Jeff Bezos, the 49-year old founder and CEO of Amazon.com, whose personal wealth this year surpassed the $25 billion mark, is allocating some of his extraordinary fortune into the construction of a remarkable timepiece – The 10,000-Year Clock.
Scheduled to be built deep inside a mountain on land owned by Bezos, in the Sierra Diablo Mountain Range in West Texas, USA, the clock – also known as The Clock of the Long Now – is an entirely mechanical timepiece that is hoped will keep time for a staggering 10,000 years.
Bezos has been involved with the project for the last six years but the clock was conceived by William Daniel “Danny” Hillis – an American inventor, scientist, engineer, entrepreneur and author. Hillis has been working on the clock for 27 years and has accrued a team of supporters and financers (of which Bezos is leading patron with $42 million invested) called The Long Now Foundation. The 3,300 members of the foundation are all proponents of long-term thinking and the 10,000-year clock is being created as a symbol of this.
As Bezos told the Wall Street Journal, “We humans have become so technologically sophisticated that in certain ways we're dangerous to ourselves. It's going to be increasingly important over time for humanity to take a longer-term view of its future.”
In other words, the decisions we make now have serious consequences for our descendants… unless humanity considers more closely the reverberations we send into the future, we may not have any distant relatives in 7013.
To add some perspective of the duration we’re talking about here, as it’s easy to get lost in zeroes, there has never been a global empire, or a ruling nation, never mind a small foundation – that has lasted for 10,000 years in the history of civilization. America itself is only 300 years old. So these are high hopes embodied in the clock, but the members of The Long Now Foundation are admirably undaunted in the face of the task.
Stewart Brand is a founding board member of the foundation, and in terms of promoting long-term thinking with the clock, he says, “Such a clock, if sufficiently impressive and well-engineered, would embody deep time for people. It should be charismatic to visit, interesting to think about, and famous enough to become iconic in the public discourse. Ideally, it would do for thinking about time what the photographs of Earth from space have done for thinking about the environment. Such icons reframe the way people think.”
There has been some phenomenal engineering behind the design of the clock and after many years of hard work and creative thinking, fabrication of the full-size clock parts has begun and the excavation of the mountain is in full swing.
It’s a mind-boggling undertaking. The chime generator alone is set to play a different bell ringing sequence each day for 10,000 years.
For madcap horologists, you can make suggestions for how to celebrate different anniversaries of the clock and Bezos invites your ideas. His website, 10000yearclock.net, states, “If you have an interesting idea for the 10-year anniversary chamber, please feel free to email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll add it to the mix of ideas.” So what are you waiting for? Employ some long-term thinking and email them some party plans.