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Long Now: Conversations at The Interval
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Long Now: Conversations at The Interval

Author: The Long Now Foundation

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A long-term thinking lecture series from The Long Now Foundation: these hour long talks are recorded live at The Interval, our bar / cafe / museum in San Francisco. Since 02014 this series has presented artists, authors, entrepreneurs, scientists (and more) taking a long-term perspective on subjects like art, design, history, nature, technology, and time. You can learn more about The Interval and this series at theinterval.org, where we have full videos of the talks on this podcast.

51 Episodes
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What place is there for art in the 21st century world of technology, business, and science? Everywhere. Award-winning cross-disciplinary artist and current SETI artist-in-residence Scott Kildall discusses collaborating with scientists, technologists, and others. He'll share his work and explain the vital role for Art Thinking as a tool that offers perspective
 in a dynamic, fast-moving world. Scott Kildall is a cross-disciplinary artist whose work includes writing algorithms that transform datasets into 3D sculptures and installations. His art often invites public participation through direct interaction. He has been an artist in residence with the SETI Institute and Autodesk; and his work has been exhibited internationally at venues including the New York Hall of Science, Transmediale, the Venice Biennale and the San Jose Museum of Art. Besides many other fellowships, residencies, and honors.
Legendary science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson returns to The Interval to discuss his just released novel New York 2140. Robinson will discuss how starting from the most up to date climate science available to him, he derived a portrait of New York City as "super-Venice" and the resilient civilization that inhabits it in his novel. In 02016 Robinson spoke at The Interval about the economic ideas that inform New York 2140. He will be joined by futurist Peter Schwartz in conversation after his talk. Kim Stanley Robinson is an American novelist, widely recognized as one of the foremost living writers of science fiction. His work has been described as "humanist science fiction" and "literary science fiction." He has published more than 20 novels including his much honored "Mars trilogy", New York 2140 (02017), and Red Moon due out in October 02018. Robinson has a B.A. in Literature from UC San Diego and an M.A. in English from Boston University. He earned a Ph.D. in literature from UCSD with a dissertation on the works of Philip K. Dick.
Science fiction does more than predict future inventions. Stories are a testbed for exploring the unexpected ways people could incorporate technology into their cultures. Science journalist and novelist Annalee Newitz will discuss how scientists, innovators, and the rest of us benefit from the crucible of imaginative fictions. Annalee is the author of the bestselling novel Autonomous. Her nonfiction book Scatter, Adapt and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction was a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize in science. She is the founding editor of io9.com, and formerly the editor-in-chief of Gizmodo. Currently she is editor-at-large for Ars Technica. Her work has appeared in New York Times, The New Yorker, Atlantic, Wired, Washington Post, Technology Review, 2600, and many other publications. Formerly she was a policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a lecturer in American Studies at UC Berkeley. She received a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship from MIT, and has a Ph.D. in English and American Studies from UC Berkeley.
From 01960s political protests to successfully eradicating smallpox, Brilliant recalls his long, strange trips around a changing world. His personal stories include icons of the last century from Steve Jobs to MLK to the Grateful Dead. Recollections of a visionary physician, technologist, and seeker, in conversation with Long Now's Stewart Brand with whom Dr. Brilliant founded The Well online community in 01985.
Through building and analyzing systems, D. Fox Harrell's research investigates how the computer can be used to express cultural meanings through data-structures and algorithms. In his talk he showed that identities are complicated by their intersection with technologies like social networking, gaming, and virtual worlds. Data-structures and algorithms in video games and social media can perpetuate persistent issues of class, gender, sex, race, and ethnicity. They also create dynamic constructions of social categories, metaphorical thought, body language, and fashion. He showed work from his team at the Imagination, Computation, and Expression Laboratory (ICE Lab) at MIT which provides alternatives that can evolve those industry norms. Dr. Harrell is an associate professor of digital media in the Comparative Media Studies Program and the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT. He holds a PhD in computer science and cognitive science from the University of California, San Diego. In 02010 he was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award for his project "Computing for Advanced Identity Representation." He was a 02014-15 fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) at Stanford, co-sponsors of this talk.
