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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.

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The Bureau of Linguistical Reality is a participatory artwork facilitated by artist Alicia Escott and Heidi Quante which collaborates with the public to create new words for feelings and experiences for which no words yet exist. Recognizing the climate crisis is causing new feelings and experiences that have yet to be named, the project was created with a deep focus on these and other Anthropocenic phenomena. The Bureau views the words created in this process as also serving as points of connectivity: advancing understanding, dialogue, and conversations about the greater concepts these words seek to codify. This talk was an intimate sharing of The Bureau's findings from their decade long social art practice as well as a Word Making Field Session where Escott and Quante collaborated with participants to collectively coin a term together. Participants were encouraged to consider in advance their personal unnamed experience(s) of our changing world as well as their unique feelings for which they wish there was a word and to bring the diversity of their linguistic backgrounds to this conversation as the Bureau creates neologisms in all languages.
Alternative visions for social change rooted in the frameworks of capitalism and colonialism only reproduce contemporary structures of power. How can indigenous perspectives and knowledge inform the structural transformation necessary to improve the health of the natural world and of human communities? Dr. Cordero will discuss how indigenous epistemologies challenge the ideas and practices related to capitalism and colonialism and how the enhancement of indigeneity and sovereignty are critical to the maintenance of indigenous epistemologies. Insights drawn from the discourses on decolonization, settler colonialism, and epistemicide will be revealed throughout the presentation. Last, Dr. Cordero will share how indigenous perspectives and knowledge inspire work of the Association of Ramaytush Ohlone.
Economic policy can seem abstract and distant, but it manifests the physical world – affecting us all. Our economic stories shape our systems, and they in turn shape us. What myths continue to constrain us, and how might new stories emerge to scaffold the future? This talk will explore concepts we often take as gospel: profits, competition, economic value, efficiency, and others -- and asks how we might reshape them to better serve planetary flourishing –today, and well into the future.
As authoritarianism continues to rise around the world, the stories we tell ourselves about our collective history become a battleground for competing visions of the future. Drawing extensively from Russian history in the 20th century, Rumsey offers a framework to discuss our current social and political tensions and how our increasing polarization could shape our future.
Coco Krumme traces the fascinating history of optimization from its roots in America's founding principles, to its dominance as the driving principle of our modern world. Optimized models underlie everything and are deeply embedded in the technologies and assumptions that have come to comprise not only our material reality, but what we make of it. How did a mathematical concept take on such outsized cultural shape? Krumme's work in scientific computation made her aware of optimization's overreach, where she observed that streamlined systems are less resilient and more at risk of failure. They limit our options and narrow our perspectives. Optimal Illusions exposes the sizable bargains we have made in the name of optimization and asks us to consider what comes next.
Join us for a thought-provoking conversation between two Hugo award-winning science fiction authors, Becky Chambers and Annalee Newitz. Known for challenging classic science fiction tropes such as war, violence, and colonialism, both authors create vivid and immersive worlds that are filled with non-human persons, peace, and a subtle sense of hope. The authors will discuss what it means to take these alternative themes seriously, delve into their writing & world building process, and explore how science fiction can help us imagine new futures that can make sense of our current civilizational struggles.
Psychedelics and other mind-altering substances have been used for thousands of years across the world in religious, spiritual, celebratory, and healing contexts. Despite a half century of a "War on Drugs" in the United States, there has been a recent resurgence in public interest in ending drug prohibition and re-evaluating the roles these substances can play in modern society. What can our several-thousand year history with these substances teach us about how they can be used in a modern society? What legal & cultural frameworks can be used to increase access to these substances, and what are the potential downsides of these frameworks? Ismail Ali works daily developing and implementing the legal and policy strategies that will define the next several decades of psychedelic access, and joins Long Now in an evening of exploring the deep history of psychedelics and what role they can play in our future. Ismail Lourido Ali, JD (he/him or they/them) is the Director of Policy & Advocacy at the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), and has been personally utilizing psychedelics and other substances in celebratory & spiritual contexts for over fifteen years. Ismail works with, is formally affiliated with, or has served in leadership or board roles for numerous organizations in the drug policy reform ecosystem, including Alchemy Community Therapy Center (formerly Sage Institute), Psychedelic Bar Association, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Chacruna Institute, and the Ayahuasca Defense Fund.
How would someone fare if they were dropped into a randomly chosen period in history? Would they have any relevant knowledge to share, or ability to invent crucial technologies given the period's constraints? Ryan North uses these hypothetical questions to explore the technological and implicit knowledge underpinning modern civilization, offering a practical guide of how one could rebuild civilization from the ground up.
Urbanist, researcher and writer Johanna Hoffman joins us to talk about speculative futures -- a powerful set of tools that can reorient urban development help us dream and build more resilient, equitable cities. Navigating modern change depends on imagining futures we’ve never seen. Urban planning and design should be well positioned to spearhead that work, but calculated rationale often results in urban spaces crafted to mitigate threats rather than navigate the unexpected, leaving cities increasingly vulnerable to the uncertainties of 21st century change. Long used in art, film, fiction, architecture, and industrial design, speculative futures offers powerful ways to counter this trend by moving us beyond what currently exists into the realms of what could be. Far from an indulgent creative exercise, speculative futures is a means of creating the resilient cities we urgently need.
See the full description of this talk on our new website: Edward Slingerland, "Drinking for 10,000 Years: Intoxication and Civilization".
More than one hundred million pieces of human-made space debris currently orbit our planet, most moving at more than 10,000 mph. Every year their number increases, creating a progressively more dangerous environment for working spacecraft. In order to operate in space, we track most of this debris through a patchwork of private efforts and government defense networks. Creon Levit spent over three decades at NASA, and is now the Director of R&D at Planet, a company that is imaging the earth everyday with one of the largest swarms of micro-satellites in the world. Creon will discuss the history of space debris, the way the debris is currently tracked, and how we might work to reduce it before we see a cascading effect of ballistic interactions that could render low orbit all but unusable.
Based on four decades in technology and media, constantly in the eye of innovation, O’Reilly is starting vital conversations about our future. Be ready for keen details on how we got here, a frank assessment of emerging challenges, and a bold call to action for the sake of the generations on the horizon. Tim O’Reilly is founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media, Inc. If you’ve heard the term “open source software” or “web 2.0” or “the Maker movement” or “government as a platform” or “the WTF economy,” he’s had a hand in framing each of those big ideas. With these and many other efforts over the years, Tim has helped the tech industry better understand itself and its influence beyond innovation for innovation's sake. His leadership and insight continue to be invaluable as he now highlights the responsibility that goes along with that influence. He spoke in Long Now's Seminars About Long-term Thinking series in 02012.
A special night of short talks about the long history and scientific background behind a most persistent malady. And the drinks that can help keep it at bay. Featuring returning Interval speakers
 James Holland Jones (Stanford), James Nestor (Deep), Kara Platoni (We Have the Technology), The Interval’s Beverage Director: Jennifer Colliau, and more.
Rick Prelinger uncovers the diverse histories of
Bay Area telecommunications infrastructure: telephone, radio, television, data, image and sound. A tour of technologies, dead and flourishing, that overlay, underlay and penetrate us all.
Before us, after us, and without our realizing it: geology, ecology, and biology uniquely record human activity. Geoscientist Miles Traer, co-host of the podcast Generation Anthropocene uncovers the many “natures" of the
 San Francisco Bay Area that exist beneath our feet.
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.
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