A large 10000 year clock is now under construction and has been backed by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, with hopes that this installation will open a discussion about the importance of being “good ancestors.”
The 10000 year clock is being built inside a mountain in western Texas. The designers behind the project are part of a company known as Long Now, and it’s designed to foster a discussion of the trajectory humans are currently on and whether or not we’ll still be here to hear the last “tock” of the clock at the end of 10000 years.
The utility of a 10000 year clock isn’t the focal point of this project, rather serving as a catalyst that the designers hope will keep people talking about where we’ll be as a species in the next 10000 years. The Long Now group has plans to expand construction to other sites as well, with a second site already purchased at the top of a mountain in Nevada.
According to Long Now board member Kevin Kelley in his essay on the Clock, “[The] site [is] surrounded by a very large grove of 5000-year-old bristlecone pines. Appropriately, bristlecone pines are among the longest-lived organisms on the planet. The designers of the Clock in Texas expect its chimes will keep ringing twice as long as the oldest 5-millenia-old bristlecone pine. Ten thousand years is about the age of civilization, so a 10000 year Clock would measure out a future of civilization equal to its past. That assumes we are in the middle of whatever journey we are on – an implicit statement of optimism.”
It’s unfortunately true that it may be optimistic rather than realistic to think that human society will still be here to witness the death of a 10000 year clock. Jeff Bezos obviously feels passionate about the project, as he has contributed funds, land, and design expertise in order to help these installations get off the ground.
His commitment echoes the concerns of a growing population that is concerned with the path that humanity finds itself on. While modern human civilization has been around in one form or another for thousands of years, we’ve managed to cause a possibly-irreparable amount of damage in just a couple hundred years. The ability of a 10000 year clock to spark a discussion regarding the sustainability of our current lifestyle is questionable, but art doesn’t always have to bring about results. If one thing is certain, it will definitely get people talking about the numerous installations we’ll hopefully see moving forward – and people talking may eventually lead to people taking action. Jeff Bezos has contributed to a project that will outlast hundreds of generations, and while Amazon may be a legacy that will last for years to come, it’s very unlikely that it will be as long-lasting as the 10000 year clock.
The Long Now essay written by Kevin Kelley is as poetic as it is informative, and gives us a good sense of the scope of the 10000 year clock and the impact that Jeff Bezos and the designers hope it will have moving forward. By keeping an eye on the way we grow as a society, there’s certainly a possibility that humanity will be around to outlive this mechanical marvel.