Watch Works: The Clock of the Long Now
The Machine That's Here to Make You Feel Small and Insignificant

Well, it’s Earth day everyone. And that gave me a good excuse to bring ‘The Clock of the Long Now’ to your attention. What is the Clock of the Long Now? It’s a remarkable feat of engineering, a ticking symbol of our species’ long-term survival and a giant middle finger to the fast-paced, impatient world we live in.

You see, this clock is designed to last for 10,000 years, so if you’re feeling a bit down about the state of the world today, just remember that there’s still hope for our descendants 10 millennia from now. The project was initiated by Danny Hillis, who wanted to encourage people to think about the long-term future and cultivate a sense of responsibility for the next 10,000 years. Let us briefly ignore that a key backer of the project, on whose land the first full-scale prototype clock is also being built, is Jeff Bezos, the personification of a fast-paced consumer driven world.

The Clock of the Long Now is housed in a mountain in Texas, where it will keep time accurately with the help of a mechanical power source that will be wound by hand every year. This may seem like an odd choice, and I would agree that it is. However, it turns out that the design of the clock requires regular maintenance anyway, so while there, it is easy enough to manually help wind the clock.

According to the Long Now Foundation, these are the principles that Danny Hillis used in the initial stages of designing a 10,000 Year Clock:

  • Longevity: With occasional maintenance, the clock should reasonably be expected to display the correct time for the next 10,000 years.
  • Maintainability: The clock should be maintainable with bronze-age technology.
  • Transparency: It should be possible to determine operational principles of the clock by close inspection.
  • Evolvability: It should be possible to improve the clock with time.
  • Scalability: It should be possible to build working models of the clock from table-top to monumental size using the same design.

The clock should serve as a highly over-engineered reminder that time is a precious resource and that, while we may not be here to see it, our actions today will have a lasting impact on the world. In the words of the Long Now Foundation: “Why would anyone build a Clock inside a mountain with the hope that it will ring for 10,000 years? Part of the answer is just so people will ask this question, and having asked it, prompt themselves to conjure with notions of generations and millennia.”

For more information and details, check out their website right here.

Leave a Reply (No Login Required)