The future of privacy begins with the current state of surveillance. The 21st century practices of US intelligence agencies push the technological, legal and political limits of lawful surveillance. Jennifer Granick is a civil liberties and privacy law expert with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who is the perfect guide to how the system works and the technological and political means we have to defend our privacy. Jennifer Granick fights for civil liberties in an age of massive surveillance and powerful digital technology. As surveillance and cybersecurity counsel with the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, she litigates, speaks, and writes about privacy, security, technology, and constitutional rights. She is the former Executive Director of Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society and also former Civil Liberties Director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Her book American Spies: Modern Surveillance, Why You Should Care, and What To Do About It won the 02016 Palmer Civil Liberties Prize for scholarship exploring the tension between civil liberties and national security in contemporary American society. An experienced litigator and criminal defense attorney, she has taught subjects like surveillance law, cybersecurity, and encryption policy at Stanford Law School.
Clandestine influence campaigns are rampant on social media. Whether pushing Russian agitprop or lies about vaccines, they can impact policy and make us question what is true. A technologist, Wall Street veteran, and citizen advisor to Congress, DiResta will tell us how bad it is and some things we can do. Renée DiResta studies narrative manipulation as the Director of Research at New Knowledge. She is a Mozilla Foundation fellow on Media, Misinformation and Trust, and is affiliated with the Berkman-Klein Center at Harvard and the Data Science Institute at Columbia University. Renee is a WIRED Ideas contributor, writing about discourse and the internet. In past lives she has been on the founding team of supply chain logistics startup Haven, a venture capitalist at OATV, and a trader at Jane Street.
Burning Man co-founder Michael Mikel (aka Danger Ranger), who serves as Director of Advanced Social Systems for the Burning Man Project will discuss the thirty-year history of the event. Outlining the five eras of Burning Man, he will 
explain how over time the event and organization
 have evolved and been molded by external and internal forces.
Is it possible to preserve and read memories after someone has died? Robert McIntyre thinks it is, and that the technology is closer than most people realize. His company Nectome is working on documenting the physical properties of memory formation, and studying ways to preserve those physical properties after death. McIntyre has already won the Brain Preservation Institutes' "Small Mammal" & "Large Mammal" prizes for preserving a full brain down to the synaptic level, and is now taking the next steps in figuring out how to decode those synapses. These are early experiments, but this is the type of work that will be required if we are someday able to preserve a mind and memories past biological death. Robert McIntyre is a former AI researcher at MIT, where he worked with Marvin Minsky, Patrick Winston, and Gerald Sussman studying the role of embodiment in AI. He left MIT in 02015 to compete for the Brain Preservation Prizes, and is currently CEO of Nectome, a company he founded to further develop brain preservation technology.
The future is a kind of history that hasn’t happened yet. The past is a kind of future that has already happened. The present moment vanishes before it can be described. Language, a human invention, lacks the power to fully adhere to reality. We live in a very short now and here, since the flow of events in spacetime is mostly closed to human comprehension. But we have to say something about the future, since we have to live there. So what can we say? Being “futuristic” is a problem in metaphysics; it’s about getting language to adhere to an unknowable reality. But the futuristic quickly becomes old-fashioned, so how can the news stay news? Bruce Sterling is a futurist, journalist, science-fiction author, and culture critic. He is the author of more than 20 books including ground-breaking science ficiton and non-fiction about hackers, design and the future. He was the editor in 01986 of Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology (1986) which brought the cyberpunk science fiction sub-genre to a much wider audience. He previous spoke for Long Now about "The Singularity: Your Future as a Black Hole" in 02004. His Beyond the Beyond blog on Wired.com is now in its 15th year. His most recent book is Pirate Utopia.
Fred Lyon is a time traveler with a camera and tales to tell. At 94-years-old, this former LIFE magazine photographer and fourth generation San Franciscan has an eye for the city and stories to match. We showed photos from Fred's books San Francisco, Portrait of a City: 1940-1960 and San Francisco Noir, and images spanning his diverse career. In conversation he'll discuss his art, work, and life; recollections of old friends like Herb Caen and Trader Vic Bergeron; and more. He shared his unique perspective after nearly a century in San Francisco. Fred Lyon's career began in the early 01940's and has spanned news, architecture, advertising, wine and food photography. In the golden years of magazine publishing his picture credits were everywhere from LIFE to VOGUE and beyond. These days find him combing his picture files for galleries, publishers and print collectors. He has been called San Francisco's Brassaï. He's also been compared to Cartier Bresson, Atget and Andre Kertez, but all with a San Francisco twist. That's fine with this lifelong native who happily admits his debt to those icons.
