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Long Now: Seminars About Long-term Thinking

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United States

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We will have a banner to add soon. We also just submitted our "Long Now: Conversations at The Interval" podcast.

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@longnow

Language:

English


Episodes

Julia Galef: Soldiers and Scouts: Why our minds weren't built for truth, and how we can change that

9/12/2018
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An expert on rationality, judgement, and strategy, Julia Galef notes that "our capacity for reason evolved to serve two very different purposes that are often at odds with each other. On the one hand, reason helps us figure out what’s true; on the other hand, it also helps us defend ideas that are false-but-strategically-useful. I’ll explore these two different modes of thought — I call them “the scout” and “the soldier” — and what determines which mode we default to. Finally, I’ll argue...

Duration:01:32:45

Juan Benet: Long Term Info-structure

8/6/2018
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"We live in a spectacular time,” says Juan Benet. "We're a century into our computing phase transition. The latest stages have created astonishing powers for individuals, groups, and our species as a whole. We are also faced with accumulating dangers -- the capabilities to end the whole humanity experiment are growing and are ever more accessible. In light of the promethean fire that is computing, we must prevent bad outcomes and lock in good ones to build robust foundations for our...

Duration:01:29:12

George P. Shultz: Perspective

7/16/2018
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Perspective? No one has a longer or better-informed view of world affairs and America's role than George Shultz, now 97. (Henry Kissinger is only 95.) Secretary Shultz was a US Marine Captain in World War II. After becoming an economics professor at MIT and the University of Chicago he served the Nixon administration as Secretary of Labor, then director of the Office of Management and Budget, then Secretary of the Treasury. Back in private life by 1974, he led Bechtel Group as executive...

Duration:01:03:01

Chris D. Thomas: Are We Initiating The Great Anthropocene Speciation Event?

6/19/2018
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The bad news (not news to most): Many wild species are under severe duress. The good news (total news to most): “Nature is thriving in an age of extinction.” Ecologist and evolutionary biologist Chris Thomas has examined a little-noticed phenomenon around the world, that as an unintentional byproduct of massive human impact, biodiversity is increasing in pretty much every region of the world. Evolution has sped up. Wild populations are on the move, sometimes in response to climate change,...

Duration:01:40:43

Benjamin Grant: Overview: Earth and Civilization in the Macroscope

5/22/2018
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Civilization is both astonishing and astonishingly various when viewed from slightly above. Not so far above as to be lost in planetary context, but just high enough to see a fascinating thing whole, entire, intensely peculiar and informative. The glory is in the high-resolution details, in the perpetually surprising god’s-eye perspective, and in the shocking patterns that we arrange things in without even knowing it. Revel in a host of such images and the understanding that emerges from...

Duration:01:21:59

Kishore Mahbubani: Has the West Lost It? Can Asia Save It?

4/23/2018
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In Kishore Mahbubani’s view, global power is shifting from the West to the Rest—from Europe and North America to Asia and Africa. He argues that changes will be required both in the West and the Rest to manage the shift gracefully for long-term stability. The rest of the world has learned a great deal from the West. Now it is the West’s turn to learn and to dispel some of its myths about the new world order. Singaporean diplomat and scholar Kishore Mahbubani served as his nation’s...

Duration:01:31:01

Steven Pinker: A New Enlightenment

3/13/2018
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The Enlightenment worked, says Steven Pinker. By promoting reason, science, humanism, progress, and peace, the programs set in motion by the 18th-Century intellectual movement became so successful we’ve lost track of what that success came from. Some even discount the success itself, preferring to ignore or deny how much better off humanity keeps becoming, decade after decade, in terms of health, food, money, safety, education, justice, and opportunity. The temptation is to focus on the...

Duration:01:32:18

Michael Frachetti: Open Source Civilization and the Unexpected Origins of the Silk Road

2/26/2018
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Travel the ancient Silk Road with an archaeologist researching a revolutionary idea. Nomadic pastoralists, far from being irrelevant outliers, may have helped shape civilizations at continental scale. Drawing on his exciting field work, Michael Frachetti shows how alternative ways of conceptualizing the very essence of the word “civilization” helps us to recast our understanding of regional political economies through time and discover the unexpected roots and formation of one of the...

Duration:01:28:14

Charles C. Mann: The Wizard and the Prophet

1/22/2018
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Civilization’s health hangs on how we manage food, water, energy, and climate. Two conflicting visions dominate how we think about them. Each vision had an original creator and exemplar—the “prophet” William Vogt, author of Road to Survival, and the “wizard” Norman Borlaug, mastermind of The Green Revolution in agriculture. The prophet says to repent and cut back on everything; the wizard says that clever enough innovation can always find a way forward. Examine both visionaries and their...

Duration:01:27:46

Elena Bennett: Seeds of a Good Anthropocene

11/20/2017
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As humans increasingly dominate Earth’s natural systems over the coming centuries (“the Anthropocene”), how can we ensure that it becomes a “good Anthopocene”—a world in which nature and humanity prosper together? Ecosystem ecologist Elena Bennett believes that discovering the most effective paths to such a future is a bottom-up process, as countless projects all over the world are exploring how nature and humans can best collaborate. She has collected 500 such examples and assembled them...

