The difference between long term thinking and long term planning was articulated by Danny Hillis, with Brian Eno and Stewart Brand.
[61:40 Danny Hillis] Maybe the one thing I’ve learned about long term thinking is the difference between long term planning and long term thinking.
[Stewart Brand] Yeah, say more about that. My sense is that we learned that at Yucca Mountain.
[Danny Hillis] Yeah. Yucca Mountain is a good example. I guess that I really don’t believe in long term planning, which is trying to take a long distance out and control the future for a while. Many of our attempts to look at, nuclear waste, for example, are things where we try to control the future for 10,000 years. In some sense, Yucca Mountain is sold as that. But Yucca Mountain, I actually think, is a pretty good idea, because everything is just sitting there in a can, and within a 100 years, people will go in to get them, to mine for …. It’s reversible. So, it’s really just a 100 year solution that gives you a lot of options for what to do in 100 years.
[Stewart Brand] By the way, it’s a lot more politically tractable, to say we’re just going to park it here for 100 years.
[Danny Hillis] Indeed, where we’re heading, by default, of less-good idea [and dear] solutions is the idea of options is much more valuable than making real long term plans.
[Brian Eno] The resistance there, is that people feel less secure with long term plans. And people don’t feel we’ll always be improvising, which is something that we’ve come to accept, more and more.
[Stewart Brand] The hacker ethic was to trying to make everyone into a hacker.
Brian Eno delivered the first SALT talk exactly ten years ago. He gave The Long Now Foundation its name, contributed in no end of artistic and financial ways, and designed the chimes for the 10,000-year Clock. Danny Hillis instigated and co-founded Long Now and designed its series of Clocks, culminating currently in the 500-foot one being built inside a west Texas mountain. In the course of their collaboration, Eno and Hillis became fast friends.
Thousands of years pass a decade at a time. The idea and works of Long Now have been active for two decades (1/500th of 10,000 years). Between the conception and initial delivery of a deep idea, much transpires. If the idea resonates with people, it gains a life of its own. Allies assemble, and shape things. Public engagement shapes things. Funding or its absence shapes things. Refinements of the idea emerge, branch off, and thrive or don’t. Initial questions metastasize into potent new questions.
Over time, the promotion of “long-term thinking” begins to acquire a bit of its own long term to conjure with. Eno and Hillis have spent 20 years thinking about long-term thinking and building art for it, with ever increasing fascination. What gets them about it?