The Here & Now of the Long Now

The Long Now Foundation, San FranciscoPhoto: PK Read
The Long Now Foundation, San Francisco
Photo: PK Read

My goal yesterday was to visit the headquarters and museum of the Long Now Foundation, a project intended to extend the time perception of a global culture with ever foreshortening horizons. For those who think in terms of quarterly or even annual goals, this is not for the faint of heart.

I had expected a museum with models of the Long Now Clock, a pr0ject to build what is billed as the ‘slowest computer on the planet’, a 10,000 year clock that “ticks once a year, bongs once a century, and the cuckoo comes out every millennium”. There is a prototype of the clock in London’s Science Museum, and I did indeed find small models and tooled versions of clock mechanisms at the small museum in the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, right on the Bay.

But what I also found were two employees packing everything into boxes, some empty shelves and a place in transition for the long-term. The clock design phase, started back in the late 1990s, is over. The new phase – a phase of increased discussion and context-building – is underway. The museum will become a salon, the salon will serve drinks, all aged long-term. Potential salon patrons can buy their own named whiskies, gin, wines, all kept at the salon for evenings of timely discussions, all aged for long-term commitment. My kind of place.

They will be open until June 2013, close for remodeling, and reopen in Fall 2013.

The Long Now Foundation site.