Duration:01:19:02

Renee Wegrzyn: Engineering Gene Safety

10/30/2017
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Genome editing technologies provide the unprecedented ability to modify genetic material in a manner that is targeted, rapid, adaptable, and broadly accessible. Advances in genome editing form the foundation for new transformative applications across all of biology, ranging from highly personalized therapeutics to control of mosquito populations in the wild to reduce vector borne diseases. Extension of these technologies to gene drives and germline editing, which can alter the outcomes of...

Duration:01:21:15

David Grinspoon: Earth in Human Hands

9/6/2017
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For thinking about the future of life on Earth in planetary terms, no one can match the perspective of an astrobiologist. David Grinspoon notes two major shifts in Earth’s biological regime: 1) 2.1 billion years ago, when cyanobacteria flipped the whole planet from anaerobic to oxygen-based life; 2) now, as humans assume domination of the Earth’s living systems. “We suddenly find ourselves running a planet,” he says, “without knowing how it should be done. We’re at the controls, but we’re...

Duration:01:31:39

Nicky Case: Seeing Whole Systems

8/7/2017
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Nicky Case’s presentations are as ingenious, compelling, and graphically rich as the visualizing tools and games Nicky creates for understanding complex dynamic systems. Case writes: “We need to see the non-linear feedback loops between culture, economics, and technology. Not only that, but we need to see how collective behavior emerges from individual minds and motives. We need new tools, theories, and visualizations to help people talk across disciplines.” Nicky Case is the creator of...

Duration:01:18:31

Carolyn Porco: Searching for Life in the Solar System

7/24/2017
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Where will unambiguous signs of life most likely be found outside Earth? While telescopes squint at impossibly distant (but numerous) exoplanets, increasing numbers of increasingly brilliant robots are probing the wildly exotic potential environments for life nearby in our own Solar System. Which ones are the most promising candidates, and why, and what are the plans to check them out? Is life in the universe a one-off freak, or the norm? If we find just one more instance, we can infer...

Duration:01:25:29

James Gleick: Time Travel

6/5/2017
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The problem of the unknowable future is matched by the problem of the unchangeable past. Both are solved by the dream of time travel. The peculiarities and paradoxes of time travel are explored in imaginative detail in science fiction, even though it doesn’t exist, or maybe especially because it doesn’t exist. Grappling with the idea helps humans engage with a dimension of profound human powerlessness and also invites deeper thinking about what actually can be known about the past and what...

Duration:01:20:31

Geoffrey B. West: The Universal Laws of Growth and Pace

5/23/2017
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The scope of Geoffrey West’s talk is covered by the full title of his new book: Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies. It is original, spectacular work—showing how logarithmic scaling governs everything from cells to ecosystems. The same rules govern companies and cities, but somewhat differently from biology and from each other. Geoffrey West deploys the rigor of a theoretical physicist long at...

Duration:01:34:05

Frank Ostaseski: What the Dying Teach the Living

4/10/2017
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It’s a lot more than “Seize the day.” We learn from the dying to push away nothing; to lose the habit of postponing things; to show up entirely; to find rest amid whatever; to go ahead and be surprised. You can look death right in the eye, tough as it is, and life lights up. Frank Ostaseki, one of the world’s great end-of-life counselors, has attended over a thousand dyings. He was a cofounder of the renowned Zen Hospice in San Francisco and is the author of a new book, The Five Invitations:...

Duration:01:32:30

Bjorn Lomborg: From Feel-Good to High-Yield Good: How to Improve Philanthropy and Aid

3/13/2017
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Bjorn Lomborg does cost/benefit analysis on global good. There are surprises when you examine what are the highest-yield targets in the domains of health, poverty, education, reduced violence, gender equality, climate change, biodiversity, and good governance. Reducing trade restrictions floats to the top: $1 spent yields $2,000 of good for everyone. Contraception for women is close behind, with a whole array of benefits. For health go after tuberculosis, malaria, and child malnutrition. For...

Duration:01:30:00

Jennifer Pahlka: Fixing Government: Bottom Up and Outside In

2/1/2017
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Code for America was founded in 02009 by Jennifer Pahlka “to make government work better for the people and by the people in the 21st century.” The organization started a movement to modernize government for a digital age which has now spread from cities to counties to states, and now, most visibly, to the federal government, where Jennifer served at the White House as US Deputy Chief Technology Officer. There she helped start the United States Digital Service, known as "Obama's stealth...

Duration:01:24:50

Steven Johnson: Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World

1/4/2017
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“You will find the future wherever people are having the most fun,” Johnson argues. He chronicles how, throughout history, world-transforming innovation emerges from the endless quest for novelty in seemingly trivial entertainments--fashion, music, spices, magic, taverns, zoos, games. He celebrates the observation of historian Johan Huizinga (Homo Ludens), “Civilization arises and unfolds in and as play.” Steven Johnson is the leading historian of creativity. His books include Wonderland:...

Duration:01:23:38