Friday, December 19th, 02008
Rick Prelinger is a guerrilla archivist who collects the uncollected and makes it accessible. Prelinger will be presenting his third annual "Lost Landscapes of San Francisco" event, an eclectic montage of lost and rarely-seen film clips showing life, landscapes and labor in a vanished San Francisco as captured by amateurs, newsreel cameramen and industrial filmmakers.
How we remember and record the past reveals much about how we address the future. Prelinger will preface the film with a brief talk on how fragmentary, incomplete histories are being overtaken by pervasive real-time documentation, and how history, memory and property are combining into a new matrix of experience.
Since 01983 Rick has been collecting ephemeral films: advertising, educational, industrial, and amateur works. In 02002, the Prelinger film collection of over 200,000 items was acquired by the Library of Congress; much of it is available online at the Internet Archive. In 02004 Prelinger and spouse Megan opened the Prelinger Library in downtown San Francisco, which includes over 50,000 pieces of print ephemera, books, periodicals, maps and zines.
We encourage the audience to interact with the film, especially to identify mystery scenes! Read more
Monday, November 17th, 02008
Drew Endy, Jim Thomas
Bioengineer Drew Endy is the leading enabler of open-source biotechnology. Technology historian Jim Thomas is the leading critic of biotech, based with ETC Group in Ottawa.
"Synthetic Biology includes the broad redefinition and expansion of biotechnology, with the ultimate gils of being able to design and build engineered biological systems that process information, manipulate chemicals, fabricate materials and structures, produce energy, provide food, and maintain and enhance human health and our environment." -- Wikipedia.
Synthetic biology is swarming ahead all over the world, at a self-accelerating pace far greater than Moore's Law, with a range of impacts far greater than genetically engineered food crops. Jim Thomas raises the question: "Is Synthetic Biology reckless or wise from the perspective of 'the long now?'. I feel the synthetic biology community is driven by immensely short term assumptions and motivations, and as a result the medium term prospect for this platform holds both predictable problems and nasty surprises."
Drew Endy says: "Jim and I have somehow managed to establish a productive working relationship, and feel that there is now a once-in-a-generation opportunity to develop the cultural foundations needed to support long term and constructive discussions of the issues existing and emerging with biotechnology---safety, equity, security, community, and so on."
The point of Long Now debates is not win-lose. The point is public clarity and deep understanding, leading to action graced with nuance and built-in adaptivity, with long-term responsibility in mind. Read more
Friday, October 3rd, 02008
"You cannot manage elements of the environment individually, one by one, or all your best efforts will unravel," says Johnson. Government planning is needed, and it must match the pace and scale of the environment itself. He instigated that kind of planning when he was California's Secretary of Resources in the 1980s, and he is inspired by the exemplary Green Plans of the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Singapore. In this talk, as in his work with nations worldwide, he spells out the current best practices for serious, long-term Green Planning.
Trained as a biologist, an avid hunter and fisherman, Huey Johnson is president of the Resource Renewal Institute, based in Fort Mason. After serving as head of The Nature Conservancy he founded Trust for Public Land in San Francisco in 1972. While Secretary of Resources from 1976 to 1982 he created a hundred-year plan for California's natural resources called "Investing for Prosperity," which set in motion lasting programs of restoration for the state's rivers, forests, and wetlands, and also promoted energy conservation and renewable energy. In 2001 he received the Sasakawa Environment Prize from the United Nations. Read more
Friday, September 12th, 02008
Prizes are proving themselves as powerful tools to accelerate goal-specific innovation. Diamandis, the founder and chairman of the X Prize Foundation, has built on the success of the $10 million Ansari X Prize that inaugurated private-sector spaceflight in 2004 with Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne. Currently in play are new prizes for a $10,000 human genome, for a private Moon landing, and for a super-efficient car, with more in the pipeline.
But prize contests so far have focussed on near-term goals---spectacular achievements that can be accomplished in a decade or two. What might be prize-worthy hundred-year goals, or thousand-year goals? What goals might a century of focussed effort transform from the clearly impossible to the merely difficult? Read more
Tuesday, September 9th, 02008
At an event hosted by the Long Now Foundation, science fiction author Neal Stephenson reads from his latest novel Anathem. Read more
Friday, August 8th, 02008
Daniel Suarez (aka author Leinad Zeraus)
The viral success story of the year is a techno-thriller called Daemon. Software developer Suarez printed the book himself after being turned down by mainstream publishers. Blog raves, Amazon raves, and brief item in Wired magazine turned the book deservedly into a runaway hit.
