upon. When people tell you that you can’t do long term things, there will always be the 10,000 year clock.
I guess so—at least until the 10,001th year. What inspired the clock, Alexander?
"The Millennium Clock," a clock that ticked once a year, bonged once a century, and the cuckoo would come out once a millennium. If you make it “forever” or of an astronomic time scale of millions and billions of years it dwarfs the human experience and it doesn’t feel like there’s anything you can do that’s important in that time scale. So we thought, What is the human civilizational moment? If you look back to the last ice age, when agriculture started, that’s when large parts of the planet started having what we now call civilization. So that was chosen. If we can look back 10,000 years, then we can look forward 10,000 years.