The 10,000 Year Clock Inspires Us About The Future Of Humanity

It’s the year 4012, and there’s a ringing in the middle of a mountain. It’s a song no one on Earth has heard before, and it’s a song that no one alive will ever hear again. The 10,000 Year Clock is a project to capture the imagination. It’s also a project designed to inspire questions. Why would you make something that will come to the end of its life thousands of years after you have died? Humans are incredibly good at thinking in short time frames (Mmm, what’s for breakfast? Bacon? Excellent! Let’s go eat some). Where was I? Oh yes, we’re not so good at thinking in long time frames. In a time of huge change, it’s hard to imagine the world that your grandchildren will live in, let alone the world of 10,000 years from now.

Will there be hovercars? Teleportation? Will the world be solar-powered? Will humans learn how to survive in a way that’s good for both us and the rest of the planet, in a way that assures the long-term survival of our human civilization? While the first few questions are pretty intriguing, it’s that last question that is the one that the makers of the 10,000 Year Clock think about the most. Ok, maybe they think about hovercars too. But deep time thinking is about understanding humanity’s place in the history of the world. Creating something that will last for thousands of years is a profoundly thoughtful and optimistic endeavor. If we’re lucky and thoughtful about the way we carry on living here, it may just be that thousands of years from now there will be someone there to hear it.

The 10,000 Year Clock is being built inside a mountain in Western Texas. It will chime when a person makes a journey into the mountain to wind it. It will also chime on its own because it will be powered from external sources as well. Why 10,000 years? That’s about as long as civilization has lasted so far, and so it’s an optimistic statement that we’re in the middle of something good here, and that we’ll figure out how to make it through the next 10,000 years or so.

In ancient times, people built pyramids and castles and other edifices of beauty and strength, and they built them over generations. Maybe they thought only of the here and now (wow, this rock is heavy!). Perhaps they thought about the time when the structure would be finished, and that their great-great-great grandchildren might be able to visit it and be inspired.

The 10,000 Year Clock

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Image Credits: [The Long Now Foundation] [Tech Republic]