In this presentation, his first on the subject, Suarez spells out the ideas behind Daemon and its forthcoming sequel, Freedom™: "'Bots' are simple software programs designed to automate tasks - such as finding, retrieving, or acting upon information. Bots set loose on the Internet have been the catalyst behind many revolutionary Web 2.0 technologies. However, the unintended consequences of activating millions of bots in our networks -- bots that wield increasing influence over the activities and opportunities of human beings - may have serious consequences for society." Read more
Wednesday, July 23rd, 02008
Burtynsky's massively informative photographs change minds and influence policy. They are also exquisite art. Their historical value will grow with time. Other art has similar reach. There should be a gallery that collects, displays, and sifts such works over centuries and millennia, and develops ways to preserve them. That is exactly Burtynsky's plan--- a 10,000-year Gallery to accompany the 10,000-year Clock. His presentation will explore and demonstrate the idea.
Edward Burtynsky is an Officer of the Order of Canada and winner of the 2004 Ted Prize. His photographs are in the permanent collections of fifteen major museums, including the Guggenheim and Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Bibiotheque Nationale in Paris, and the Victoria & Albert in London. He is the subject of a prize-winning film, "Manufactured Landscapes." Read more
Friday, June 27th, 02008
Everything living evolves, but humans evolve culturally as well as biologically, and that puts us in a peculiar relation to the rest of life, with a peculiar responsibility. If we can understand how cultural evolution works, we'll have a better handle on how to manage our responsibilities. The question that Ehrlich has been exploring lately is whether cultural evolution really does show patterns that would yield predictive theory. He now has data from Polynesian canoes that indicate the answer is yes, cultural evolution is patterned enough to predict with. We can discover a new way to comprehend our own behavior and perhaps influence it to the benefit of life.
Entomologist and population biologist Paul Ehrlich is President of Stanford's Center for Conservation Biology, author and co-author of books ranging from The Population Bomb (1968) to One With Nineveh (2004), recipient of many awards, including a MacArthur Fellowship, the Blue Planet Prize, and the Nobel-level Crafoord Prize. Read more
Wednesday, May 21st, 02008
Quadir is the now-legendary founder of GrameenPhone, which transformed his home country of Bangladesh in the 1990s and led the way for the cellphone revolution throughout the developing world. Currently Quadir heads the Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at MIT and is building Emergence BioEnergy Inc., a project to develop local electricity for the rural poor, using such devices as a fuel cell that runs on anaerobic bacteria. Linking new technology with the boundless resourcefulness of the poor drives innovation in surprising directions at surprising speed. Read more
Monday, April 28th, 02008
Peter Schwartz, Niall Ferguson
Distinguished historian Ferguson and renowned futurist Schwartz disagree profoundly on the nature of human progress. Both use scenarios (called "counterfactual history" by Ferguson) to analyze how events play out. Ferguson wrote The War of the World (2006), a history of the violence that defined the 20th Century. Schwartz wrote The Art of the Long View (1991), the standard text on scenario planning, and The Long Boom (1999), on global prosperity in the 21st century. Both speakers regard history as highly contingent. The question is, contingent on what? Read more
Monday, February 25th, 02008
With his current series of breakthroughs in synthetic biology Craig Venter and his team are not so much creating life as joining life. Reverse-engineering evolution's long-refined tricks and subtleties at the molecular level is building humanity's most powerful toolkit yet. Through shotgun-sequencing whole microbial populations ("metagenomics"), the domain of the organisms that rule the world is at last opening up. Genome synthesis will lead to major advances in biomedicine and in adjusting civilization's global energy metabolism. Read more
Monday, February 4th, 02008
Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Skeptical empiricist Nassim Taleb, author of The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, has bracing things to say about the future. It is inevitable that we will be massively blindsided by events, because our understanding is misled by an array of beguiling illusions about reality. Some lessons: Events are not predictable, but consequences are, so focus on preparedness. Pay attention to elders, because they've experienced more Black Swans. Check Wikipedia's bio of Taleb for more on the vividness of his ideas and exposition. Read more
Friday, January 11th, 02008
"Some would argue that forecasting is a dangerous exercise in futility, but they are mistaken. In fact, effective forecasting is not merely possible, but remarkably easy; all it takes is simple shift in perspective and a few common-sense heuristics." The most quoted futurist alive, Paul Saffo specializes in the history and future of technology. In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review he spelled out the secrets of his trade, which he will expand on in this talk. Saffo is a member of the board of The Long Now Foundation. Read more