Tag Archives: Long Now

Seed vault for plant preservation

An interesting article on the Millennium Seed Bank project here at Physorg. It seems thematically linked to the Long Now Foundation’s Rosetta Disk (intended as a very long term record of current written languages). The Millennium Seed Bank “seeks to develop a global seed conservation network, capable of safeguarding wild plant species:”

The futuristic facility, with its low-slung steel and glass structure over the vaults, is seen by scientists as an insurance policy against nature and human folly. It is a quiet place, where young scientists in white smocks spend hours cleaning seeds by hand, using microscopes, scalpels, forceps, and tiny brushes.

[image from Arria Belli on flickr]

Dispatches from the Long Now

Some cool items from the Long Now Foundation:

Since we hope to build the space for the 10,000 Year Clock underground, for the last 10 years I have been collecting references and images of the great, ambitious, and or inspiring underground spaces and stonework of the world (in some cases they are also lessons of what not to do).

The pictures more than reward a click.

And if this project seems more than a little monkish, well, a wine seems appropriate:

Long Now’s eponymous red wine by the Pelissero winery was recently reviewed by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. … The labels are printed with archival inks on acid free paper and the corks are flame marked “Long Now”.

[Photo: Laughing Squid]

Forecasting the future

I’ve mentioned this lecture series before, but the Long Now Foundation had two recent lecturers, Paul Saffo and Nassim Nicholas Taleb, give us their takes on forecasting future trends.

Paul Saffo gives us his rules for forecasting, starting off with a great description of the “cone of uncertainty” that is involved in any sort of forecasting.  He goes on to discuss how humans get the future so wrong – among them are the linear expectations we have, whereas change isn’t linear, but instead moves in more of an “S” curve.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb gave a very humorous talk on how change happens.  He’s got a book out called “The Black Swan,” a book I’ve ordered and look forward to reading.  The title comes from the old European idea that swans were only white, therefore things that were impossible were “as likely as a black swan,” this phrase being enshrined in Shakespearean dialogue, among others.  Until people got to Australia.  They’ve got black swans.

Taleb’s talk focused on the human bias in forecasting – how we use data solely taken from survivors and success stories.  Everyone wants to hear how so-and-so made millions in the dot-com boom-and-you-can-too, but no one wants to hear how my Uncle Ernie lost a million bucks.  Especially if you’re interested in his descriptions of the psychology involved, “Mediocristan” and “Extremistan” are fascinating topics.

Give the blogs a read, and there are certainly worse ways you can spend a couple hours than by listening to the podcasts on the way to work (Taleb and Saffo).

(image via flickr user kamoda)