juha huuskonen on Fri, 4 Feb 2005 01:03:03 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Long Now Foundation presentation @ Plan*B

 Here is a short report from the first presentation in
 connection with the PLAN*B FOR ARKADIANMAKI project.

 The Plan*B Referendums are going on at the moment,
 Finnish people have been voting and commenting a lot,
 more votes would be welcome on the english pages....
 pls contribute at www.publicopinion.fi!


- - - -

Alexander Rose, the executive director of the Long Now Foundation, visited
PLAN*B in Helsinki on Thursday 27 January 02005 to give a lecture about the
purpose and current activities of the foundation.

The '10 000 Year Clock' is a clock that measures years instead of seconds
and centuries instead of hours. The challenge is to design a clock in that
will function reliably over the time period of 10 000 years. The first
prototype of the project requires attention from people on a regular basis -
it has to be manually wound like old-fashioned clocks. This is one of the
strategies the foundation is recommending for projects with a very long time
span. If a project requires maintenance, there is a higher probability that
it will function over a time span of several generations. The idea is that
it's better to build solutions where a small problem can be solved on a
regular basis, instead of creating a longer term solution (and possibly a
much greater problem) for the future generations. For example it is better
to design a storage space for nuclear waste that will be safe for 100 years
instead of a trying to design one that would stay safe for 10 000 years.

The long term goal of the 10 000 Year Clock project is to build a large
scale clock which would be a symbol for long term thinking. It would be an
attraction that people could visit, just like the Big Ben or the Statue of
Liberty. Recently the Long Now Foundation purchased a mountain in Nevada
desert where the clock will be placed together with a 10 000 Year Library.
The site is located in a national park and should be safe from earthquakes,
nuclear warfare, etc. Another advantage is that the visitors will have to
reserve some time to visit the site, since it is 5 hours away from the
closest airport.

Another initiative by the foundation is the Rosetta project, inspired by the
famous Rosetta stone. The Rosetta stone contains the same text written in
three ancient languages and has been an important tool for understanding
early languages and writing systems. The goal of the project is to create a
new version of the Rosetta stone, a public archive which contains the same
text written in as many languages as possible. The project has crucial
timing since it has been predicted that as many as fifty to ninety percent
of the 7000 languages on the planet will disappear during the next
century, with little or no significant documentation. The Rosetta project
is currently the most extensive online language archive of all languages.

The Rosetta Project is archiving ten components for each language including
a parallel text, an audio file, word lists, grammars and more.  The parallel
text which was chosen to be documented in this project was the Genesis from
the Old Testament. It was chosen because it is the most translated text ever
in the history of humankind. This choice made the process of collecting the
languages easier but has also brought up some difficulties since there are
many people who would have preferred another text.

Alexander also spoke about the 'Digital Dark Age'which our generation is
currently living in. The current information storage mechanisms will leave
very little information for the future generations to explore. This is due
to the quick pace in which digital storage formats are becoming obsolete and
impossible to access. Another factor is that within the digital production
process, people often save only the final versions, not the drafts and the
files created in the working process. 'If Leonardo Da Vinci were alive
today, his notebooks would not be preserved for the future'.

Alexander finished the presentation by talking about the foundation's
approach to democracy. The democratic political process is by definition
time limited through elections with the consequence that long term projects
are not prioritized and/or realized. In PLAN*B FOR ARKADIANMAKI
project, the Long Now Foundation is asking people to propose solutions
for the lack of long term thinking in politics.


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