‘The centerpiece of this novel idea is the construction of the world’s slowest computer, a clock with a 32 bit mechanical processor designed by Hillis that will keep accurate time for ten thousand years without power and with minimal assistance from humans. The first functioning prototype is on display in London at the Science Museum; the finished product will ultimately be housed in a remote limestone cave in Great Basin National Park in Nevada. Brank and Hillis call it the Clock of the Long Now. It will chime once in a millenium.
Brand and Hillis (and just about everyone else who has considered the matter) believe that shorter attention spans are causing decisions to be made within quicker time horizons; fast results demand fast thinking, which is making for a foreshortened and badly imagined future’ (p. 154)
‘If anything can offer us hope for the future it will be an assembly of humanity that is representative but not centralized, because no single ideology can ever heal the wounds of this world. History demonstrates all to eloquently that no ideology has ever amounted to more than a palliative for any dire condition. The immune system is the most complex system in the body, just as the body is the most complex organism on earth, and the most complicated assembly of organisms is human civilization’ (p 163)
‘The world simply appears to be out of control. Too often, however, such problems seem insoluble because of how they are managed - with idealogical, top-down, oligarchic, militaristic management styles. If we tried to consciously control out bodies, we would die, just as the planet it dying’ (p. 177)
‘Life tends to optimize rather than maximize. Maximization is another word for addiction. ‘Humans exhibit addictive tendencies when trying to maximize such values as wealth, pleasure, security and power … Too much of a good thing is not a good thing.’ writes Hoagland. Critics of the movement complain that it is against free markets, expanding wealth, and security, which is not true. What is missing in that critique is a discussion of how we gauge sufficiency. A sense of balance - of knowing what is too much wealth, what is too much power, what constitutes license instead of freedom - it is not easy to achieve, but it raises crucial questions. In Lyrical and Critical Essays, Camus wrote of how beauty has been exiled in Western culture and replaced by the cult of reason that constantly seeks to overcome limits. ‘But limits nonetheless exist and we know it. In our wildest madness we dream of an equilibrium we have lost, and which in our simplicity we think we shall discover once again when our errors cease - an infantile presumption, which justifies the fact that childish peoples, inheriting out madness, are managing our history today … We turn out back on nature, we are ashamed of beauty. Our miserable tragedies have the smell of an office, and their blood is the colour of dirty ink’ (p. 183)