The Vocabulary of Long-term Thinking

Using Google Ngram, Fisher found that the use of the phrase “long-term” has declined since the 01990s.

When we talk “long,” how long do we mean? Multiple horizons all compete for real estate in one word. MIT Knight Science Journalism Fellow Richard Fisher doesn’t mind, though, seeing opportunity in language’s affordances and flexibility to play, explore, unpack: his Substack newsletter, The Long-termist’s Field Guide, just introduced “Long-terminology,” a fun recursive tour of vocabulary words that offer handles with which one can grapple big ideas and their attendant practices and cultures.

His entry on word “long” and its different radii explores the sentiment and scope of Long Now but also Longue Durée, Long Time, and Longtermism (Oxford style). Inviting readers to contribute to a crowdsourced glossary, he celebrates the pluralism of both language in its ever-folding dynamism and the very varied human sense of time. As far as guided tours go, this one’s off to a good start.

Learn More

  • Subscribe to Fisher’s newsletter on long-term thinking, “The Long-termist’s Field Guide.”
  • Read Richard Fisher’s essay in the MIT Technology Review, “Humanity is stuck in short-term thinking. Here’s how we escape.”
  • Read Long Now Executive Director Alexander Rose’s essay in BBC Future that Fisher edited, “How to build something that lasts 10,000 years.”

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What is the long now?

The Long Now Foundation is a nonprofit established in 01996 to foster long-term thinking. Our work encourages imagination at the timescale of civilization — the next and last 10,000 years — a timespan we call the long now.

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