The ambition to think on the scale of thousands, millions, even billion of years emerged in the 19th century. Historian and author Caroline Winterer chronicles how the concept of “deep time” has inspired and puzzled thinkers in cognitive science, art, geology (and elsewhere) to become one of the most 
influential ideas of the modern era. Caroline Winterer is Anthony P. Meier Family Professor in the Humanities and Director of the Stanford Humanities Center. She is an American historian, with special expertise in American thought and culture. Her most recent book is American Enlightenments: Pursuing Happiness in the Age of Reason. Other books include The Mirror of Antiquity: American Women and the Classical Tradition, 1750-1900, and The Culture of Classicism: Ancient Greece and Rome in American Intellectual Life, 1780-1910. She has received fellowships from among others the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Humanities Center. Her writing appears in numerous publications and academic journals. For mapping the social network of Benjamin Franklin she received an American Ingenuity Award from the Smithsonian Institution.
As the world is becoming more technologically connected, finding time for oneself and face-to-face connections is becoming increasingly difficult.  Many of our talks at Long Now have aimed to help expand our collective now by centuries or even millennia, but what about our personal present?  Tiffany Shlain's new book 24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day A Week discusses one way to slow down and be more engaged: a technological shabbat, or day of rest. She will be explaining some of the neuroscience, philosophy, psychology, and history of this 3000 year old concept, and how it can help promote creativity in our busy world. Honored by Newsweek as one of the “Women Shaping the 21st Century,” Tiffany Shlain is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker, founder of The Webby Awards and author of 24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day A Week. Tiffany’s films and work have received over 80 awards and distinctions including being selected for the Albert Einstein Foundation Genius:100 Visions of the Future. She lectures worldwide on the relationship between technology and humanity.
Recent data shows damage from climate change rapidly increasing. There are many scientifically proposed methods (from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the U.K. Royal Society, and the American Geophysical Union among others) for directly reducing atmospheric heat. Yet to date there are still no formal research programs or capabilities to further explore these geoengineering ideas. What are the potential risks and benefits? How do we balance this effort vs. emissions reduction and restoring the natural system?
 Kelly Wanser of SilverLining discusses her work advocating, educating and coordinating research on this important effort to combat climate change. Kelly Wanser, as Executive Director of SilverLining, helps drive research that will ensure safe pathways for climate for people and ecosystems within the coming decade. She works to accelerate adoption of technologies that help us understand and manage climate as a complex systems problem. Ms. Wanser works closely with leading scientists, engineers, technologists and government leaders on efforts to increase research and accelerate progress on reducing atmospheric heat. She testified before the U.S. House Space, Science and Technology Committee as part of a panel on "Geoengineering: Innovation, Research, and Technology." She serves as Board Director for BioCarbon Engineering, who use drone and AI technology to help restore ecosystems, and is a Senior Advisor to BlackBirch, whose hyper-local data helps companies manage weather risk.
Long Now board member Esther Dyson shares her ongoing work to move communities away from short-term thinking and into health. In conversation with previous Interval speaker Kara Platoni, she discusses how short-term desire is addiction, affecting not just individuals but institutions and culture. Dyson’s founded the 10-year Wellville project, now underway in five communities across the US, to tap into people’s natural resilience and build long-term desire: purpose. Esther Dyson is a Long Now Board member, founder of Wellville, and chairman of EDventure Holdings. She is an active angel investor, best-selling author, board member and advisor concentrating on emerging markets and technologies, new space and health. She sits on the boards of 23andMe and is an investor in Crohnology, Eligible API, Keas, Omada Health, Sleepio, and StartUp Health, among others. For 6 months in 02008-02009, Esther lived outside Moscow, Russia, training as a backup cosmonaut. Kara Platoni is a science reporter who has traveled around the world interviewing scientists and biohackers. She is lecturer and assistant dean for students at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. She has spoken twice at The Interval: once about her book We Have the Technology and also as part of our Scurvy Salon event.
Millennia before engineering or software, robots and
 artificial intelligence were brought to life in Greek myths. The author of Gods and Robots Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Technology traces the link between technology and tyranny from modern day concerns over AI to back to antiquities fear of beings were "made, not born.” Adrienne Mayor is a folklorist and historian of ancient science who investigates natural knowledge contained in pre-scientific myths and oral traditions. She has been at Stanford University since 02006; Gods and Robots (2018) is her most recent book. Her other books include The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times (2000); Greek Fire, Poison Arrows, and Scorpion Bombs: Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World (2003); The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women (2014); and a biography of Mithradates, The Poison King (2010), a National Book Award finalist. She is a 02018-19 Berggruen Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS), co-sponsors of this talk. While at CASBS she is continuing her investigations about how imagination is a link between myths about technology and science. Other projects include researching interdisciplinary topics in geomythology, to discover natural knowledge and scientific realities embedded in mythological traditions about nature.
Annalee Newitz's new novel, The Future of Another Timeline, is about time travelers in an edit war over history. But it's also about using stories to change the course of civilization. Annalee will discuss the idea of time travel, as well as the extensive scientific and historical research they did for the novel.  Annalee Newitz writes science fiction and nonfiction. They are the author of the recent novel The Future of Another Timeline. Their previous novel, Autonomous, was nominated for the Nebula and Locus Awards, and winner of the Lambda Literary Award. As a science journalist, they are a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and have a monthly column in New Scientist. They have published in The Washington Post, Slate, Popular Science, Ars Technica, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic, among others. They are also the co-host of the Hugo Award-winning podcast Our Opinions Are Correct. They were the founder of io9 and served as the editor-in-chief of Gizmodo.
If we use AI to write our favorite music for us, will we lose the ability to write music ourselves? If an AI coach keeps divorced parents from arguing by text, can they get along without it? If the only novels and screenplays that get a green light are the ones that AI believes match up with past hits, will we wind up reading and watching the same thing over and over? In this conversation, NBC’s Jacob Ward, will describe the loop: the endless feedback cycle of pattern-recognition that threatens to collapse the complexity of human behavior into a predictable set of patterns across politics, entertainment, relationships, and art itself. Why is the loop so powerful? Why do companies keep empowering it? And what can we, as private citizens, do to resist its pull? Jacob Ward is a Berggruen Fellow at Stanford's Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS), co-sponsor of this talk. Jacob Ward is technology correspondent for NBC News, where he reports on-air for Nightly News with Lester Holt, MSNBC, and The TODAY Show. The former editor-in-chief of Popular Science magazine, Ward was Al Jazeera’s science and technology correspondent from 02013 to 02018, and has hosted investigative documentaries for Discovery, National Geographic, and PBS. As a writer, Ward has contributed to The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Wired, and many other publications. His ten-episode Audible podcast, Complicated, discusses humanity’s most difficult problems, and he’s the host of an upcoming four-hour public television series, “Hacking Your Mind,” about human decision making and irrationality. Ward is a 02018-19 Berggruen Fellow at Stanford University’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, where he’s writing The Loop: Decision Technology and How to Resist It, due for publication by Hachette Book Group in 02020. The book explores how artificial intelligence and other decision-shaping technologies will amplify good and bad human instincts.
From the cultivation of the first crops to the founding of modern states, the human story is the story of environmental forces, from plate tectonics and climate change, to atmospheric circulation and ocean currents. Professor Lewis Dartnell will dive into the planet’s deep past, where history becomes science, to explore a web of connections that underwrites our modern world, and that can help us face the challenges of the future. Lewis Dartnell is a Professor of Science Communication at the University of Westminster. Before that, he completed his biology degree at the University of Oxford and his PhD at UCL, and then worked as the UK Space Agency research fellow at the University of Leicester, studying astrobiology and searching for signs of life on Mars. He has won several awards for his science writing and contributes to the Guardian, The Times, and New Scientist. He is also the author of three books. He lives in London, UK.
From kings and philosophers to craftsmen and inventors, horology has been prized as an extraordinary marriage between art and science. Antiquarian Horologist Brittany Nicole Cox will share her unique experience with objects born from this lineage. We will trace their origins to discover how these objects serve as critical mirrors in a world of accelerated discovery. Her lifelong passion for horology has seen her through nine years in higher education where she earned her WOSTEP, CW21, and SAWTA watchmaking certifications, two clockmaking certifications, and a Masters in the Conservation of Clocks and Related Dynamic Objects from West Dean College, UK. In 2015 she opened Memoria Technica, an independent workshop where she teaches, practices guilloché, and specializes in the conservation of automata, mechanical magic, mechanical music, and complicated clocks and watches. Her original work has been exhibited at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York and she is currently working on a series of bestiary automata inspired by illuminated texts and a manuscript to be published by Penguin Press.
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